Thursday, May 25, 2006

Navy Ship ‘Reefing’ May Have Down Side, Environmentalists Say


The New Standard
By Andrew Stelzer
May 23, 2006

The Navy and the tourism industry have teamed up in an apparent win-win situation , but ecologists say ocean life stands much to lose from the deal.

The intentional sinking of a retired World War II-era aircraft carrier by the US Navy is being hailed as an economic boon for a Florida panhandle town still in recovery from successive hurricanes. But the safety of the "artificial reefing" program, designed to attract divers from around the world, is untested, and now hundreds of pounds of toxins have been dropped to the ocean floor.

Since the USS Oriskany was decommissioned in the 1970s, the Navy has been trying to dispose of the 888-foot warship, along with an increasing number of other retired ships, most of which contain the banned carcinogen Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).

On May 17, after a pre-planned explosion, the Oriskany sank in 37 minutes. It now sits 22.5 nautical miles Southeast of Pensacola, Florida.

"There’s a lot of questions here," said Kurt Davies, research director for Greenpeace, which has filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act to find out more about the Environmental Protection Agency’s process for approving the "reefing." "What we’re very concerned about is the dialogue between the Navy and the EPA about PCB waste that’s on board the Oriskany."

Davies said his group seeks information about why the EPA changed its own rules and then made an extra exception to those rules in order to allow the Navy to sink the ship.

In 1989, during the scrapping of a submarine on the West Coast, the Navy discovered that PCBs were contained in the vessel.

Greenpeace says it is concerned that economics may have trumped health and safety in the approval process.

Subsequent testing found PCBs in the wiring, insulation, paint, gaskets, caulking, plastic and other non-metallic materials in almost all of the Navy’s ships built prior to 1976. That year, Congress banned the manufacture, processing and distribution of commercial PCBs. Research has shown that exposure to the toxin can disrupt the hormone systems of animals, and, over time, cause cancer in humans.

The discovery forced the Navy to put its plans to sink several ships on hold. Although hundreds of ships had been intentionally sunk, the EPA took a position that deliberately sinking vessels containing PCBs would violate the Clean Water Act.

According to a 2004 report by the Artificial Reef Subcommittees of the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions, the EPA ban on the use of PCBs created a situation in which "no vessel could be cost-effectively prepared for sinking."

Efforts to have the Oriskany turned into a museum or sold off for scrap material both failed, and the Navy had decided that dismantling and recycling the ship was a "cost-prohibitive option," with a price tag of at least $12 million.

Then, in 2001, with the Navy seeing an increasing number of warships in need of disposal, the EPA’s Office of Pollution, Prevention, Pesticides and Toxics program changed the definition of reefing from "continued use" to "disposal." The language tweaking raised the acceptable level of PCBs from 2 parts per million to 50 parts per million, and allowed for the reefing of the Spiegel Grove off of Key Largo, Florida.

Aside from the risk that fish near the site will become contaminated, five threatened or endangered species of sea turtles are also found near the Oriskany’s new home.

Even still, the Oriskany had solid concentrations of PCB’s that exceeded the legal limit, and the Navy said it couldn’t remove the remaining 700 pounds of PCBs without completely dismantling the ship.

In its 2004 environmental assessment of the proposed sinking of the Oriskany, the Navy wrote, "The purpose of the proposed action is to reduce the inactive ship inventory. The need for the action is to reduce expenses associated with maintaining ships that are pending disposal."

The EPA granted a one-time permit to allow for sinking of the Oriskany.

Aside from the risk that fish near the site will become contaminated, five threatened or endangered species of sea turtles are also found near the Oriskany’s new home. Davies pointed out the irony that Florida’s citizens and legislators fight one form of pollution, but some welcome a second with open arms.

"In Florida, you’ve been defending [the environment] against oil rigs – this very part of the Gulf of Mexico – for fear of pollution on your beaches in Florida," Davies said. "This is another case of a pollution source being introduced into the system."

Greenpeace says it is concerned that economics may have trumped health and safety in the approval process. Florida’s application to become the Oriskany’s new home had to compete with proposals from Mississippi and Texas, as well as a joint bid by Georgia and South Carolina.

The sinking of the Oriskany is expected to bring in millions of dollars every year to Escambia County, and the effects are already being seen. Speaking to The NewStandard two days after the Oriskany sank, Jim Phillips, at the Pensacola dive shop MBT Divers, said his business has been getting non-stop calls from people seeking to make reservations to dive the site.

"We never really made it on the map as far as being a dive destination," Phillips said. But he predicted that would change, as one of only three sunken aircraft carriers in the world now sits on the ocean floor only an hour’s boat ride from shore. "Now that the Oriskany's here, that will put us probably close to the top."

Phillips told TNS that the diving community was heavily involved in helping bring the Oriskany to the Pensacola area.

"We were very active," Phillips said. "Personally, it consumed pretty much every day for the last almost three years."

In their 2003-04 annual report, the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce credits the area’s Convention and Visitors Bureau for playing an instrumental role in seeing Pensacola chosen as the sinking site. Phillips said those involved in the roughly 30 dive shops and dive boat operations served as information sources for the EPA and other government agencies.

"If environmental people had questions, if we had the opportunity to help resolve some of the issues, we did," Phillips said. "We did lots of communicating with legislators and the different politicians at the different levels involved."

For its part, the EPA denies interference by locals, politicians or the Navy in its decision-making process. "There is a feisty competition any time there is one offered for reefing," acknowledged Mark Fite, chief of the EPA's Children’s Health, Lead and Asbestos Management Section of Region 4.

But Fite insisted the approval process was thorough. "We weren’t pushed into any decision," he told TNS. "This was a decision that EPA has the sole authority to make, and we’ve done that."

Fite said the State of Florida is developing a program to test PCB levels in fish caught in the vicinity of the ship, and that the monitoring plan "will go on for a number of years."

Laura Niles, spokesperson at the EPA’s Region 4 office, added that any fish caught with PCB levels of more than two parts per million will trigger further assessment. Niles also said the standards used for the Oriskany will not apply to future reefings and that the EPA is in the process of developing a national reefing approval process.

While Greenpeace is not against all artificial reefing projects per se, Davies said, the group is concerned that the Navy has more sinkings planned. "We feel like they’re greasing the path for a really quick fix on the problem of ship disposal that [carries] uncertain risks."

Lad Akins, the executive director of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a Key Largo-based group that collects data and educates the public on marine life, said there is "considerable debate" among those in his field about the merits of sinking giant ships. "I have concerns, and I think that anybody who says they don’t, should have," he said.

Despite his belief that the pollution from the Oriskanys’ innards will not be an immediate problem, Akins says there are questions that remain unanswered. "What happens when you get a severe hurricane?" he asked. "What’s it going to do to that structure, and what’s it going to look like in 50 or 100 years?"

In a 2004 environmental assessment of the Oriskany, the Navy quoted a 1997 Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission document, which says vessels have life spans as artificial reefs that may exceed 50 years. But Akins points out that "almost anything you put in the ocean is gonna break down if you give it enough time, and certainly that ship will break down someday."


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

'Carrier reef' to buoy local economy


Gulf Breeze News
By Franklin Hayes
May 23, 2006

Robert Turpin, Escambia County
Marine Resource Div. Chief, dives
Oriskany to assess its position
within hours of its sinking.

Hundreds looked on from the bows of sea vessels as thousands more tuned in online and on television to watch the "Mighty O" make its final descent into the emerald depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

A floating amalgamation of onlookers, media, former shipmates and curious mariners sounded their approval as 22 explosives decimated the infrastructure of the felicitous reef to be.

After two years of uncertainty, divers, spear fishermen and surface anglers alike now have their holy grail, the largest intentionally submerged man made reef in the world.

"I just finished diving the Oriskany," reported Robert Turpin, Chief of the Escambia County Marine Resources Division, in a cell phone call immediately after his descent. "It's sitting upright and facing south, just as planned. It's perfect." Turpin deemed the project a "terrific success" thanks to the hard work of many people over the last three and a half years. U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) divers also confirmed the upright positioning of the wreck.

Robert Turpin, Escambia County Marine Resource Div. Chief, dives Oriskany to assess its position within hours of its sinking.

Many anticipate being among the first to explore the historical reef, flooding local businesses with inquiries. Turpin took a group of divers from the National Geographic on Friday, only days after the craft became a reef.

"It has made things busier. The potential for economic gain is definitely there," said Fritz Sharar with MBT Divers.

Gene Ferguson, owner of Scuba Shack Wet Dream Charters in Pensacola, says his company has been inundated with Oriskany related business, citing an estimated 80 percent increase from the same time last year. "We've got them calling like crazy," Ferguson said, also adding that he's received calls from interested parties in the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and Australia just to name a few. "People thought it wouldn't sink. Now that it's down, the bookings are coming in," Ferguson said.

Local dive shops are not the only beneficiaries of the downed ship. The Pensacola Bay Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau released a statement regarding the new man made reef: "A 1998 study, funded by the state of Florida, by researchers from Florida State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that artificial reefs generate more than $92 million in annual spending by locals and visitors in Escambia County. An additional interpretation by NOAA in 2006 indicates the Oriskany will add an average of $9 million in annual spending." The study also focused on supplementary jobs the reef may bring to the area, estimating $2.1 million in additional annual wages.

Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce director Sandy Johnston is also hopeful the "Mighty O" will bring additional business to the beach. "We're just delighted it's finally here. This is where it belongs and it's here to stay," Johnston said. The director also mentioned that the now submerged Oriskany will attract divers of many types to the area. It will attract people that never thought to dive in the Pensacola area, as well as those who have already been here to dive the USS Massachusetts, Johnston said. The USS Massachusetts (BB-2), one of the many other explorable shipwrecks in the area, has been in Pensacola Bay since the 1920's.

Since the flight deck of the "Mighty O" is below the limit of most open water divers at more than 130 feet, most people will explore the part of the ship referred to as "the island." The island is the large tower structure that protrudes from the flight deck, and is where the bridge and navigation systems of the ship are located. Shrar offered safety advice to those who may venture out to the Oriskany site without professional assistance.

"We want [divers operating from private boats] to stay within their personal diving limits, make sure your gear is properly serviced and in good working order. Dive conservatively, and do not penetrate the wreck." Shrar added that for someone not trained as a technical diver, it could be very easy to get lost inside of the ship, as some areas will be devoid of light. "If people dive within their boundaries, it is a phenomenal dive," Shrar said.


Oriskany Underwater Pictures


Photos by Keith Mille
FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management
Artificial Reef Program.

Follow the link.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Oriskany site opens to divers off Pensacola Beach


Herald Tribune
By Melissa Nelson
May 19, 2006

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- The site of the sunken aircraft carrier USS Oriskany opened to recreational divers Friday afternoon, but rough seas and limited daylight forced many of those eager to explore "The Mighty O" in its new home to wait a day.

"I checked around to all the dive shops and nobody had any boats going out today. I even called all my friends with boats," said Dale Hickman, a longtime cave diver from Pensacola who hopes to dive inside the ship's passageways.

The Oriskany was sunk 24 miles off the Pensacola coastline by the Navy on Wednesday as the world's largest manmade reef. Local diving enthusiasts said it was now among the world's top dive destinations because of its size, nearly three football fields in length, and its history as a Korean and Vietnam war battleship.

"Right now we have people calling and booking trips as far out as January. I have a group that wants to come over from England and make the dive in January," Pensacola dive shop owner Jim Phillips said.

The state officially opened the Oriskany site to recreational divers at 1 p.m. EDT Friday, but Phillips postponed taking divers to the site until Saturday morning because of the rough seas and limited afternoon dive time.

"It's going to be a zoo out there tomorrow," said dive shop owner Eilene Beard, who planned to send 20 divers and five dive instructors to the site on Saturday and Sunday.

Stan Kirkland, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said divers from his agency went to the Oriskany on Thursday and reported that it was in excellent shape for recreational divers.

He said measurements indicated the flight deck sank to 135 feet below the surface near its stern and 140 feet near its bow - a depth attainable for advanced recreational divers.

Kirkland said a Navy ship using sonar had indicated the flight deck was 150 feet down, but the divers found it wasn't that deep and that the top of the ship's tower was 71 feet from the surface.

The Navy scuttled the famed aircraft carrier as its first ship disposed of through a pilot program to reef old warships instead of taking them to the scrap yard.

The Oriskany was commissioned in 1950 and named after an American Revolutionary War battle. It saw duty during the Korean War and was home to John McCain when the Navy pilot and future senator served in Vietnam. It was also among the ships used by President Kennedy in a show of force during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. It was decommissioned in 1976.

The $20 million sinking was delayed for nearly two years by hurricanes and environmental permitting problems. Pensacola leaders hope the ship will provide an economic infusion by luring sport divers and fishermen.

"This will provide a world-class diving destination for Escambia County and surrounding areas and that's why there was such a battle to secure this ships," Kirkland said. "This is going to be a kind of blueprint for other states including Florida in obtaining future Navy ships."


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hold contractor responsible if Sipadan damaged: MNS


Daily Express
May 18, 2006

Kota Kinabalu: The giant barge that apparently beached and scraped off pristine corals at Sipadan's famous Dropoff Point was bringing in materials and heavy equipment to build a RM5 million tourism facility comprising a restaurant-cum-clubhouse, scuba shop, office and staff quarters, sources said.

Although well-intended to boost the island's tourism, the contractor had to first secure permission from Sabah Parks headquarters for all transportation activities for the project

Parks officials would then supervise the movement of boats and materials into the island. This is where things supposedly went wrong.

It now appears that the contractor did not have permission to bring in the barge. Even it's application to bring in a "kumpit" (small indigenous boat) was not given until 16 May, 2006.

Attempts to get the contractor concerned for comments were unsuccessful.

May 13 to May 16 were days of full moon and high tides, but by May 14, the giant barge had already arrived, the sources said.

The "disaster" happened when the barge was beached to off-load the massive cargo of gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh, prime movers a large bulldozer by means of an onboard giant crane.

"If indeed true that the company had brought in the steel barge without a permit, as alleged, then the contractor should be charged for encroachment as well as for any damage caused to Sipadan," said Kadir Omar, President of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Sabah branch.

"This is the view of Malaysian Nature Society because they have damaged a national icon, damaging the very attraction that Sipadan has to offer to the world," he said.

"The big question mark is if strict approval were needed for bringing in a small kumpit, why was such a huge monster mobilised without any permit?" Kadir asked.

Robert Lo, Managing Director of Sipadan Mabul Resort, is more pessimistic. "Not only the fantastic corals at the top of the Dropoff Point have been scraped off and flattened as seen on the Internet, but Sipadan's equally famous underwater cavern may now collapse because this giant barge is sitting right on top of it," he said.

Terence Lim, a former Dive Master Instructor with Sipadan Dive Centre, agreed with Robert Lo.

Though the cave entrance is 60ft below water, its thinnest ceiling section is probably no more than 15-ft thick between it and the island's surface.

Terence noted that this underwater cavern was the very feature that attracted late dive legend Jacques Cousteau to Sipadan.

To the left of the main chamber is a big chamber called Turtle Cavern where some turtles end up getting lost and die, leaving behind their skeletal remains.

To the right is a tunnel which spirals downwards leading to the bottom, neither too deep not too shallow - a unique feature of Sipadan loved by many divers who actually use it to train for cave diving, four at a time the most .

"It is a very beautiful cave system about 100ft deep where the ceiling rises gradually inside and is very fragile," Robert said.

"If that thin ceiling collapses, the beach will collapse and part of the island will collapse as well," Robert added.

"This is why the barge must be pulled out immediately. It is in the wrong place," he said. "Once this roof collapses, it is too late," Robert added.

"We don't even allow our paying divers to stand on corals, but here a huge barge had scraped them off and is sitting on the coral reef," lamented Robert.

"We all feel very sad."

Terence Lim said below the big drop-off is the habitat which guarantees sighting of the spectacle of hundreds of giant humhead parrot fish which sets off to feeding from here early each morning, then swim towards Barracuda Point and around the islands reefs.

"So the Dropoff is the site where we will take our divers at 5.30am to see them come up to nibble at the coral tips before moving on and then return at night to sleep," Terence said.

"The wealth of spectacular corals at the Dropoff is the reason we see a diversity of hundreds of species of fish, large and small but much of that coral scene apparently and been scraped clean, judging from Andrea's (internet) pictures," he said.

"The Internet pictures also reveal a table coral completely covered by gravel which apparently fell from the barge ," Terance said.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Navy divers inspect Oriskany site


The Herald
By Melissa Nelson
May 18, 2006

PENSACOLA, Fla. - Anxious divers got their first look at the USS Oriskany Thursday, reporting that the ship landed in an upright position facing north to south when the Navy used explosives to sink the massive aircraft carrier a day earlier.

"All I could think was 'Holly cow,' just the sheer size of it. Diving it was far beyond what I had imagined," said Jim Phillips, who owns a Pensacola dive shop and had a contract to retrieve cameras The Discovery Channel placed aboard the ship during the sinking.

The divers brought their own video of the site back to the MBT Dive Shop late Thursday and other divers, anxious to see the Oriskany underwater for themselves, gasped as they saw the underwater water images of the famed carrier's bridge and battle stations.

"Oh it looks like that's going to be a fun dive. She's going to hold so many fish in all those nooks and crannies," said shop employee Paul Sjordal.

Navy divers were the first to dive the Oriskany early Thursday and issued their first reports around noon EST, said Patrick Nichols, a spokesman for Pensacola Naval Air Station.

The Navy said the Oriskany's flight deck was positioned at a depth of 150 feet as the ship settled into the sand.

But Phillips and his crew said their dive instruments indicated the flight deck at a depth of between 130 and 134 feet.

"We had several computers and dropped right down to the flight deck," said diver Fritz Sharar.

The site was expected to be opened for recreational diving Friday afternoon.

The depth of the flight deck is important because the maximum depth for recreation sport divers is about 132 feet, said Eilene Beard, a dive shop owner and Pensacola native who donated $25,000 in retirement savings to help the community promote the Oriskany project.

The first official reports of the 150-foot depth of the flight deck were a disappointment to Beard.

"The maximum sport diving depth is 132 feet and we'd hoped it wouldn't go below that, but there will be plenty of superstructure along the wheel house for sport divers," Beard said.

Divers who go beyond the 132-foot depth must be qualified in technical diving and breathe a combination of gases to reach the extended depths, she said.

The Navy sunk the massive Korean and Vietnam era aircraft carrier Wednesday morning 24 miles off the coast of Pensacola as a flotilla of boats filled with hundreds of Oriskany veterans watched. Many saluted as the Oriskany dipped below the ocean.

The ship, known as the "Mighty O" was the first warship sunk under a pilot program to dispose of old Navy vessels through reefing. The $20 million sinking was delayed for nearly two years by hurricanes and environmental permitting problems.

Pensacola leaders hope the sinking will provide an economic infusion by luring sport divers and fishermen.

The Oriskany, commissioned in 1950 and named after an American Revolutionary War battle, saw duty during the Korean War and was home to John McCain when the Navy pilot and future senator served in Vietnam. It was also among the ships used by President Kennedy in a show of force during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. It was decommissioned in 1976.

Phones rang nonstop at the MBT dive shop Thursday afternoon with customers who wanted to book trips to the Oriskany dive site.

Shop employee William Murphy said divers from Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand have made plans to dive the Oriskany this year.

Friends Sean McLemore and Frank Warfield of Pensacola were in the dive shop on Thursday finalizing their plans to dive the aircraft carrier on Sunday.

"We want to be one of the first to touch flight deck. It will be amazing to dive something that size, something so big. We've been waiting for this for three years," McLemore said.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

USS Oriskany "Mighty O" - The Sinking Photos


May 18, 2006

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey P. Kraus (RELEASED)


Navy Ex-Aircraft Carrier "USS Oriskany" Sunk, ‘Reefed’ off Pensacola


Navy News Stand
May 17, 2006

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The ex-Oriskany, a decommissioned aircraft carrier, became the largest ship intentionally sunk as an artificial reef May 17 when it was sunk approximately 24 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Fla.

After 25 years of service to the Navy in operations in Korea, Vietnam and the Mediterranean, ex-Oriskany will now benefit marine life, sport fishing and recreation diving off the coast of the Florida panhandle.

The 888-foot ship took about 37 minutes to sink below the surface after strategically placed explosives were detonated at 10:25 a.m. CDT. The Navy developed an engineered sink plan to place the 32,000 ton ship upright on the ocean floor in a north-south orientation at an existing artificial reef site at a depth of approximately 212 feet, as requested by the state of Florida.

“The Navy and Florida team performed flawlessly to execute today’s sinking. The Navy is thrilled that ex-Oriskany will continue to serve the United States as a tourist and diving attraction off the coast of Florida,” said Glen Clark, deputy program manager of the Navy’s Inactive Ships Program Office. “This is a fitting new beginning for this illustrious ship, and we are proud of the information she has provided us for the reefing of future Navy ships as artificial reefs."

The Navy has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Escambia County Marine Resources Division and the local Pensacola area community since 2003 and has conducted several scientific studies that demonstrated that ex-Oriskany would create an environmentally safe artificial reef.

The ex-Oriskany was the first ship to be environmentally prepared using the EPA’s “Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels for Use as Artificial Reefs,” and is also the first ship to receive a risk-based Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) disposal approval from the EPA based on the agency’s findings that the reefing would not pose an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.

A few days before the scuttling event, a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team placed explosives and detonation equipment on 22 sea chest pipes and valves inside the ship, which were armed the morning of the sinking.

Ownership of the vessel transferred to the state of Florida as the ship landed on the ocean floor. A 2004 Florida State University study estimated Escambia County would see $92 million a year in economic benefits from an artificial reef.

The Navy will start to offer additional ships for artificial reefs later this year.

For more information about ex-Oriskany and the Navy’s Inactive Ships Program, visit


Sunk by friendly fire: 'The Mighty O' hits bottom

By Melissa Nelson
May 17, 2006

PENSACOLA, Florida -- It took the U.S. Navy to do what two wars, hurricanes and a salvage contractor couldn't: sink the famed aircraft carrier known as "The Mighty O."

More than 500 pounds of plastic explosives, going off with flashes of light and clouds of brown and gray smoke, sent the USS Oriskany into its new life as the world's largest intentionally created artificial reef. Hundreds of people watching in boats had to stay a mile away but could still smell the acrid smoke.

The aircraft carrier went down stern first, the bow lifting up. The rest of the ship went under in a giant spray of water, the blue ocean churning foamy white as the deck - bright orange with rust - slid under.

Boat horns blews in tribute, and veterans saluted as the big ship many of them called home during Korea and Vietnam disappeared. Some cried.

"I guess there was a little tear in my eye because a good part of my life went down with her, but it was a fitting end for a good ship," said Jack Witter, 72, of Fort Pierce, who served as an aviation ordnance operator on the Oriskany during the Korean War.

The Navy rescued the ship from the salvage yard after a contract to turn it into scrap metal fell through. The sinking made the Oriskany its first ship to be used in a pilot program to reef old warships.

"I hoped it will be in a museum someplace, but this is kind of unique," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former Navy pilot who had taken off from the Oriskany before he was shot down in Vietnam in 1967 and held as a prisoner of war for five years.

"It will provide a lot of recreation and a lot of good times for people, so, you know, as long as people like me are alive, the memory of the ship will be alive," McCain told CNN.

The Oriskany (oh-RISK-uh-nee), known by former crew members as the "Mighty O," was commissioned in 1950 and named after an American Revolutionary War battle. It was also among the ships used by President Kennedy in a show of force during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. It was decommissioned in 1976.

Pensacola leaders hope the Oriskany, now 24 miles off Pensacola Beach and 212 feet underwater, will become a prime destination for sport divers and fishermen and provide an economic boost to the area, which has been hard hit by recent hurricanes. The site could open to recreational divers as soon as Friday; Navy divers must check it for safety hazards first.

Sunk by friendly fire and $20 million: USS Oriskany

Other Navy ships have been turned into reefs, including the USS Spiegel Grove, a retired cargo vessel that was scuttled in 2002 off Key Largo. But that was a civilian project, paid for with a combination of county and private money.

Hours before the sinking, a flotilla of more than 300 boats with hundreds of Oriskany veterans cruised nearby. Some shouted questions about when they served aboard the ship.

Hurricanes and environmental permitting problems had delayed the $20 million project two years, but the sinking itself was much quicker than expected: 37 minutes instead of more than four hours.

"It was one heck of a blast. I didn't think it would light up like that," said Oriskany veteran Nick Eris, 68, of Perdido Key, who served on the ship as an aviation electrician in 1960.

Lloyd Quiter, 58, who served four tours in Vietnam aboard the aircraft carrier, played "Attention All Hands" on his boatswain's pipe as the ship plunged into the Gulf of Mexico, then wiped tears from his eyes.

"I'm a little stunned, it's a little hard to take," he said Quiter, of North Collins, N.Y.

SOURCE - The Ledger


Aircraft Carrier Is Sunk to Be Reef


LA Times
May 18, 2006

The Navy sends the Oriskany to the sea bottom off Florida. War veterans watch tearfully.
PENSACOLA, Fla. — As hundreds of veterans looked on solemnly, the Navy blew holes in a retired aircraft carrier and sent the 888-foot Oriskany to the bottom of the sea Wednesday, creating the world's largest man-made reef.

The rusted hulk took 37 minutes to slip beneath the waves, about 4 1/2 hours faster than predicted, after more than 500 pounds of plastic explosives went off with bright flashes of light and clouds of brown and gray smoke.

Korean and Vietnam war veterans watched from 300 charter boats beyond a one-mile safety perimeter as the "Mighty O" went down in 212 feet of water, about 24 miles off Pensacola.

Lloyd Quiter of North Collins, N.Y., who served four tours on the ship in Vietnam, played the attention-all-hands signal on his boatswain's pipe, and wept.

"I'm a little stunned. It's a little hard to take," he said.

After the blasts, an acrid smell hung in the air near the ship. The carrier went down stern-first, the bow lifting up and creating a giant spray of water as it came down. The ocean churned a foamy white as the deck, bright orange with rust, slid under. Hundreds of surrounding boats blew their horns in tribute.

The Oriskany (pronounced oh-RISK-uh-nee) was sunk under a Navy program to dispose of old warships by turning them into diving attractions teeming with fish and other marine life.

Over the years, other ships have been turned into reefs, including the warship Spiegel Grove, a cargo vessel that was scuttled in 2002 off Key Largo. But that was a civilian project, paid for with county and private money.

Jack Witter of Fort Pierce, Fla., an aviation ordnance operator during the Korean War, was among the veterans watching the Oriskany go down.

"I guess there was a little tear in my eye because a good part of my life went down with her, but it was a fitting end for a good ship," Witter said.

The Oriskany, commissioned in 1950 and named after an American Revolutionary War battle, saw duty during the Korean War and was home to John McCain when the Navy pilot and future Arizona senator served in Vietnam. It was also among the ships used by President Kennedy in a show of force during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. It was decommissioned in 1976.

McCain was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 after taking off from the Oriskany and was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years.


Documentary cameras will follow long descent


Pensacola News Journal
By Larry Wheeler
May 17, 2006

What is it like to ride an aircraft carrier to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico?

A small Canadian film production company plans to find out.

Four cameras mounted on the decommissioned Oriskany by Parallax Film Productions Inc. will be whirring away today when the Navy scuttles the 56-year-old aircraft carrier.

Some of the film will be released to the public later this month, but the best will be included in a documentary about the Oriskany's final days, expected to be aired at a future date on the Discovery Channel.

Parallax is based in British Columbia. The company's director and executive producer, Ian Herring, has produced a number of documentary films for the Discovery Channel.

Herring's work frequently features dangerous jobs.

He has produced documentaries on skyscraper construction workers, salvage divers, oil rig firefighters and scientists whose research takes them to the slopes of active volcanoes.

His 2004 film "Search for Japan's Ghost Fleet" followed marine archaeologists on the hunt for a World War II Japanese submarine designed to launch attacks against the mainland U.S.

The company's Web site lists the Oriskany as a "current production," describing it simply as "engineers, salvage teams and demolition experts work together to sink an 880-foot aircraft carrier off the coast of Florida, creating the biggest artificial reef ever made."


American warship is now a home for fish...


May 18, 2006

Miami - The United States Navy blasted holes in the retired US aircraft carrier Oriskany off Florida's coast on Wednesday and sent the warship to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico as the world's largest intentionally created artificial reef.

The 271m, 32 000-ton combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars took about 35 minutes to settle below the surface after crews set off 22 small explosive charges in her hull, Navy spokesperson Pat Dolan said.

The rusting ship, decommissioned in 1976, was expected to settle upright in 65m of water, which would put her highest point about 18m under the surface for the recreational divers who will explore the vessel in the future.

"There was a puff of smoke that came out of the carrier when they set off the charges," she said. "The divers will go down tomorrow to check the orientation of the ship."

'Brave and valiant ship'
The storied Oriskany, named after a Revolutionary War battle, was built at the New York naval shipyard in 1945 and served in the Korean War and in Vietnam, where some of its pilots, including Republican US Senator John McCain of Arizona, became prisoners of war.

Reminiscing to CNN about his time on board, McCain said he remembered best "taking off for the last time and then being shot down". While he said he wished the ship had been turned into a museum, as a diver himself, McCain was glad it was providing recreational possibilities.

"As long as people like me are alive, the memory of the Oriskany will be alive," McCain said. "The history books will be written about it as a very brave and valiant ship."

Dozens of boats ferried US war veterans out to the site, 39km off Pensacola, Florida, to witness the sinking.

The Navy spent about $20-million to strip the ship of toxic materials, tow it to the site and send it to the bottom. A Florida State University study estimated the artificial reef would bring $92-million a year in benefits to the local economy.

Artificial reefs are created by the sinking of ships, old concrete pipes and other debris that becomes a lively habitat for fish, corals and other sea creatures. They are popular with scuba divers and can become major tourist attractions for nearby communities.

The Oriskany was used as a set in the 1955 movie The Bridges At Toko-Ri with William Holden and Mickey Rooney.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sunken ship an economic treasure


Pensacola News Journal
By Polyana da Costa
May 14, 2006

Thousands of divers worldwide expected to descend on reef
The Oriskany is to divers what Mount Everest is to climbers.

The 888-foot ship -- soon to be the only aircraft carrier sunk as a man-made artificial reef -- is about to be on top of the list of diving magazines throughout the world. And so is the Pensacola Bay Area, which expects a substantial economic boost with its new attraction.

"Pensacola will become an international diving attraction," said Ed Schroeder, vice president of tourism for the Penscola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

Schroeder recently mailed about 3,800 flyers to sporting goods and diving stores throughout the eastern United States. TV stations from France, newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and some of the largest diving magazines in Europe have called Schroeder and other local officials about the Oriskany.

"I'm getting about 25 to 40 calls a day, from California to Georgia, Singapore, France -- all over," said Jim Phillips, co-owner of Pensacola-based MBT Divers.

Phillips already has a couple of hundred people signed up to dive as soon as permitted, about 48 to 96 hours after the sinking, which is scheduled to take place Wednesday.

Many of the callers said they plan to bring families and stay at least three days in the area, Phillips said. Some are hearing of Pensacola for the first time.

"There is a lot of opportunity for the area to grow, providing that we do it right," Phillips said. "Our focus now should be: What can we do to keep these divers and their families here for a few days?"

It is still too early to gauge the economic impact the ship will bring to the area.

The closest comparison to the Oriskany is the Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot Navy Landing Ship that became the most popular artificial wreck in the Florida Keys, where there already was a mature dive market when it was sunk in 2002.

About 20,000 people dive the Spiegel Grove per year, bringing an estimated economic boost of about $14 million each year for the Upper Keys, said Jackie Harder, president of Key Largo Chamber of Commerce.

"It got a lot more attention in the first year," she said.

There are fewer than 4,000 divers, including locals and visitors, in Escambia County each year, according to a 1998 study by Florida State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Some expect Pensacola's diving community to grow and to attract others from the region. Unlike the Keys, Pensacola is an easy drive from major metropolitan areas, such as Atlanta.

"The uptake is much larger here," said Anders Gustafson, who owned a dive shop in the West Palm Beach area and recently moved to start a new shop in Pensacola, even taking the shop's name from the Oriskany: Dive MightyO.

Gustafson recently launched the shop's Web site -- -- and more than 100 small groups have already signed up on a priority list, Gustafson said.

Another local dive shop, Scuba Shack/Wet Dream Charters, is booked for every weekend through the end of the year, owner Gene Ferguson said.

Some area hotels already have arranged packages with dive shops.

"We have had a lot of inquiries about it," said Kathy Briske, general manager at the Comfort Inn at Pensacola Beach.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Oriskany departs for final destination


Marine Times
By Troy Moon
May 15, 2006

The carrier Oriskany will be towed out to the Gulf of Mexico today — her final trip before being sunk 24 miles southeast of Pensacola on Wednesday.

“The Mighty O,” as the veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars was called, will serve as the world’s largest artificial reef.

The ship will leave Allegheny Pier at Pensacola Naval Air Station about 10 a.m. today, base spokesman Harry White said. At least three tugboats will navigate the 888-foot-long Oriskany away from the pier, but only one tugboat will haul the ship out to the Gulf. The trip from Pensacola Naval Air Station to the reefing site will take from 10 to 12 hours, White said.

Veterans and the public wanting to see the Oriskany depart can watch from the base seawall, White said.

But those hoping for a closer peek at the 32,000-ton ship are warned not to get too close.

No recreational or commercial vessels will be allowed within 500 feet of the ship during the towing process, said Capt. Brad Williams of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, which is coordinating state and federal agencies for the reefing process.

Once the ship arrives at the reefing site, boaters will have to stay at least one mile away from the Oriskany.

“This obviously is a big ship,” Williams said, “and the safety zones are necessary to keep everyone out of harm’s way. Keeping the public safe is paramount, and you also have to remember there are explosives on board the Oriskany.”

About 10 a.m. Wednesday, weather permitting, sailors from the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6 Detachment-Panama City will detonate charges on pipes and valves in the bottom of the ship. The unit will use about 500 pounds of explosives to sink the ship, which is expected to come to rest under 212 feet of water.

The plan is for the explosives, once detonated, to fracture the valves and surrounding piping, causing the Oriskany to slowly flood. Estimates for how long the Oriskany will take to sink to the bottom range from two hours to seven hours. Navy officials said they doubt spectators will see any explosions, though they may hear them.

Navy, Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials will be in vessels while the Oriskany is being towed to enforce the 500-foot zone during towing and will be stationed around the Oriskany once it reaches the sinking destination to keep boaters a mile away.

Although the ship is being sunk to become a diving destination, divers will have to wait at least 48 hours after the sinking before exploring the ship. Navy divers will inspect the ship once it is sunk.

“There will likely be floating debris following the sinking that will have to be picked up,” Williams said. “Not only that, the experts with the Navy say there will likely be some air released coming to the surface for a short period of time.”

Divers are excited about the new reef, which is expected to support a variety of marine wildlife.

If the sinking goes as planned, the first charters could head out to the Oriskany reef as soon as Saturday. Nearly 20 people already have signed up with Scuba Shack/Wet Dream Charters to dive the Oriskany on Saturday, said Eilene Beard, one of the company’s owners.

“It’s going to be an awesome wreck and add a new dimension to diving in Pensacola,” she said. “We’ve been getting phone calls from all over the world already. People can’t wait.”


Friday, May 12, 2006

Old warship wreck has become a dive bonanza

May 10, 2006

The wreck of an old navy warship sunk in Cook Strait last year has become a dive bonanza, now considered by some to be the best dive wreck in the world.

The 36-year-old Leander-class frigate was sunk off Island Bay last November amidst a storm of protest that it would break up and bits would be washed ashore.

However, professional divers said today the ship was an amazing dive and was rated as one of the best in the world, proving the critics wrong.

Bill Keddy, who runs dive training and charter dive shop Splash Gordon in Wellington, said the wreck was encouraging many people to return to diving and many to take up diving just so they could get down to an amazing wreck.

He said since it broke into three pieces during a big storm in March it no longer looked like a film set.

The bow section forward of the bridge and containing the ship's twin 4.5-inch main gun, was intact and lying on its starboard side. It was being held in place by a large anchor and could be dived inside by qualified wreck divers but the two stern sections had mostly collapsed and people were advised not to dive inside.

"It is a much better dive now that it has broken up. It is a much more realistic wreck dive.

AdvertisementAdvertisement"Everybody is coming up buzzing after it. It is just amazing what the sea has done to it," Mr Keddy said.

"There is twisted metal. There is stuff exposed that was not exposed before and it seems like a wreck rather than a film set."

Mr Keddy said the frigate almost looked like it had been sunk in enemy action.

Divers needed to take personal responsibility and not dive outside their skill and experience, he said.

The ship had attracted interest from divers from Invercargill to Northland, including many former navy people who had served on the ship.

The ship had also attracted thousands of fish, including juvenile kahawai, cod and tarakihi.

"A lot of the juvenile fish are using it as a base. I have not seen juvenile tarakihi anywhere on the south coast. It is amazing.

"There have been a few knockers but it is fantastic and it will be fantastic for the next 20 years," Mr Keddy said.

Marco Zeeman from the SinkF69 Trust who spearheaded the sinking, said the 2000 divers who had gone down to see the wreck in the first few months had established it as a world-class dive attraction.

Another navy warship, Wellington's sister ship, the decommissioned former HMNZS Canterbury, was alongside at the Devonport naval Base in Auckland and a decision was likely within two or three months on its future.

It is believed about 20 groups were interested in the ship, mostly for sinking as a dive attraction.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Três rebocadores são afundados em Pernambuco


May 03, 2006

O roteiro de mergulho a naufrágios no litoral pernambucano ganhou novo incentivo nesta quarta-feira. Com o afundamento de três rebocadores doados pela empresa Wilson Sons à Associação de empresas de Mergulho de Pernambuco, o Estado se fortalece no campo do turismo subaquático.

As embarcações Taurus, Mercúrios e Saveiros foram naufragadas a aproximadamente 15 quilômetros da praia, entre o Bairro do Recife e Olinda.

Os barcos foram afundados com uma distância média de um ou dois quilômetros do outro. Após o procedimento, as embarcações devem permanecer um período sem visitas, até que a vida marinha se estabeleça no local. Pernambuco possui, com os novos naufrágios, 26 pontos de mergulho visitados.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sai Kung ponders sinking of old Russian carrier


The Standard
By Doug Crets
May 08, 2006

Sai Kung District Council is considering using the decommissioned Russian aircraft carrier Minsk, currently berthed in Shenzhen, as a marine sanctuary attraction.

Sai Kung District Council is considering using the decommissioned Russian aircraft carrier Minsk, currently berthed in Shenzhen, as a marine sanctuary attraction.
At a meeting last Tuesday, Sai Kung resident and ecologist Charles Frew discussed with the district council's Economic Development Committee the possibility of using the Minsk as a potential artificial reef or marine sanctuary attraction in the South China Sea. "I have a dream of having this thing sunk in Sai Kung and creating jobs," said Frew, who runs a company, Asiatic Marine, which provides adventure dive trips for local people and tourists.

He said USS Oriskany, a 270-meter carrier used in World War II as a "combat aircraft carrier," according to, will be scuttled in Penascola, Florida.

The Web site says that the Oriskany, named after an upstate New York county, was destined for the scrap heap in 1993 and in 1995, but the ship was repossessed twice by the navy after the contractors for the scrap jobs defaulted on their contracts.

The vessel has been stripped to create a tourist attraction for scuba divers and will be sunk next Monday in a ceremony off the coast of Florida.

Frew envisions a similar tourist attraction at an undisclosed location near Sai Kung.

The Minsk, the pride of the former Soviet Union fleet during the Cold War, was bought from the South Korean government by the Minsk Aircraft Carrier Industry Company in June 1998, for US$5 million (HK$39 million), according to Dr Ian Storey, a lecturer in the School of Social and International Studies at Deakin University in Australia.

The carrier ended up in Shenzhen as the central feature of the "Minsk World" theme park, but the company recently went bankrupt.

An auction house is now looking to sell the carrier, according to Shanghai Daily. A reported condition of the sale is that the vessel must stay in Shenzhen for five years.

Frew believes he can convince the Hong Kong government to buy the vessel.

"Can you imagine if you have an aircraft carrier out there... you're bound to pull in [more] local tourists, let alone foreign tourists," he said.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Farewell to a once-mighty ship


Pensacola News Journal
By Troy Moon
May 07, 2006

For thousands of Navy sailors nationwide, the aircraft carrier Oriskany was a floating home away from home.

Some first boarded the 888-foot "Mighty O" as mere teenagers, and it was there they came of age.

The Oriskany took them to exotic ports of call such as Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines -- places most never would have visited otherwise -- but only because those places were close to war zones in Korea and Vietnam.

Crew members watched pilots leave on bombing runs and never return. They raced to save the lives of friends and crewmen during a mighty, tragic fire.

They buried some of their dead at sea and mourned the missing, such as Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and held prisoner for five years.

On May 17, the Oriskany will take on its final role as the world's biggest artificial reef and diving destination.

Weather permitting, it will be sunk in the Gulf of Mexico -- about 22.5 miles southeast of Pensacola Pass in 212 feet of water.

Hundreds of the ship's veterans will begin arriving in Pensacola at the end of this week to pay tribute to the Oriskany and her memories.

For some former crew members, the Oriskany's final resting place at the bottom of the Gulf is fitting.

"The Oriskany is going down to the depths, so to speak," said Robert Price, 59, of Pensacola, who lost two comrades in the tragic ship fire of 1966 that killed 44 crew members.

"She's joining those shipmates. She'll be not only a memorial for those who were lost, but an opportunity for fishermen, divers, historical tourists, eco-tourists -- all will get a chance to ask what the ship is, what did they do, who were the people who served aboard?

"It's a memorial."

More than 400 Oriskany veterans from throughout the nation are expected to attend a reception and memorial service on Saturday at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, said Debie Panyko, who is part of the organizing committee working in conjunction with the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

The former crew members, many of whom haven't seen each other for decades, will swap old war stories and toast fallen friends. They will watch short films on the history of the ship, which was built at the New York Naval Shipyard in 1945. And although the reception is the only "official" event for the veterans, some will board charter boats on May 17 to watch the ship's sinking from afar.

Elvah Jones, 87, of Pensacola has such sad and poignant memories of the Oriskany that she isn't sure whether she'll attend the memorial service.

Her son, Lt. Ralph "Skip" E. Foulks. Jr., was declared missing in action on Jan. 5, 1968, after he flew an A-4E Skyhawk off the Oriskany, then went down during an armed scouting mission over North Vietnam.

The 24-year-old's remains were repatriated in 1988 as part of a unilateral recovery from the Vietnamese government. He is buried at Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

"It brings back too many heartaches," Jones said of all the Oriskany hubbub. "I went on a dependents' cruise on the Oriskany in 1967 before it left for Vietnam. Skip was aboard the ship as a new, young ensign. We went under the Bay Bridge (in San Francisco) and under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the good old Pacific. Skip was my escort. It was a glorious day."

The Oriskany had many glorious days.

Commissioned in September 1950, the Oriskany made one Korean War combat cruise from September 1952 to May 1953, but saw most of her battle time during the Vietnam War.

During the Korean and Vietnam wars, the ship put out to sea 16 times, completed more than 20,000 combat sorties and delivered nearly 10,000 tons of ordnance against enemy forces.

Named after the Battle of Oriskany in the Revolutionary War, the ship began her Vietnam War duties in 1965. The ship's most tragic day was Oct. 26, 1966, when a fire erupted on the starboard side of the forward hangar bay, spread through five decks and killed 44 men.

"The fire had so much effect on me," said Price, a Navy yeoman, who was working in administration aboard the Oriskany.

"You lose some of that innocence. The commercial says it's not just a job, it's an adventure. But it's also deadly.

"After the fire, with those losses, I have forever to this day carried with me a sense of the sacrifice people make," he said. "They're doing their jobs, serving their country to the best of their ability. And they had every expectation of going home and enjoying a life, and yet they weren't able to. I was able to live and have a family, and now I have grandchildren, and those people didn't have a chance to do that."

Some of the men were buried at sea, and to many Oriskany veterans, the ship's final voyage to the bottom of the Gulf is a fitting tribute to their memory.

"It's an honor that we're sinking her here," said Steve Howard, who was an aircraft mechanic aboard the Oriskany in 1971. "We can let future generations go out and dive on her.

"The first ship I was on, the Shangri-La, well, they scrapped her and made her into razor blades. Being the Cradle of Naval Aviation, it's only fitting that the Oriskany come here. The ship will be a tribute -- especially to those who died in the fire."

The effects of the fire, and the lingering pain, stayed with the Oriskany until she was decommissioned in September 1976.

"It was never forgotten," said Art Giberson of Pensacola, who was in charge of the Oriskany's photo lab from 1969 to 1970. "After the fire, it was overhauled, and a year after that, I went on. The spaces had been totally renovated because of the fire."

But Giberson and others said they wouldn't trade their time aboard the ship for anything.

"It was a big ship. It was much like a city," Giberson said. "You probably only knew a handful of people outside of your department."

Many of the memories veterans have of the Oriskany are not of work on the ship, but downtime.

"I was the USS Oriskany pie-eating champion," said Jerry Marbut, 54, who served aboard the Oriskany from 1972 to 1973.

"I won $100. I just loved the Oriskany. It had a great crew, and we had a lot of great times. We went to Japan, we went snorkeling, we went on picnics. I just truly enjoyed myself. I even re-enlisted aboard the Oriskany."

R.L. Estes, 73, of Tupelo, Miss., plans on being in Pensacola for this weekend's memorial and reunion. He served in the Oriskany's supply department from 1950 to 1952.

He was only a teen when he first boarded the ship on its maiden voyage after commissioning.

"I was so young, and it was all so new to me," he said. "There were so many people on board that it seemed like half the time we were going through chow lines. But there was always something to do. We had all kinds of liberty over there and visited all these countries. And on the ship, they had movies, they had boxing. But a lot of the time was boring, too."

And cramped. Very cramped.

"My berthing compartment was right under a flight cable on the flight deck," said Howard, the ex-aircraft mechanic. "You'd work 12-hour shifts, either days or nights. When they were flying days, I'd be in my bunk, and above me the aircraft would be catching the cables and banging on the deck. It sounded like an explosion. But you got used to it after a while."

Now, decades later, the crew members of the Oriskany will meet once more.

"It's going to be surprising to see everyone," said Price, who later became a Navy chaplain. "I look nothing like I did at 19. So, without name tags, it's going to be hard to know who is who." (Name tags will be available at the reception.)

But Price and other crew members are happy that the Oriskany finally is coming to rest in a proud Navy town that will cherish her.

Some veterans pushed for the Oriskany to be refurbished and turned into a museum, but many who have seen the Oriskany in recent years said that wouldn't be prudent.

"I fly over her, and it's kind of sad to see it all beat up," said Dennis Earl, 65, a corporate pilot.

In 1967, Earl stayed in the air more than 20 minutes after a machine gun bullet pierced his plane's fuselage and smashed bones in both of his legs. He had flown from the Oriskany's deck for a bombing raid over Vietnam.

"The ship looks pretty grim," Earl said of the Oriskany.

Giberson originally didn't like the idea of sinking the Oriskany.

"I don't think any sailor wants to see his old ship sunk," said Giberson, who is writing a book on the Oriskany to be sold at local dive shops and museums. "But the ship now is not the same ship. It looks like a floating pile of junk.

"Now, I know my ship is still serving others. I remember a powerful, powerful war ship. And I'm proud I was aboard."


Monday, May 08, 2006

Wrecks harming reefs, warn environmentalists


Taipei Times
By Shih Hsiu-chuan
May 05, 2006

CORAL IN DANGER: Lawmakers and green groups held a joint press conference to warn about the damage that sunken ships were doing to the nation's undersea coral reserves

While the rich coral ecosystems beneath the seas of Taiwan attract many visitors during the coral spawning season in springtime, several sunken ships are damaging and killing the reefs, environmentalists warned yesterday.
"The sunken boats have been in the ocean for ten years, but so far we haven't seen the government come up with a solution," the environmentalists said at a press conference held by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇).

At the beginning of the press conference, President of the Taiwanese Coral Reef Society Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修) played a documentary.

The film showed the wreckage of the Amorgos, a Greek cargo ship which grounded in January 2001 in Kenting National Park's Lungken (龍坑) Nature Reserve.

"Five years have passed since the incident, and there are still about 9,000 tonnes of steel plate and 30,000 tonnes of iron grits there gradually destroying the coral ecosystem," said Jeng, who is a researcher from the Biodiversity Research Center at Academia Sinica.

Another documentary was shot near Green Island, where coral reefs off the coast of Taitung County seemed to be on the brink of destruction because of the wreckage of a cargo ship, the Picasso, which ran aground there in November 1992.

Jeng said that the area affected by the Picasso was about three hectares and the area affected by the Amorgos was approaching five hectares.

"The contaminated areas have become burial grounds for the coral reefs," he said.

"If the government doesn't get started and remove the wreckage of the sunken boats, I am afraid that there might be no coral reefs within 20 years," he added.

"The documentaries made me feel distressed. We called ourselves an `ocean nation.' I can't believe we treat the oceans in such a crude manner," said Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛).

Tien criticized the government for not resolving the problem of sunken boats and paying no attention to the dying coral reefs.

Yeh Jun-hong (葉俊宏), deputy director of the Department of Water Quality Protection under the Environmental Protection Agency, said that the wrecks did pose a serious threat to the ocean, but noted that getting the wrecks out of water was the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Navy explosives experts ready to sink the Oriskany


Pensacola News Journal
By Troy Moon
April 28, 2006

March Madness was last month. But a group of Navy explosives experts are just now cooking up their own betting pool.

Not to see which team is tops in the land. But to see how quickly the 888-foot-long Oriskany sinks to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Evans said Thursday that estimates are anywhere from 90 minutes to five hours.

"But let me get my slide rule out," Evans joked. "I think (it will sink) before two hours."

Evans' guess probably is better than most. The 24-year career Navy explosives expert is officer in charge of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6 Detachment-Panama City, the unit that will sink the decommissioned aircraft carrier. The tentative date for the sinking is May 17.

Evans and his small team of Navy explosives experts plan to use about 500 pounds of explosives to sink the ship in 212 feet of water about 22.5 miles southeast of Pensacola Pass. The Oriskany is being sunk to become an underwater reef and diving destination.

On May 16 -- the day before the scheduled sinking -- Evans and his team will place explosives and detonation devices on 22 pipes and valves in the bottom of the ship. The plan is for the explosives, once detonated, to fracture the valves and surrounding piping, causing the 32,000-ton ship to slowly flood.

Evans said the Oriskany should settle flat on the Gulf bottom, leaving about 67 feet from the ship's highest point to the water surface.

For two years, Evans and his team have made frequent trips to the Oriskany to plan the ship's scuttling.

His unit, based at the Panama City Naval Support Activity, normally spends its time disposing of unexploded ordnance that washes up on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and assisting local law enforcement when they handle explosive devices.

Evans said his team is up to the challenge of sinking the Oriskany -- and pretty revved up for the task.

"We don't get to sink an aircraft carrier every day," he said. "But the (demolition) part hasn't changed."

Evans and his team also will be the first divers to visit the sunken Oriskany. He said divers -- all EOD experts are trained divers -- will inspect the Oriskany within 24 hours of it being sunk.

"We'll see if it's sitting the way they want it," Evans said. "And we'll take some depth readings."

Security will keep recreational divers away from the Oriskany for at least 48 hours after it is sunk in case loose objects inside the ship float toward the surface.