top of page

South Seas






25° 39.904' N





80° 04.217' W





February 05, 1983









Scuba Diver Minimal training suggested


In 1926, Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft of Kiel, Germany, launched the palatial yacht Firenze, built for Norman Woolworth, the five-and-dime store heir. The Firenze was 170 feet in length, 27.1 feet in breadth, and displaced 700 tons. In 1930, M. Robert Guggenheim purchased the elegant vessel from Woolworth, which would soon become his prized possession. Guggenheim used the yacht extensively, and upkeep of the Firenze, its interior adorned with fine woods and antique French furniture, reportedly cost upwards of $250,000 per year. In 1938, Guggenheim married his fourth wife aboard the Firenze at Miami Beach. In early 1942, Guggenheim sold his prized yacht to the US. Navy for $225,000, which commissioned the vessel as the USS Girasol (FY-27). After her Shakedown cruise, the Girasol was dispatched to the Pacific Theater, where she patrolled from 1943 until the war’s end. Decommissioned in January 1946, the ex-Girasol was transferred to the Maritime Commission in July 1947.Ben Benjamin, president of South Seas, Incorporated, eventually purchased the war surplus patrol vessel and renamed her South Seas. After a decade of use, the former yacht South Seas was retired from service in 1958 and tied up at aMiami shipyard while its owner contemplated its future. On March 13, 1961, the yacht caught fire and burned. During the battle to extinguish the inferno, so much water was pumped into the vessel that she heeled over dramatically to starboard, threatening to capsize. The following year, the South Seas was salvaged and converted into a restaurant and cocktail lounge adjacent to the well‐known Miami restaurant,Tony’sFishMarket. In 1975, the South Seas sank into the mud in North Bay and remained abandoned until a real estate developer bought the land in 1978 with plans to build a condominium and marina complex. Following pressure from local and state officials, who demanded the developer remove the sunken vessel, plans were drafted to sink the vessel four miles off Key Biscayne to serve as an artificial reef. Unfortunately, the South Seas would not go quietly. On September 23, 1982, as the South Seas was being towed through Biscayne Bay, the vessel grounded on a sandbar, flooded, and promptly settled in 11 feet of water. The rusting derelict was eventually salvaged and returned to her berth, where workers were forced to scrap much of the vessel prior to reefing. Following extensive work, the salvage team abandoned their ultimate plans of cutting the vessel into several large sections, and again tried to t o w the lightened South Seas offshore on February 11, 1983. Yet again, the rusting yacht grounded on a sandbar and refused to move. At high tide the following day, however, the South Seas w a s finally pulled loose and towed offshore. In a final act of defiance, the South Seas drifted loose from its attending tow after the tug fouled its prop in a line. The once-palatial yacht sank on its o w n in 75 feet of water, which was shallower than the planned 100-foot depth and outside of the permitted artificial reef site boundaries. Over the years, portions of the South Seas have collapsed and scattered across the seafloor, a process likely aided by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The shallow wreck site presents a good destination for beginner divers, while more experienced divers can practice their navigational skills by traversing the approximate 250-foot distance north to the wreck of the freighter Princess Britney.




Have Feedback on this Site?

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page