A unique and unusual dive site off the coast of Key Largo, Florida has been drawing attention and attracting thousands of Scuba divers and snorkelers alike for more than just its reef and marine life. In the midst of this dive site, a spectacular bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ stands 81/2 feet tall in 25 feet of water with a grandeur like no other. Christ’s arms raised towards the surface in a pose offering peace, the underwater statue has a presence that has made it one of the most famous and visited underwater sites on Earth.
Created by Guido Galletti, the original “Il Cristo degli Abissi” or ‘Christ of the Abyss’ was made after an idea from Italian swimmer / diver Duilio Marcante. The First statue was placed near the spot where Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use SCUBA gear, died in 1947. Placed in 1954, this Statue of Christ is located in the Mediterranean sea off San Fruttuoso between Camogli and Portofino on the Italian Riviera, where it still stands today.
The Second statue cast from the same mold was placed underwater off the coast of St George in the Caribbean. The Third Christ sculpture presented to the Underwater Society of America in New York in 1962 is the one that lies in Dry Rocks, around six miles North east of Key Largo in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida.
Also known as ‘Christ of the Deep’ the 400 pound statue attached to a 20,000 pound concrete base, stands in a shallow reef and has splendid and massive brain coral formations flanking it’s surroundings. The sandy clearing it lies in is home to large spotted Eagle Rays and Southern Stingrays, while it’s base is encrusted with flat coral and sponges.
One of the most heavily visited underwater structures of all times, the Christ dive site is very popular location for underwater weddings and nearly 200 couples say (or write) their “I do’s” here each year. However popular for good reason, the site can be a bit cumbersome to dive because of how shallow the water can be. A caution to fellow divers who wish to dive here, is a need to exercise good buoyancy control and not use your buoyancy compensators as much to avoid bumping into the coral. The tell tales signs of significant damage site has experienced from incompetent divers and snorkelers who stand on or touch the corals is clear and if proper care isn’t taken the site just won’t be the same for very long.
A true Jubilee for the divers, the Christ of Abyss is a must-dive site , if you can over come the crowd of snorkelers and divers present at any time. A spectacle that can only be experienced and not described, the Christ statue has a presence underwater which can be felt when you dive there.
* Photos by gergobacsi on flickr