Divers suspected of stealing artifacts

The Keys

By Timothy O'Hara - Keys News

The remains of hundreds of shipwrecks line the Florida Keys reef tract. Their stories are the history of the Keys.

Some wrecks have been identified, but many have not. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and state archaeologist have spent thousands of dollars investigating the wrecks to determine their origin.

The remains have become living museums the sanctuary chooses to leave in the waters so divers can enjoy them in their natural state, as opposed to removing them and putting them in a facility on land.

The sanctuary has established a Shipwreck Trail, running from Key West to Key Largo, to showcase the wrecks and educate people on their history and importance.

Sanctuary officials are reminding divers not to take or move anchors, ballast stones and small trinkets found along the reef, as they could be the clues that lead to a wreck being identified.

The reminder comes after sanctuary divers discovered nine Crown patent fuel blocks, a mixture of coals that have been molded into briquettes, stacked on top of each other on a sand patch on Horseshoe Reef off Key Largo in August.

Two researchers, who routinely work underwater in that area, observed the newly formed piles of blocks, sanctuary spokeswoman Karrie Carnes said.

Sanctuary officials fear someone was trying to take them as souvenirs.

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