LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Last week, we showed you how vibrant fish-life on the naturally wrecked Fantastico, 50 miles off the Lee county coast, is drawing divers and spear-fishermen from near and far. But the extensive deterioration of the ship made us wonder how the recently scuttled USS Mohawk will look in 20 years.
One hundred five feet below the surface of the Gulf, the carcass of what was once a 205 foot freighter appears in the bluish green abyss. News-Press partner Kevin Lollar and advanced diver and meteorologist Katie Walls are shocked by the ship's dilapidation over the last 20 years.
"I was out there and thinking, the difference is like the difference between the turkey before you have Thanksgiving dinner and the bones afterwards," says Lollar.
The freighter's orientation on the sea-floor is one reason she has deteriorated so rapidly. On March 13th, 1993, violent seas overwhelmed the ship, forcing her to sink on her side.
"The pressure points on that particular vessel and the type of vessel that it is make it easier to deteriorate under water, because the pressure on the side of the boat and the weight on it, it's not meant to be that way," explains Lee County DNR Environmental Specialist Senior Mike Campbell.
July 2, 2012, ten nautical miles from the Fantastico, six strategically placed charges detonate and send the USS Mohawk to her final tour of duty.
The six perfectly sized holes control the scuttle, allowing the Mighty Mo to descend bottom-down.
"The size of the holes that let water in and let water out were also big enough to sink the ship but not too big that it'd sink it so fast that it sustained a lot of damage when it hit the bottom," says Campbell.
Unlike the Fantastico designed to carry loads, the Mighty Mo was a Coast Guard Cutter, designed to break ice with its steel plating and double plated keel.
"Its bones were a lot thicker, and it had more of them on the inside so it could get through and break ice. Its skin also was a lot thicker. So it's the difference between a tank and a car," says Campbell.
While the USS Mohawk will likely not deteriorate as quickly as the Fantastico has in its two decades on the sea-floor, both ships now belong to the Gulf and the thousands of fish that call them home.
"It's still a really cool dive, and it gets a little spooky. Because it's what is, not what it used to be," says Lollar.