Way down at the tip of the State of Florida is a diver’s dream. There, in 140 feet of water, within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is the powerfully majestic Vandenberg wreck. In its time, it was a missile-tracking ship that reaches 522 feet long. Now the vessel serves as an artificial reef, harboring a multitude of fish and ocean-bound creatures. It has been named one of the top dive locations by many expert divers.
As of late, there is even more of a draw to take in this advanced dive site and log your dive. On Saturday, April 2, 2016, the Vandenberg was transformed into a temporary art gallery, displaying 13 works of art from the creative diver turned artist, Andreas Franke. Franke is very well-known for his installation of artwork all across the Caribbean and the world, known as ‘The Sinking World of Andreas Franke.’ He stretches the boundaries of art, mesmerizing divers as they take in the beauty of the wreck and the artwork resting on it. In 2010 Franke merged talent and passion with his long-term dream of an extraordinary art project, resulting in the opening of the world‘s first underwater photo exhibit on the USNS Vandenberg. Now, six years later, he has returned to Key West, Florida and an underwater world that he is very familiar with.
The underwater gallery will remain on the Vandenberg for divers to view for the next four months. It is brought to the public thanks to the partnership of ‘The Sinking World of Andreas Franke’ with Salt Life, Artificial Reefs International Preservation Trust, and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Welcoming the gallery there was a very creative photoshoot with a freediving bride and groom. The bride wore a custom made Valencienne wedding gown embellished in seashells. Kim Ironmonger, an avid diver and designer and owner of Valencienne, saw the Sinking World Stavronikita images at the museum and was so inspired she designed a gown and donated it to the photoshoot. A reception was hosted by the History of Diving Museum on March 31, 2016, to preview both the artwork and the wedding gown.
“The work of Andreas Franke is stunning and unlike any other art display in the world,” Salt Life President Jeff Stillwell said. “I am excited to take part in this dive, along with members of the Salt Life team, and to bring this exhibit to the U.S. for the first time.” The exhibit will celebrate the beginning of tarpon fishing season, which is vital to the local economy. Divers will be able to enjoy the exhibit until late July, when the images will be dried, sealed and put on display at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Eco-Discovery Center.
With the warmer temperatures upon us and summer just about here, now is the best time to pay Key West, Florida a visit and dive the Vandenberg for a very different diving experience.