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SS Copenhagen wreck
Photo courtesy of the Florida Maritime Heritage Trail, Florida Division of Historical Resources

A 19th-century steel-hulled schooner-rigged screw steamship, the SS Copenhagen was constructed in Sunderland, England. It was registered in Glasgow, Scotland, to the Glasgow Shipowners Company, Ltd., which used the vessel to transport cargo across the Atlantic. Launched in 1898, the Copenhagen met a watery grave only two years later during a voyage between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Havana, Cuba. The Copenhagen was transporting some 4,940 tons of coal when, without warning, it ran aground and became stranded on a reef. The crew began to unload cargo and efforts were made to free the ship from the reef but, ultimately, the vessel was abandoned.

Historic photo of the SS Copenhagen

Photo courtesy of the Florida Maritime Heritage Trail, Florida Division of Historical Resources

An investigation into the sinking of the Copenhagen reported that the official cause of the accident was "improper navigation" by the ship's captain, William S. Jones. The wreck remained visible above the water for a prolonged period of a time, and the Navy used it for target practice during World War II before it sunk under the water. While the 325-foot by 47-foot ship has been stripped of its engine, boilers, propeller and other machinery, it is well preserved, and many of its features are still recognizable. However, the bow section was removed during an excavation attempt and presently lies 200 yards southeast of the wreck. Today, the Copenhagen has become an artificial reef, and has stabilized, reaching a state of equilibrium with its environment.

The SS Copenhagen rests on the ledge of a reef in 16-31 ft. of water with its bow facing south and is located ¾ of a nautical mile offshore of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, south of Hillsboro Inlet. No anchoring is allowed at the wreck site but mooring buoys have been placed nearby. Located within a Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve, a laminated underwater guide is available from local dive shops. The preserve is open to the public year round, free of charge.

Florida's Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History features a Teaching with Historic Places online lesson plan, The Spanish Treasure Fleets of 1715 and 1733: Disasters Strike at Sea. This lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

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