Snorkeling Trip to Christ of the Abyss

Key Largo's Christ of the Abyss statue
Christ of the Abyss

We picked a beautifully clear and sunny August day for our snorkeling trip out to Christ of the Abyss. I had never been to "the statue" as it's often called, and wanted to see it and take a few pictures of this increasingly famous Key Largo icon.

I called around to different dive shops to arrange the snorkeling trip to the statue. That can be tricky, I learned, since wind and wave height--and I suspect the captain's whim--can determine whether or not it's a good day to visit the statue.

Checking with Keys Diver and Snorkeling the word was the boat was definitely going to the statue that day. I booked a spot for Sue and me on the 12:15 PM tour which stays out until 5:00 PM, plenty of time to make three different snorkeling stops, not just to the statue, but first to North Grecian and then on to Banana Reef.

Needless to say, we got plenty of water time that day. I've lived in Florida most of my life, and have done my share of snorkeling and diving, but on this snorkeling trip, the water was as beautiful as I have ever seen. The visibility was amazing, maybe 100, maybe more. Combine water like that with clear, blue skies and you have something very special.

The clear waters of Key Largo
Great day. Great viz.

The first two dives were at North Grecian and Banana Reef. Clear water and lots of sealife kept us spellbound with the undersea world.

Queen Angelfish
A Regal Queen Angelfish Graces Us With Her Presence


A Colorful Puddingwife Adorns the Reef.
A Colorful Parrotfish Adorns the Reef.

History of a Key Largo Icon

After leaving North Grecian and Banana, we headed on to Christ of the Abyss. Just as the "Christ the Redeemer" statue atop Corcovado Mountain in Rio has become an icon of Brazil, the image of "Christ of the Abyss" has become closely associated with Key Largo.

The Key Largo statue is the third casting of an Italian original called, Il Cristo Degli Abissi. According to what I've been able to piece together, here is a brief historical outline surrounding this statue.

First Casting
The idea for the statue came from one Duilo Marcante whose friend, Dario Gonzatti, died in 1947 while SCUBA diving near Genoa, Italy around the remote mountainous seacoast in an area known as San Fruttuoso di Camogli. Italian sculptor Professor Guido Galletti was commissioned to create the original, which he did from metals donated from around the world.

From what I've been able to find out, the original was placed about 120 yards offshore in the bay at San Fruttuoso a depth of around 50 feet. According to wannadive.net, the statue's exact lat/long coordinates are 44 deg 18.936 min North, and 009 deg 10.510 min East. To check out the spot, just fly to it on Google Earth. Apparently, this statue is itself a popular dive site.

Second Casting
The second casting is placed, not underwater, but on the esplanade of St.George's Harbor in Grenada, a reminder of the heroism and hospitality shown by the people of Grenada to the passengers of the ill-fated ocean liner Bianca C which was destroyed by fire on October 22, 1961 while anchored in the outer harbor.

Third Casting
Mr. Egidio Cressi--famed dive equipment manufacturer--commissioned this third casting, and gave it to the Underwater Society of America. Why he did this, I don't know, but apparently that's what happened. After that came the issue of deciding where to put the statue. With some influence from Florida's U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park became the chosen spot. After a display tour around south Florida, the statue arrived at Pennekamp in the spring of 1965. The statue's massive concrete base was affixed at the park, and on August 25, 1965, it was placed where it is today, on Key Largo Dry Rocks at latitude 25 deg 7.45 min North, 080 deg 17.8 min W.

Then, as if some evil force were determined to destroy this monument, on September 8 of that same year--just 14 days later--Hurrican Betsy slammed into Key Largo after making a highly unusual and abrupt turn to the south from a latitude near 30 degrees north. Packing 126 mile-per-hour winds, the Category III storm churned the oceans with her powerful energy. But through it all the statue remained rock solid and escaped damage. Finally, the formal dedication of the statue was given by John D.Pennekamp himself on June 26, 1966.

A Fish Swims by the Statue
A Fish Swims by the Statue.

At a depth of about 25 feet, the likeness of Christ stands on a pedestal on the ocean floor with outstretched arms and looking to the sea's surface as if to say, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

There were quite a few snorkelers and divers here this day, curious or eager to see or photograph the statue. After a time, we swam back to the boat, climbed aboard, tired and hungry, and enjoyed the long, relaxing ride back to the dock, thinking about where we wanted to eat that night. It was a good ending to a particularly memorable snorkeling trip. Thank you, Keys Diver.

Keys Diver and Snorkel Center is located at Mile Marker 99.7, bayside, as I recall. To arrange your own snorkeling trip to Christ of the Abyss, their telephone number is 305-451-1177.





Welcome to Key Largo

A View of John Pennekamp Beach

Christ of the Abyss

SCUBA diver on a Key Largo Reef

Sign warning we play Jimmy Buffet music

A quaint Key Largo cottage

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