First commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1896 the USS Massachusetts was an American battleship designed for coastal defense. After years of service and being instrumental in the U.S. victory of the Spanish-American War, design flaws put the famous ship out of commission and She was scuttled to the Gulf of Mexico to be used as target practice for experimental artillery. The USS Massachusetts now sits under just 30 feet of water right off the coast of Pensacola and is an Underwater Archaeological Preserve loved by snorkelers and divers alike for the history and adventure this shipwreck provides.
While the USS Massachusetts is considered by many historians to be “the worst battleship ever made” and left plenty to be desired in a warship, the opposite can be said for its purpose now. This shipwreck turned artificial reef is a favorite for snorkelers all over the country because of the chance to observe ample marine life up close. Divers have been known to see Goliath Groupers, stingrays, dolphins and several species of sharks in the area. The Massachusetts is in surprisingly great condition, considering how long she has now been underwater, and provides history buffs an opportunity to check out a remarkably intact U.S. battleship firsthand.
Though this popular shipwreck is relatively close to shore and considered a shallow dive, it is not to be taken lightly. Located in the Pensacola Pass this spot is only accessible by boat and you will want to be sure that your Captain is experienced with this area because the shallow wreck can make for a tricky parking spot. It is highly recommended to choose an experienced charter that visits the area such as MBT Divers or H2O Below to guarantee a safe dive.
The shallow depth can be deceiving and the USS Massachusetts is not considered a dive safe for novices. The area is known for very strong currents and tides and can be a challenge for even the most experienced divers. It is paramount to exercise the necessary safety precautions such as diving with the buddy system, always using dive flags, and having adequate floatation devices.
It’s safe to say that the ship once thought to be an embarrassment to the U.S. Navy due to the number of accidents and mishaps that happened on board, has found its true calling resting just off the shore of Pensacola in Ft. Pickens. She is there waiting for all history lovers and adventurers to dive right into a piece of American Military History and the incredible marine environment of the Gulf Coast resulting in a dive you’ll never want to forget!