Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Maritime Heritage Trail

The Mandalay was built in 1928 to sail around the world on the eve of the Great Depression. By the time she ran aground in 1965 in the shallow waters of Biscayne National Park, the two-masted schooner was still in top condition, carrying affluent passengers on a New Year's voyage from the Bahamas to Miami.

The 23 passengers and 12 crew members escaped to safety but the ship was not as lucky. Scavengers stripped the vessel of her compass, sextant and chronometers. The masts were removed and the hull of the ship was left where she grounded, on Long Reef east of Elliott Key.

Today the yacht is attracting new attention as the centerpiece of the Marine Heritage Trail being developed in Biscayne National Park with help from the South Florida National Parks Trust. More than 40 shipwrecks lie hidden beneath the waters of Biscayne National Park. The Shipwreck Trail will string together five of those wrecks along the park's eastern boundary, with dive cards and pamphlets for each wreck and mooring buoys to mark the sites for boaters.

The five shipwrecks each have their own story to tell. Together, they provide a fascinating portrait of maritime mishap on the reefs of South Florida.

The Mandalay lies in 10 feet of water on Long Reef, inhabited by an incredible diversity of marine life. Much of the steel hull remains intact, including the towering fuel tank, although the vessel has broken into three parts.

The British steamer, Lugano, sank on Long Reef just north of the Mandalay in 1913, the largest wreck to founder on Florida's reefs at that time. Efforts to raise the ship failed and salvagers stripped her. The flattened hull is visible today in 25 feet of water.

The three-masted steamer, Alicia, ran aground on Long Reef in 1905 en route from Liverpool to Havana with a cargo of luxury goods. The ship was stripped by salvagers before settling in 20 feet of water, where it lies today just south of the Mandalay.

The Erl King, a 306-foot Scottish steamer, ran aground on Tennessee Reef in January 1881 but was re-floated. Ten years later, the ship ran aground on Long Reef. The hull of the ship is visible today in 18 feet of water.

The Arratoon Apcar, an iron-hulled steamer, ran aground near Fowey Rocks in 1878 en route to Havana. The remains of the ship now lie in 10 to 20 feet of water, encrusted with coral and boasting an abundance of marine life. 

For more information about the project and the location of the shipwrecks, call the Trust office at 305-665-4769.