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UPDATE: Wednesday, 14th Feb, 2007: Deal set: Ship to get new home as reef/laboratory off Florida Keys

By SCOTT HARPER , The Virginian-Pilot: In its 64-year history, the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg has played many roles - a troop carrier in World War II, a missile-tracker during the Cold War, even starring in a Hollywood movie.

Now the grand ship's final act is set - an artificial fishing reef and underwater laboratory off Key West, Fla. In a deal announced Tuesday, the Vandenberg will leave its mooring spot in the James River Reserve Fleet, be scrubbed at a Norfolk shipyard, then be towed to Florida for sinking, probably in spring 2008.

The announcement by the U.S. Maritime Administration culminates more than seven years of fundraising and negotiation to move the 553-foot-long warship to the Florida Keys. It will become the largest artificial reef in Florida. The project also represents another, more colorful way the government can shed its fleet of obsolete vessels that, before being cleaned up, pose environmental risks to the waterways that hold them.

The federal agency usually pays a scrap yard to cut up an unwanted ship, sell its parts and steel, and dispose of the rest. Reefing junk ships, on the other hand, is "good for the economy, good for the environment and a great deal for U.S. taxpayers," said Sean T. Connaughton, head of the Maritime Administration, which manages more than 100 unwanted ships in Texas, California and off Fort Eustis in Newport News.

The group Artificial Reefs of the Keys was the primary champion for the project, which will put the Vandenberg in about 140 feet of water off Key West in a marine sanctuary. Students and scientists will use the reef for research as well, according to the group's Web site. Within weeks, the Vandenberg will be towed to Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk.There, crews will spend months removing asbestos, lead paint, PCBs in wiring, and thousand of pounds of waste oil, according to federal officials.

According to a 2001 federal inventory, the ship holds 2.9 million pounds of waste oil and fuel. "Anything that could be a danger will be gone," said Shannon Russell, a spokeswoman for the Maritime Administration in Washington. The Vandenberg began its nautical life in 1943 under a different name - the Gen. Harry S. Taylor.

After participating in World War II, the Hungarian Revolution and the Cold War, it was overhauled at a Bethlehem Steel yard in New York City and became a sophisticated missile-tracking vessel in the Atlantic. When christened for that assignment, in 1963 at a ceremony at Cape Canaveral, it became the Vandenberg, named after a former Air Force officer and CIA director.

In the 1990s, the ship was repainted and stenciled with Russian lettering for its role in the Universal Pictures science-fiction film "Virus." The lettering and ornate paint remain today.

UPDATE: Sunday, 11th Feb, 2007: Big bang creates new dive world
An explosion sinks the Troy D into waters off Maria Island, Australia, yesterday before disappearing beneath the surface with a splash.

IT'S not every day a 1000-tonne, 55m former coastal trading vessel is scuttled to the bottom of the ocean. But that's exactly what happened yesterday when the barque Troy D met an explosive end, sunk in about 28m of water 1.4km off Maria Island on the State's East Coast. The spectacular detonation, rigged by Canadian explosives technologist Roy Gabriel, involved specialised explosives used normally for cutting steel. More than 150 other vessels anchored along the 1000m exclusion zone to observe the scuttling yesterday, and sightseers on shore also watched through binoculars.

After a short delay to ensure the area was clear of whales and other large marine life, the ship was ready to be sunk. The honour of pushing the button to send the Troy D to Davey Jones's locker fell to Sandy Bay mother of two Amanda Beattie, who recently won the unusual distinction in a competition. Once that button was pushed, four holes were instantly blasted into different parts of the ship by explosives capable of shredding through more than 25mm of steel.

A huge cloud of smoke whipped into the air, and the ship clearly rocked from the impact. The gaping holes cut into the hull were aimed at both sinking the vessel and to be used as access points by divers in the future.Within 60 seconds of the explosion, the Troy D had disappeared beneath the surface and was on its way to the sandy bottom below.

It is expected the sunken vessel will now become an artificial reef. It is hoped the wreck proves a popular diving attraction for the region and the State. Soon after the scuttling, divers reported that the ship was resting flat and that the access holes cut into the hull would allow divers safe entry to the interior. The scuttling site is 4.3km south-west of the northern tip of Maria Island, near Howells Point.

UPDATE: Monday, 8th Feb, 2007: WARSHIP TO BE SUNK OFF NEW SOUTH WALES CENTRAL COAST


From the Australian Minister for Defence Media Mail List: I am pleased to announce I have selected New South Wales to be gifted the Royal Australian Navy Guided Missile Frigate HMAS Adelaide for sinking as a dive wreck. The New South Wales Government has indicated that the preferred location for HMAS Adelaide is off the New South Wales Central Coast, near Terrigal.   I thank my colleagues, Mr Jim Lloyd MP and Mr Ken Ticehurst MP, who have been strong and persistent advocates for the Central Coast community. Their continued support has undoubtedly assisted the NSW Government in its efforts to secure the ship, such that I am now able to gift HMAS Adelaide to NSW. HMAS Adelaide will decommission late in 2007 at her home port in Rockingham, Western Australia with handover to the New South Wales Government expected in early to mid 2008. In addition to the warship, the Howard Government will contribute up to $3 million in funding toward the costs of preparing the ship for sinking.

HMAS Adelaide was built in the United States and commissioned in the Royal Australian Navy on 15 November 1980 and is the second ship to carry this name.  The first was a light cruiser that served from 1922 to 1945.  HMAS Adelaide was the first guided missile frigate to be home ported in Western Australia. HMAS Adelaide participated in the 1990/91 Gulf War as part of Operation DAMASK, Australia's participation in the international coalition against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.  More recently, the ship was deployed for peacekeeping operations in East Timor in 1999 and to the Persian Gulf as part of the International Coalition against Terrorism in 2001 and 2004.

HMAS Adelaide is 138 metres long, displaces 4100 tonnes and has a crew of 184 as well as helicopter aircrew and maintainers. Tourism projects which have previously used former RAN warships to establish dive wrecks have reportedly accrued annual revenues ranging from $2.4 million to $23 million to the significant benefit of local communities

UPDATE: Monday, 2nd Feb, 2007: Last steam frigate sold for a dollar

The New Zealand Navy's last steam warship has been sold for a single dollar.The Canterbury's new owners, the Bay of Islands Trust, plan to sink the frigate in Deepwater Cove where it will become a diving attraction. The trust says the $1 investment is the best they have made.

The Canterbury is the last Leander class frigate to serve in the navy and it will end up in a watery grave off the Northland coast. Those who served on the frigate are sorry to see it go but pleased it will serve another purpose. It carried a complement of 250 people and served New Zealand for 33 years. The frigate's guns have been removed and it has been stripped and cleaned before being taken to its new resting place.

UPDATE: Monday, 2nd Feb , 2007: Buy a frigate for $1
The Press: Kelly Weeds will fossick around in the ashtray of his car today for a $1 coin to buy a warship.
The navy's last steam warship, the Leander-class frigate Canterbury, will be formally handed over to the Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust after Weeds pays the $1 asking price set by the Government for the 3000-tonne, 37-year-old ship. The ship was taken out of commission in 2005 as the last of several Leander-class frigates to serve in the New Zealand navy. It was tied up at Auckland's Devonport Naval Base until the Government announced it would be sold to the Bay of Islands Trust and sunk as a dive attraction at Deepwater Cove, Cape Brett.


The trust had hoped to tow it out of the naval base before Christmas but that was delayed when the marine pest, sea squirt, was found on the hull and Biosecurity New Zealand ordered it to be cleaned so the pest would not be transferred to the Far North. A Biosecurity New Zealand move to wrap the hull in plastic and kill the pest failed when the plastic developed too many holes, said Weeds. The ship will now go into dry dock in Auckland on February 18 for the hull to be cleaned. That will last four or five days and the ship will then be towed to Opua near Russell where it will be stripped of gear and valuable materials, and sunk in August or September. Weeds said Deepwater Cove was "hands down one of the best sinking sites in New Zealand", with little current and shelter for dive boats.

UPDATE: Monday, 15th Jan, 2007: Sea squirts to die in plastic wrap
By Mike Dinsdale: Wanted: Several thousand metres of plastic wrap. It may sound strange, but that's what's needed before the former frigate HMNZS Canterbury can be sunk in the Bay of Islands. The hull of the ship will need to be swathed in plastic wrap to kill off unwanted sea squirts stuck to the undersides. In December The Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust was granted resource consent to sink the frigate as an artificial reef and dive attraction in 30 metres of water at Deep Water Cove, near Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands.

Picture: the unwanted Sea Squirt

Part of the consent conditions were that old 3000-tonne Leander-class frigate had to be cleaned of all contaminants, including oil, and unwanted organisms. But the discovery of sea squirts on the hull late last month delayed the vessel being towed to Opua to be prepared for sinking as the consent says it cannot even be towed into Northland waters until it is totally clean.
Now, Biosecurity New Zealand has come up with the unique method of wrapping the hull in plastic in an experimental procedure to rid the vessel of the potentially devastating marine pest.

The frigate is docked at Devonport Naval Base and trust spokesman Kelly Weeds said the cost of getting the hull clean was an issue. "Biosecurity are wrapping the hull in plastic, which is to suffocate the organisms attached to it," Mr Weeds said. "It's an experiment on their part, they've never done it on a major scale before." However, even with the plastic wrap the frigate would still have to be dry docked, so it could be cleaned. While this would take less than a week the unexpected cost of about $70,000 was a setback for the trust.

"About $21,000 of that is to move it about 100 metres to the dry dock, so we are meeting with the company to see if there is flexibility with the cost, so there is enough margin for them to make a profit but for us as a trust to be able to meet the costs," Mr Weeds said. A docking date for the procedure was available in February, which the trust was keen to take advantage of, he said. Sea squirt poses a potential risk to New Zealand's aquaculture industry and biodiversity. It competes for space and can blanket oyster and mussel lines, suffocating shellfish. The Department of Conservation initially opposed the sinking, citing the potential effects on marine mammals and the risk of introducing unwarranted organisms or contaminants. The trust needs about $600,000 for the entire project, including $30,000 for the tow north.

UPDATE: Friday, 12th Jan, 2007: Frigate to be dry-docked with confirmation of sea squirt

NZPA: Plans to sink HMNZS Canterbury off the Bay of Islands have been delayed with the confirmation that the potentially devastating sea squirt is on the frigate's hull. Resource consent was granted in December to sink the old warship off the Bay of Islands on condition the frigate would not be towed to Northland until it was clear of unwanted marine organisms. The Government sold the old 3000-tonne Leander-class frigate to the Bay of Islands Trust which planned to sink it in Deep Water Cove at Cape Brett. Trust spokesman Kelly Weeds told NZPA today the discovery of the pest meant the frigate would be dry-docked in Devonport until it was given the all-clear by Biosecurity New Zealand. Sea squirt poses a potential risk to New Zealand's aquaculture industry and biodiversity. It competes for space and can blanket oyster and mussel lines, suffocating shellfish.
In 2005 a fleet of racing yachts in the Waitemata Harbour were targeted by Biosecurity New Zealand checks to help prevent the spread of sea squirt. Mr Weeds said the pest was known to exist in the Waitemata Harbour but not in the Bay of Islands. "We don't want to be the ones responsible for bringing it here." Mr Weeds said trust members were meeting Biosecurity New Zealand officials in Auckland today to determine a way forward. "Either way it will be dry-docked at Devonport."
A meeting between Biosecurity New Zealand and the Navy would also be held this afternoon to discuss the technology to be used to clean the hull, he said. "We are using new technology to get the sea squirt off the bottom of the ship." The trust had hoped to have the ship towed to Opua before Christmas to be prepared for sinking later this year but it was now looking at a $30,000 bill to clean the hull. Mr Weeds said the setback was a disappointment for the trust as the frigate had been ready to tow to the Bay of Islands. It was now aiming to have the frigate in Northland by February 24 in time for the Opua Primary School fair.

UPDATE: Friday, 29th Dec, 2006: Cash needed to rid hull of weed!

By Imran Ali - Northern Advocate: A cash shortfall has delayed the sinking of an old Navy frigate aimed at attracting tourists to the Bay of Islands.
The Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust needs at least $30,000 - $60,000 for dry docking and about the same amount for towing the HMNZS Canterbury to her final resting place - and is appealing for financial help. The former navy frigate will be sunk as an artificial reef and dive attraction at Deep Water Cove, near Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands.

But the trust needs to first clean her sea squirt-infested hull - a requirement under the Biosecurity Act 1993. Trust spokesman Kelly Weeds said the Government and Navy officials wanted the frigate to be handed over in a formal ceremony, but it wasn't possible at this time of year. "The hull needs to be cleaned. We couldn't do that before Christmas. A firm employed by us has done a survey of the vessel and recommended that it needs a little bit more of a clean-up," Mr Weeds said.

"The vessel has to be dry docked to remove the sea squirt which we don't want to carry to the Bay of Islands."

He said the dry dock facility in Auckland would be available from February 14 at a cost of about $30,000. "Two weeks back, we didn't think we'd have to do this, but now it's a requirement." Mr Weeds said it was likely the vessel would be towed to the Bay of Islands by the end of January - money permitting. The Department of Conservation initially opposed the sinking, citing the potential effects on marine mammals and the risk of introducing unwarranted organisms or contaminants. The consent allows the trust to "place, use and occupy space with a ship in the coastal marine area", install two mooring buoys and a special marker.

UPDATE: Weds, 17th Dec, 2006: Consent Granted To Sink Naval Wreck!

The Northland Regional Council has granted resource consent for the sinking of a former naval frigate, the HMNZS Canterbury, in the outer Bay of Islands. The Department of Conservation had raised concerns about the potential damage the project would have on marine mammals in the area. But the Council's consents manager, Dave Roke, says the risks are minor and the sinking, expected next year, will be carefully planned and monitored. He says turning the ship into an artificial reef will be positive for the local economy. Mr Roke says three other large vessels, including the Rainbow Warrior, have already been sunk along Northland's east coast.

UPDATE: Weds, 6th Dec, 2006: Frigate Wellington to feature in new Marine Reserve!

By TRACEY WATKINS and MATTHEW TORBIT: A marine reserve for Wellington's south coast is expected to be announced today, after a 14-year dispute. But there are expected to be significant changes to the original proposal after intense lobbying from groups, including recreational fishermen and iwi.

More delays could follow, with some opponents warning they will challenge any decision to proceed in the High Court. Declaring an area a marine reserve would prohibit fishing and harvesting, allowing marine life to regenerate. Today's announcement, by Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton and Conservation Minister Chris Carter, comes 41/2 years after then conservation minister Sandra Lee approved the Taputeranga Marine Reserve. The area was originally proposed to cover 969 hectares between Te Raekaihau Pt and Owhiro Bay.

The ministers' offices were tight- lipped yesterday on the likely changes, but they could include a slight tapering of the reserve's size and allowing low-level customary or commercial harvesting to continue. South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition spokesman Andrew Cutler, who was among the group that first proposed and tabled the marine reserve idea, said any compromise could render the reserve ineffective. "The proposed area covers whole ecosystems – shrinking the size or allowing some fishing would defeat the reserve's purpose," he said.

"This reserve will benefit all if established, including fishermen who will have bigger and better catches on the reserve's fringes. Tim Walshe, from Island Bay Divers, said he would not be concerned if some low-level traditional harvest was permitted, but agreed the reserve would benefit all. The marine reserve was originally expected to stretch roughly 1.3km offshore and includes a network of rocky reefs and three sections of the submerged F69 frigate.

Diving and conservation groups say it will attract thousands of dive tourists and regenerate the fishery. Divers say it will be the "jewel in Wellington's crown" in years to come. But it has had a rocky history since a group of enthusiasts first put together the plan in 1992. The application was put on hold after legal challenges from Ngati Toa to Ms Lee's 2002 approval. Ngati Toa said the marine reserve violated its customary rights to collect seafood and it had not been consulted over the proposal before it was submitted. They reached an agreement with the Conservation Department in April last year allowing the proposal to recommence – though they have still not withdrawn the application for a judicial review.

UPDATE: SAT, 29th NOV, 2006: NEW!! the movie "The ShipSinkers!"

UPDATE: SAT, 25th NOV, 2006: Approval gained to scuttle ship off east Tasmania, Australia
After months of delays, it has been confirmed the ship, the Troy D, will be scuttled near Maria Island off Tasmania's east coast next year. Professional scuttlers will come from Canada and Western Australia will arrive in January 2007, to begin final preparations. The ship will be turned into a dive wreck in a joint program between local, state and federal governments.

Project coordinator, Chris Peterson, says there are still some formalities to complete. "It faces a final inspection scheduled by Commonwealth inspectors for next month," he said. "We've also got to complete a post management scuttling plan, which looks at environmental monitoring regimes and the like and that's due to be finished shortly." Scuttling day 10th February, 2007

www.troyd.com.au < http://www.troyd.com.au >

UPDATE: MON, 23 NOVEMBER 2006: Frigate's fate to be decided today!


A big hurdle to a new underwater home in Northland for the rusting old navy frigate Canterbury is likely to be removed today.

By IAN STUART: The Department of Conservation (DOC), which had opposed a plan to sink the 3000-tonne frigate in Deep Water Cove, Cape Brett, was to meet the Bay of Islands Trust today and said there was a good chance the sinking plan would be approved. That would mean the Northland Regional Council had only to grant a resource consent and without an objection from DOC, the trust said there was nothing to stop the consent being approved. Trust spokesman Kelly Weeds said if DOC withdrew its objection then the council granted the consent, Canterbury could be towed to Opua from the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland before Christmas.

The 36-year-old Leander class frigate was taken out of service in March last year and sold to the Bay of Islands Trust, which planned to sink it as a dive attraction in Deep Water Cove. However, DOC said the underwater wreck could harm the fragile marine environment, including the bottlenose dolphins which used the cove as a resting area. Now the trust said it had hoped all DOC's objections had been satisfied by a stringent set of rules to protect the marine environment.

Mr Weeds said the old ship would spend at least six months in Opua being stripped and cleaned before it was sunk. Mr Weeds said the trust had about $50,000 available but would raise about $400,000 from the sale of souvenirs and bits and spares from the ship. The balance of the $600,000 sinking cost would come from corporate sponsorship and marketing, such as selling the right to push the button to sink the ship. He said the trust was "pretty close" to an agreement with DOC. The trust had talked with DOC about using a small area of the cove as a boat lane to and from the wreck site.

They had also provided a code of conduct to DOC to protect the dolphins and the marine environment.
DOC Bay of Islands area manager John Beachman said he was confident DOC and the trust would agree on conditions. "They are putting Canterbury into an area of extraordinarily high conservation value," Mr Beachman said. He said after talking with the trust DOC now had little concern. "If they are going to work to Bio Security New Zealand standards we will be happy to withdraw (the objection)," Mr Beachman said. Mr Weeds said the navy had paid an estimated $300,000 to prepare and tow Canterbury's sister ship, Wellington, to the capital for sinking but it would not pay to tow Canterbury to the Bay of Islands. Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Barbara Cassin, said the navy made it clear early in the disposal process it would not be involved in the costs.

Another organisation, the Tutukaka Coast Promotions Society said it already had resource consent and would sink the ship in Ngunguru, just south of Tutukaka, if the Bay of Islands site did not go ahead. Another Leander class frigate, the former HMNZS Waikato, was sunk as a dive attraction in Ngunguru, off Northland, in 2000. Two other ships sent to the bottom off Northland were former navy oceanographic research ship Tui - sunk just north of Tutukaka in 1999 - and the Rainbow Warrior, sunk in Matauri Bay in 1987, two years after it was blown up in Auckland by French saboteurs.

****Happy first anniversary for F69 Divewreck team****

UPDATE: MON, 20 NOVEMBER 2006: Reef Wellington, now 1 year old!!

MATTHEW TORBIT: DOMPOST: It has spent a year lurking in Wellington's murky depths but, despite a few bumps and bruises, everything is going swimmingly for HMNZS Wellington.

The chairman of the Sink F69 Trust, Marco Zeeman, said he had a "drink to the old girl" last Monday to celebrate the first anniversary of its sinking. "A lot of work went into sinking her, and a year on I have no regrets," he said. On November 13 last year, tens of thousands lined the southern bays to catch a glimpse of the decommissioned Royal New Zealand Navy frigate's final moments afloat. Beneath a big ball of orange flame, the 113-metre, 3000-tonne warship dipped beneath the waves to start its new life as a diver's treasure chest tucked behind Island Bay's Taputeranga Island.

While the sinking went without a hitch, the wreck, purchased for $1, has had its ups and downs. After a savage storm lashed the capital in early March, ferocious surges snapped the F69 into three sections and scattered debris along the shoreline.

In June, an economic impact report to Wellington City Council said the wreck would bring $5.2 million in visitor revenue to the city in the next 25 years - bettering most major city attractions, including Wellington Zoo and the City Gallery. Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive Tim Cossar said that when the F69 was sunk, the capital gained a high-class dive attraction. "We don't know its exact economic impact as yet, but products such as the F69 have value in that they increase the diversity of Wellington's visitor offer."

Splash Gordon's Bill Keddy said his dive shop had helped at least 2000 people dive the wreck, and he expected to be run off his feet once the weather cleared up over summer. "It's just a fantastic asset for the city. I believe it's better now it's broken up - it's a proper dive wreck now." Wellington dive instructor Ben Knight said that, as a range of sea life made the wreck home, it was developing into the finest dive attraction in the region.

But as the capital had been blasted with "wave after wave" of unsavoury weather for most of the year, it had been difficult to find good conditions to dive the wreck. "There's a good amount of growth and sea life sprouting but it's still a relatively clean wreck. You can still distinguish parts of the ship and it's a hell of a lot of fun to dive." Stable communities of reef fish have established themselves in the wreck, including bait fish and blue cod, which was encouraging bigger fish to visit.

"The last time we were on the wreck there was a pod of dolphins swimming around above us. That was pretty special." Mr Knight said the force of the ocean was slowly collapsing the ship.
UPDATE: Thu, Nov. 19, 2006: Launch of 1st of 2 offshore patrol boats 'significant milestone' - New HMNZS Wellington on the way!!

By HANK SCHOUTEN: The first of the navy's six new patrol craft has been launched in Melbourne. HMNZS Otago was launched at Williamstown shipyard on Saturday by former governor-general Dame Silvia Cartwright. Otago is the first of two 85-metre offshore patrol boats - the other will be called HMNZS Wellington - to be commissioned next year. It is part of the $500 million Project Protector under which the navy will also take delivery of a large new multi-role ship, HMNZS Canterbury, and four new 55m inshore patrol craft. The Canterbury, launched in Rotterdam earlier this year, is also in Melbourne for a final fit-out and is due to go into service early next year. The Otago will follow once its fit-out is complete.

Navy Chief David Ledson said the Otago's launch was a significant milestone in the navy's transformation. The new ships would provide an enhanced capacity in a variety of roles, he said. The Otago will be lightly armed with a sole 25mm cannon, but will fill a big gap in navy capability. In recent years the navy has not been able to do much patrolling of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone. The Otago will have the same range as a frigate, about 10,000km, and will also be able to carry a helicopter. It has an ice-strengthened hull and will be able to carry 30 troops.

UPDATE: Thu, Nov. 16, 2006: A titanic voyage - Panhandle's USS Oriskany is one of the world's largest artificial reefs
By SUSAN COCKING:
THE MIAMI HERALD -

'GREAT CARRIER REEF': The 911-foot-long USS Oriskany was sunk May 17 off Pensacola to serve as an artificial reef. The carrier served during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Eat your heart out, South Florida. For all our great diving sites, we do not have what has been dubbed ''The Great Carrier Reef'' -- the USS Oriskany, the world's largest ship deliberately sunk to create a haven for fish and divers. The 911-foot-long, retired U.S. Navy aircraft carrier belongs to the Florida Panhandle, sitting 212 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico, 22 ½ nautical miles southeast of Pensacola and 33 miles southwest of Destin. It was sunk May 17, taking 37 minutes to hit the bottom after a combination of shaped charges, drilled holes and flooded compartments were set off inside it. The ship came to rest upright with the top of the 151-foot superstructure at 70 feet deep. You could almost fit two of Key Largo's sunken Spiegel Groves inside it.

Several years back, dive promoters in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties tried very hard to secure the Oriskany for deployment in local waters. But their ardent bid to the Navy and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was trumped by the Pensacola naval community, many of whose current and former residents served aboard the carrier during the Korean and Vietnam wars.As someone with a front-row seat during the frantic contest to secure the ship, I was terribly curious to dive the Oriskany. I finally made it there last month and dived with former Miami resident captain Dave Mucci, now a Pensacola dive boat operator. Mucci said visibility on the wreck had been 100 feet-plus all summer long. But the weather immediately prior to our dive had been windy, which reduced visibility to about 50 feet -- the norm for Miami. But seas were calm for the 1 ¼-hour ride aboard Mucci's 29-foot cat. Mucci, who has dived the Oriskany numerous times -- both on scuba and holding his breath -- said the ship cannot be fully explored in one dive, or even a dozen. ''It'll take 20 dives to get a good familiarization,'' he said. ``It's a monster.''

MARVEL TO BEHOLD: Arriving at the dive site, Mucci idled over to a mooring he installed that is marked with an American flag and tied up the boat. Unlike the Spiegel Grove, the Oriskany has no publicly-maintained moorings. Other dive operators must send a divemaster down with the anchor to secure it to the top of the superstructure. Our group of four divers suited up, made a final inspection of our Nitrox tanks and rolled over the side. Buddying with former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot Scott Suazo, now an Air Force major who flies C-5s, I descended to the flight control station more than 100 feet deep. We swam across the deck through the missing windows and I marvelled at the 1950s linoleum beginning to peel off the floor. We decided not to blow our bottom time by touching the flight deck at 138 feet, opting instead to hover over the radar dome and latticed smokestack. The Oriskany has already attracted plenty of marine life, with a thin coating of algae on the hull and sea creatures circulating in and around it. The biggest fish we encountered were about a dozen four-foot-long barracuda, which look mean with their sharp teeth but do little more than swim around, eyeing smaller fish. The compartments are lined with minnows, misshapen trumpetfish and arrow crabs.

A PATINA OF LIFE: Mucci said he recently speared a 25-pound wahoo while freediving the wreck. And Robert Turpin, Escambia County's marine resources manager, said he has observed sharks, dolphins and other species. ''I understand there's a Goliath grouper on it,'' Turpin said. ``As we enter our winter season, the large jacks -- 75 to 100 pounds -- should be on it. I don't know what's down by the propellers. It wouldn't surprise me to see Goliaths, Warsaw grouper and some 50-to-60-pound Cubera snapper.'' As Suazo and I swam around the stacks, we were slightly startled to see Mucci diving down -- sans tanks -- and waving at us. We slowly surfaced, taking a five-minute safety stop, and got back on the boat. For our second dive, Suazo expressed a desire to visit the bridge -- the helm station from which the Oriskany was navigated. After an hour's surface interval, we dived down and took a look at the remains of electronics and control panels and then went over to the radar antenna base.

Someone had hung the Stars & Stripes from a yardarm recently enough that the colors were still fairly vibrant amid a patina of marine growth. I watched, moved, as Suazo gently unfurled the banner and shook it out, liberating several small grunts. He wiped the flag clean with his gloved hand, gave me the thumbs-up, and began to ascend. Like many military service members, Suazo is glad that the old carrier serves as a living memorial to those who served aboard her -- rather than being scrapped. Turpin, who helped coordinate the sinking with the Navy and the state, sees the project as the culmination of his life's work. And he has a personal connection to the ship -- his stepfather served as a clerk on board, narrowly escaping a 1966 fire that killed 44 sailors. ''It exceeds any dive I've ever done,'' Turpin said. ``Something that large and that spectacular, it's orders of magnitude above any other Navy vessel that's an artificial reef. I lost a lot of sleep and a lot of hair over it. I really wanted to do it right.'' http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/16023842.htm

UPDATE: Nov 15th, 2006: Week-long auction for naming rights to artificial reef starts
Associated Press:
KEY WEST, Fla. - A weeklong online auction started Wednesday for naming rights to an artificial reef project organizers hope to establish off the Florida Keys. The artificial reef is to be created by sinking the retired 524-foot U.S. Air Force missile-tracking ship General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, which monitored NASA space launches from 1963 to 1983. Since 1984, the ship has been amid other decommissioned vessels at the James River Naval Reserve Fleet in Fort Eustis, Va.

Bidding on the online auction site eBay Inc. begins at $900,000, with a reserve price of $1.3 million, said Joe Weatherby, a project organizer with Artificial Reefs of the Keys. It's the last piece of a funding puzzle required for the $5.7 million project. ARK has already gathered $3 million, but needs to come up with remaining funds to avoid losing the ship to scrapyard. "This is for someone who is looking for a legacy," Weatherby said. "It's something for an individual or a company that is permanent and positive for the environment." The proposed artificial reef is expected to attract marine life, provide an ongoing impact to the tourism-based economy and benefit the underwater environment by taking pressure off natural coral reefs.

On the Net: Artificial Reefs of the Keys: http://www.bigshipwrecks.com

UPDATE: 11th November, 2006: Final Resting Place - Historic war ship to serve as artificial reef

By SARA INÉS CALDERÓN: The Brownsville Herald: She has carried the wounded out of embattled Iwo Jima and served as a home and research hub for thousands of university students. Soon, it will meet its final destiny on the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico. The USTS Texas Clipper, formerly the USS Queens, is currently sitting in the Port of Brownsville being gutted and cleaned in preparation for her sinking in March. The ship will serve as an artificial reef for divers and fishermen.

During World War II, the 473-foot troop transport ship ferried troops into battle and removed the wounded from Iwo Jima. Built in 1944, the ship was decommissioned in 1946 after assisting in the American occupation of Sasebo, Japan. The ship was then part of American Export Lines as a cruise liner to the Mediterranean from 1948 to 1958, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. From 1965 to 1996, the ship was used as part of the Texas Maritime Training Academy’s training program at Texas A&M University at Galveston.Currently, the ship is being converted into an environmentally-safe tourist attraction. The Texas Clipper will be sunk about 17 miles off the South Padre Island coast and will sit 134 feet below sea level.

The highest point of the ship will be 50 feet below the water to allow for safe ship passage. The six-month project is being done by Esco Marine at the Port of Brownsville. Holes are being punched into the ship and welders are sealing off sections of the ship to make it safe for divers, said Kris Wood, the dismantling project manager. Hydrocarbons, asbestos, wiring and other chemical components are also being removed, he said.

The Texas Clipper’s arrival in Brownsville was no accident, according to three local Aggies. The Port of Brownsville, South Padre Island municipality, Texas Parks and Wildlife and three Texas A&M alumni who served on the Clipper all worked to get the ship to Brownsville. “It’s very appropriate that it be off the coast of Texas,” said Terry Ray, adding that fellow Aggies Jim and Jeff Tipton may try to organize an Aggie bon voyage party when the ship is sunk in the spring. From war to education to recreation, the Texas Clipper will be remembered fondly, the trio said. “When I saw that ship for the last time, I never expected to see it back in Brownsville,” Jim Tipton said. http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/ts_more.php?id=73801_0_10_0_M36

UPDATE: 09/10/06: Week-long auction for naming rights to artificial reef starts
Associated Press: KEY WEST, Fla. - A weeklong online auction started Wednesday for naming rights to an artificial reef project organizers hope to establish off the Florida Keys. The artificial reef is to be created by sinking the retired 524-foot U.S. Air Force missile-tracking ship General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, which monitored NASA space launches from 1963 to 1983.

Since 1984, the ship has been amid other decommissioned vessels at the James River Naval Reserve Fleet in Fort Eustis, Va. Bidding on the online auction site eBay Inc. begins at $900,000, with a reserve price of $1.3 million, said Joe Weatherby, a project organizer with Artificial Reefs of the Keys. It's the last piece of a funding puzzle required for the $5.7 million project. ARK has already gathered $3 million, but needs to come up with remaining funds to avoid losing the ship to scrapyard.

"This is for someone who is looking for a legacy," Weatherby said. "It's something for an individual or a company that is permanent and positive for the environment." The proposed artificial reef is expected to attract marine life, provide an ongoing impact to the tourism-based economy and benefit the underwater environment by taking pressure off natural coral reefs.

UPDATE: 8th Nov, 2006: Yukon lives on!

In 2000, the San Diego Oceans Foundation (SDOF) scuttled the Canadian Destroyer Escort Yukon off of the San Diego coastline, turning the ship into an artificial reef. Since its transformation into a reef, the Yukon has become the site of 10,800 dives each year, including 6,000 by out-of-town divers. An analysis of preliminary data indicate that the expenditures may be as high as $4.5 million to the local economy. In order to quantify the direct economic benefits to San Diego of this new marine habitat, SDOF initiated two studies on the economic effects of divers visiting Yukon:

1. An expenditure survey to determine the project's market contributions and local economic impact;

2. An analysis of data regarding the origin of divers visiting the Yukon and other reefs in Southern California.

While the environmental benefits of similar manmade habitats are well-known in Gulf Coast states, the Yukon is the first such project on the West Coast. The SDOF therefore also commissioned a report on the Yukon's environmental effects. The findings of the reports indicate that the Yukon has contributed significant benefits to the economy and can be expected to continue to be a positive attraction for both sea life and humans. Specific findings of the reports, released to the public in a comprehensive DVD, include the following:

Economic Highlights: An analysis of preliminary data indicate that expenditures may be as high as $4.5 million to local economy, and have supported 225 full-time jobs and more than $700,000 in wages and salaries. Local economy benefits from more than ten times the initial investment every year ($4.5 million compared to $435,000). With more than half of its divers from out of town, the Yukon benefits not only the diving industry, but also businesses relying on tourism as well as city and county governments through tax revenues.

Environmental Highlights: Fish populations have increased significantly since reef first formed. The Yukon has benefited certain fish species by functioning as a breeding ground and nursery for blackfish as well as sheephead and boccacio, two species whose populations have been seriously depleted by overfishing. The reef is more favorable for vermillion rockfish and boccacio than a nearby natural habitat in La Jolla. The Yukon may also have a beneficial effect as a new "stepping stone" for mobile species in "Wreck Alley," a network of artificial reefs between natural habitats north and south of the reef. Marine life on and around the Yukon has and continues to increase in species richness and diver

UPDATE: 7th Nov, 2006: Texas Clipper gets a final resting place

By Marty Schladen, The Daily News: After more than a decade of idleness, the Texas Clipper departed Beaumont on Friday. It was expected in South Padre Island sometime Monday. Next year, it will be scuttled in 135 feet of water about 17 miles off the coast.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Artificial Reef Program is spending about $4 million to turn the vessel into an artificial reef. It’s intended to serve as habitat for fish and other marine life, which, in turn, is expected to attract fishermen and scuba divers. The 473-foot Clipper had been stuck in dock in Beaumont since its last cruise in 1994. From 1965 until 1994, it served as the original Texas Clipper — a ship in which students from Texas A&M’s Galveston campus sailed the world, learning about maritime science and marine biology.

Two other ships have succeeded it at the university. The ship entered service on Sept. 12, 1944. During World War II, it was known as the USS Queens. During that phase of its life, it carried troops — uninjured, wounded and dead — from the battlefield. After the war, the ship was refitted as a first-class passenger ship. Renamed the Excambion, it plied the Atlantic until 1959. The ship was then laid up until 1965, when it became the Clipper.

UPDATE: 3rd Nov, 2006: Aggies Bid Final Farewell to The Texas Clipper

A group of graduates from Texas A & M in Galveston gathered in Port Arthur Friday to see off the ship where many lived throughout their college years. The Texas Clipper served as a training ship for the Texas Maritime Academy. Students and professors are excited after sitting in the ready reserve fleet in Beaumont for the past decade, one day they will be able to swim through the passageways of The Texas Clipper, where they used to walk.Stephen Curley is an English professor at Texas A & M University in Galveston, he says, “Everyone has mixed emotions about it. It’s something that was so important and now it`s on its final voyage.”

Curley is among dozens of Aggies, and future ones, who gathered in Port Arthur to wave good-bye to The Texas Clipper. “I think the most significant thing about the ship is what its done in three different ways,” he says. Over the past 62 years of the ship`s existence, it`s served under three names. Beginning as the USS Queens as attack transport in 1944, then the SS Excambion as a passenger-cargo liner in 1948, and finally the USTS Texas Clipper as a training ship of the Texas Maritime Academy for nearly 30 years.

Former Aggie, Tammy Lobaugh says, “She`s served our country, commerce, and education, now she will live on in a different way so future generations can take part and enjoy her as well.” In dead tow, The Texas Clipper is making its way to Brownsville to be prepped for The Texas Parks and Wildlife`s artificial reef program. “It`s a kind of sad day but she`s going on and I think her new chapter will allow future generations to learn more about her,” Lobaugh says.

Curley is hoping to take part in teaching future generations about The Texas Clipper by writing a book, he says, “It`s going to be sunk deliberately and ceremoniously. That means people will be able to go down to Brownville and dive the ship.” The ship will spend about four months in Brownsville, before being sunk about 17 miles off of Port Isabelle. - http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/water/habitats/artificial_reef/ships_to_reef.phtml

UPDATE: Tuesday, October 31, 2006: 18 derelict vessels seized in Suva Harbour

Vili Anini stands in front of a derelict vessel moored in Walu Bay, Suva

The Fiji Ports Corporation Limited has seized and impounded 18 derelict vessels. The vessels were navigational hazards in Suva Harbour and an eyesore. The move comes following a decision earlier this year to remove derelict or abandoned vessels from the harbour.

The corporation advertised the names of the 18 derelict vessels in two daily newspapers yesterday, calling on the owners to get in touch with it. Corporation commercial marketing manager Lavinia Kaumaitotoya said vessel owners must get in touch with them before Friday or action would be taken. "The Suva Harbour is our place of work. The vessels pose a navigational hazard and are an eyesore to the beauty of Suva Harbour."

"The plan is to sink it in a common area and build an artificial reef for a diving mecca for the eco-tourism and dive industry," she said. "It will be a first for Fiji and quite an exciting project for FPCL to be involved in."

Ms Kaumaitotoya said responsibility to clean up the harbour rested with the corporation. The project is the brainchild of the corporation's chief executive Herbert Hazelman, who put together a group to handle the problem. She said approval would be sought from the State and qoliqoli owners before a locality was chosen as a watery graveyard for the vessels.

UPDATE: 19 October, 2006: WARSHIPS TO BE SUNK OFF VICTORIA AND NEW SOUTH WALES

Minister of Defence, Australia: I am pleased to announce I have selected Victoria to be gifted the former Royal Australian Navy Guided Missile Frigate HMAS Canberra for sinking as a drive wreck. Victoria was the successful bidder for HMAS Canberra following her decommissioning in November last year.

The Howard Government will contribute up to $2.8 million in funding toward the costs of sinking. The Victorian Government has advised me the preferred location for the ex-HMAS Canberra is south of Barwon Heads on the Bellarine Peninsula. I would especially like to thank my colleague, Mr Stewart McArthur MP, for his strong support and advocacy on behalf of his local community.

The ex-HMAS Canberra sailed nearly 800,000 miles serving Australia, and saw active service in the Persian Gulf and conducted operations in areas as diverse as the Southern Ocean and the Solomon Islands, east of Africa and south of Russia. The ship is 138 metres long, and when in commission displaced 4100 tonnes and had a crew of 210 including helicopter aircrew and maintainers. New South Wales also stands to benefit, despite having been the unsuccessful bidder on this occasion for HMAS Canberra. The New South Wales Government will be offered first right to bid for HMAS Adelaide when she is decommissioned in late 2007. HMAS Adelaide is a ship of the same class as the ex-HMAS Canberra.

I am confident the NSW Government will be able to make an at least convincing bid for the second ship. The NSW Government has indicated the preferred location for a dive site as the NSW Central Coast. My colleagues, Mr Jim Lloyd MP and Mr Ken Ticehurst MP, have been tireless and strong supporters of the Central Coast community. With their continued advocacy I am confident I will be in a position to gift the HMAS Adelaide to the NSW Government. Tourism projects that have previously used former RAN warships to establish dive wrecks have reported annual revenues ranging from $2.4 million to $23 million flowing into local communities. Defence Media Liaison

UPDATE: 23/09/2006: DOC opposes sinking frigate in Bay of Islands

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is opposing a plan to sink the former navy frigate Canterbury in the Bay of Islands. DOC says it has not been consulted and the project could cause problems for dolphins.
Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust is applying for resource consent to sink the frigate in Deep Water Cove. However, in its submission to the Northland Regional Council, DOC says the cove has high natural values and special zoning. It says Deep Water Cove is closed to dolphin tour operators because of its importance as a rest area for marine mammals, especially bottlenose dolphins.

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