When I was fifteen, I was told about a 4,000 lb. bronze statue of Christ that stood several nautical miles off of Florida’s coastline. I thought it was a silly notion to place something so sacred 27-feet underwater, where it stood essentially elusive and remote. When I discovered that it was an established dive-spot the venture immediately jumped to the top of my bucket list.
The 9.5 foot bronze statue was donated to the Underwater Society of America in 1961 by Italian entrepreneuer, Igidi Cressi, as a third installment of Guido Galletti’s, Il Cristo Degli Abissi, translated to Christ of the Abyss and also known as Christ of the Deep. The statue rests with outstretched arms 27-feet beneath the Atlantic surface at a site (named Dry Rocks) within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The original Christ of the Abyss statue is located in the Mediterranean Sea, and was placed off the coast of Genoa as a monument to sailors who ultimately lost their lives at sea. The Key Largo replica was cast from the same mold and submerged at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in 1965.
The statue is covered from heat to toe in fire coral, that results in an intense burning sensation when touched. His palms were the only spots free of the propagating corals, and I completed several 10-foot free dives to touch his palms and look at his face. It was nothing short of enchanting. Surrounding the outstretched statue are massive staghorn, elkhorn, and brain corals spanning ocean floor. Schools of Sergeant Major, Spotted Wrasse, French Angel Fish, and Barracuda floated over the corals, both comfortable and curious about our presence.
North Dry Rocks, our second dive spot, was speckled with groove and spur reefs. The horseshoe shaped reef grew deeper on one side, giving shelter to a variety of parrotfish, scrawled filefish, and barracuda. Small barracuda hovered over the sea floor, while the larger (4. 5 foot), bolder barracuda swam up beside me to glare at me with their silver eyes. We also spotted a small nurse shark and several turtles in the distance near the reef’s edge.
Our third dive spot, Grecian Rocks, was a shallow site rich in schools of blue tangs, sergeant majors, barracudas, brain corals, parrotfish, queen conch shells all above rich seagrass beds. I watched my mother as she hovered over the coral beds – this was her first time snorkeling. She seemed as enchanted as I was while observing this oceanic ecosystem, and I was glad that I could share this experienced with her. Happy reading!
For more information about John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Key’s Diver Snorkel and Scuba Center
NOTE: All blog posts, articles, and photographs are the intellectual and creative property of Melissa J. Koziol. Thank you for reading!