Episode 04 - Lugano
Biscayne National Park
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Hi! I'm Heather Schorge and I'm a Park Ranger here at Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the National Park Service. The eastern waters of the park contain untold numbers of ships that have been lost upon the shallow patches of coral reef. Six of these shipwrecks have been carefully chosen to be part of the only underwater maritime heritage trail in the National Park Service. Before we look closer at the longest ship on the Maritime Heritage Trail, the steamer "Lugano," it is important that we explore some of the natural features that helped to shape this Park's unique maritime history. Biscayne National Park is comprised of mangrove shorelines, the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, the northern portion of the Florida Keys, and the northern section of the Florida coral reef. From pirates to homesteaders, people have long relied on the valuable natural resources found in these waters. For hundreds of years, the eastern boundary of Biscayne National Park has been a marine super highway for international trade and commerce. It is the northward flowing Gulf Stream that powered this aquatic superhighway. It propelled ships around the tip of Florida to ports worldwide. While many ships were able to safely navigate the perilous waters of the Gulf Stream, and the shallow waters that border the Gulf Stream, many others could not. Shipping traffic was at an all time high at the end of the 1800s. With the increase in ships came an increase in shipwrecks. According to folklore, there was a major grounding somewhere on the Florida coral reef at least once a week. The British steamer, "Lugano," was one of these unfortunate vessels. "Lugano" was passing through the waters of Biscayne National Park on her way from Liverpool, England to Havana, Cuba. "Lugano" carried 116 passengers, as well as a cargo of expensive silks and fine wines. The value of the cargo was estimated to be well over one million dollars. It was during foul weather that "Lugano's" captain lost his way and ran his 350 foot cargo ship aground on Long Reef. The passengers were soon rescued, but the captain and crew remained behind to help salvage the cargo. Wreckers removed everything from "Lugano," yet her skeleton and broken hull were left to sink to the bottom of the ocean. At the time of her grounding, "Lugano" was the largest ship to ever have wrecked upon the Florida coral reef. She represented bold advancements in the shipping industry. There were so many ships traveling and wrecking on the reef that, sometimes, wreckers could not get a damaged ship out of the way before it became a navigational hazard to other vessels. The sunken remains of the "Lugano" were deemed a hazard to navigation, when the yacht "Ada M" struck her in 1917. This is the first documented case of a sunken ship becoming a danger to other shipping traffic! Today, "Lugano" rests between permanently installed mooring balls to prevent accidental damage to the historic remains. The hull lies in about 20 feet of water and provides a great opportunity for divers. Experienced snorkelers can also marvel at the size of the once great steamer. Today, marine life abounds where tragedy once occurred. You can help protect "Lugano's" story by remembering that this site, like all of the archeological sites in Biscayne National Park, is part of our shared heritage. Remember to take only pictures and leave only bubbles. Dive into history and discover the stories behind the shipwrecks of Biscayne's Maritime Heritage Trail.
Dive Into History: Shipwrecks of Biscayne National Park. A 5-minutes podcast on the Lugano shipwreck. Hosted by Heather Schorge. This video is open-captioned.