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Key West Diving The USS S-16 Is A Top Choice For Diving Holidays

The USS S-16 (SS-121) was commissioned December 17, 1920, and she was also the first vessel to become a member of the Key West Ghost Fleet.

This Key West scuba site is a totally different experience from the USS R-12 which sank in 15 seconds to a dangerous depth of 600 feet.

This 231 foot long submarine, sank to a "shallower" depth of 260 feet. In comparison, this is a relatively easy Key West dive for someone with technical scuba diving certification.

This sub was originally built to safely navigate through water at a depth of around 200 feet. Like the USS R-12, she was equipped with four 21 inch torpedo tubes on the bow, and one 4 inch 50 caliber deck gun.

Commissioned December 17, 1920, she patrolled the water until May 22, 1935 when she was decommissioned.

In December, 1940, she was brought back into service to patrol the Caribbean waters and observe merchant vessels.

Finally on October 4, 1944 she was decommissioned again, and being outdated with limited depth capability, the S-16 was eventually used as target practice.

In April, 1945 she sank 18 miles south of Key West Florida.

S-16 Wreck Diving Conditions

Comparing the S-16 to the USS R-12 is like looking at night and day. First this sub rests at about 260 feet versus 600 feet. That depth alone is a major difference for anyone scuba certified to make this Key West dive.

Also, at this "shallower" depth, marine life is more abundant, and this sub is decorated with color. At the USS R-12, marine life is extremely sparse.

At this scuba diving Key West site, not only are there fish in the area, but on this sub's port side, she's encrusted with whip coral. You'll also find that other exposed sections of the S-16 are covered by ocean sponges and various types of coral.

Diving The USS S-16
Courtesy YouTube And Bruce Robertson

Unlike the USS R-12, this sub was intentionally sunk so she was properly prepped. She's also intact, with her outer hull not showing the usual signs of erosion and deterioration.

The S-16 does have a slight list to starboard, which allows her bow to rest above sand level. The benefit to anyone wreck diving this sub is that you can easily maneuver around and under her bow. This enables you to work your way back a considerable distance and you'll find that it's easy to inspect her torpedo tube doors.

You'll also discover that her hatches are open, which makes it possible to enter the forward torpedo room and larger aft generator room.

However, the one feature that makes this a particularly good scuba diving adventure is her conning tower. This tower looms high above her hull and is often the first visual Key West divers are able to make of this sub.

When you reach the tower of the S-16 you'll find that a rather small chariot bridge, built to accommodate just one crew member, sits atop. At the tower you'll also find the open hatch leading to the control room.

At-A-Glance Wreck Diving Description
and GPS Coordinates

USS S-16 - 231'
16 miles South of Key West FL
GPS Co-ordinates
24 25.207N 80 02.393W
30 - 60'
Dive Site Description
The S-16 was sunk for target practice. Sits upright with slight starboard list. In excellent shape. Current can be medium to strong
Marine Life
Coral, sponges, and a variety of Key West fish

This Key West wreck diving site has some very noteworthy features including easy penetration, an impressive conning tower, and abundant marine life.

For those with technical certification, wreck diving the USS S-16 is a fun choice for a dive trip. The opportunity to see a sub in such good condition makes this a "must do" on any one of your Florida Keys diving holidays.

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