Monday, January 28, 2008

HMAS Adelaide to become divers' delight


ABC News
January 28, 2008

Preparations are being made for a decommissioned Navy ship to be sunk to create an artificial reef off the New South Wales Central Coast.

The HMAS Adelaide will be sunk off Terrigal Beach later this year in a project expected to inject about $17 million into the local economy in its first few years.

The frigate was involved in operations in the Persian Gulf and East Timor, as well as the rescue of yachtsmen Tony Bullimore and Thiery Dubois, after it was commissioned in 1980.

The secretary of the Artificial Reef Project, Sue Dengate, says profits will be made from diving tourism and associated enterprises.

"[Divers] have to have accommodation and so forth, and they'll also be visiting other tourist attractions on the Central Coast before they fly to their other destinations," she said.

Ms Dengate says the ship will be handed over to the NSW Government in June.

"Then the successful tenderer will take her up to Newcastle, strip her, clean her and make her safe for diving," he said.

"Then she'll be towed back down to just north of Avoca, off the skillion at Terrigal, and explosive charges will sink her."


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Officials set May sink date for ship planned as artificial reef

January 26, 2008

KEY WEST, Fla. - Officials overseeing the transformation of a retired U.S. Air Force missile tracking ship into an artificial reef off Key West said Saturday they are planning to sink the ship May 15.

The General Hoyt S. Vandenberg is currently at a Norfolk, Va., shipyard where workers are preparing it for sinking by removing environmental hazards. Plans are to scuttle the ship in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Officials with Reefmakers, the organization overseeing the project, are planning to tow the 522-foot-long vessel to Key West sometime in March for final preparations.

Supporters say the Vandenberg project will provide additional marine habitat and a new attraction for recreational divers.

Before it was decommissioned in 1983, the Vandenberg also tracked manned U.S. space missions, beginning with Mercury blastoffs in the early 1960s. The ship played a role as a Russian science ship in "Virus," a 1999 motion picture starring Jamie Lee Curtis.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Society covets Catalyst hulks for diving site


Peak Online
By Jeremy Bloom
January 24, 2008

Ferro-cement ships ideal for sunken 'shipwrecks'

One of the things that makes Powell River unique is the Catalyst Paper Corporation floating breakwater, but that may be changing in the next few years.

Composed of 10 vessels sometimes called "the incredible hulks," the breakwater has been in place for more than 50 years, and is reaching the end of its useful life, said Brian Baarda, Catalyst vice-president and Powell River division manager. "In years past, there was a big log pond there, and we needed that many ships for the breakwater," he said. "But today, given the mill's footprint, we don't need as many ships there, and they're getting old. They won't last forever."

Baarda said the company had been told at one point that the hulks wouldn't be suitable for making an underwater reef. So, he was pleasantly surprised last year, when, in a meeting on dive tourism, he was told by Howie Robins, president of the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia, that his organization has had its eye on the hulks for some time.

The Vancouver-based Artificial Reef Society has been carrying out reef installations since 1991. They've sunk six ships and one Boeing 737 in the waters off BC's coast in carefully controlled conditions that provide a boon for sea life and recreational divers.

Robins said those reefs have become a big tourist draw. "Americans love to dive on shipwrecks," he said. "The population of visiting divers has been growing year after year because we've been adding to our fleet of underwater shipwrecks. And in terms of marine life colonization, you have to go see it to believe it. It's amazing how fast these ships become thick with marine life."

Baarda said that Catalyst would be very supportive of Robins' efforts, and is looking forward to seeing an action plan put together over the next few months.

Robins said that his society will be looking for appropriate sites based on wind conditions, water depth, commercial and recreation boat traffic and fishing, as well as seeking areas that are already popular with divers. "The bottom line, this is a proactive approach to disposing of vessels in an environmentally safe and sound way," he said.

Robins added that with weather patterns becoming more violent, with high winds and choppy water, it's good that Catalyst is looking to do this soon. "If we have more weather systems blowing through like the ones we saw this winter, well, we don't want to see a disaster," he said.

Kathy Friesen, co-owner of Alpha Dive Services and a member of the working group on tourism that spawned this effort, said she would be thrilled to have an artificial reef as part of Powell River's underwater environment. "They're environmentally clean, there's no detrimental effect," she said. "And having a home-grown team doing this, you couldn't ask for a better set-up. They're located right in Vancouver."

Robins called the situation a total win-win. "The environment wins, the economic conditions win, tourism wins," he said.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Home sweet underwater home


Savannah Morning News
By Mary Landers
January 22, 2008

Fish surprise researchers with how quickly they colonize a sunken ship

A ship that once helped researchers learn about sea creatures has become a home to those same animals.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources sank the R/V Jane Yarn off the Georgia coast as an artificial reef in late August. It rests under 72 feet of water on a sandy-bottomed area called J Reef, outside Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

On a recent dive, sanctuary researchers were surprised to find hoards of fish had already moved in. Four barracudas, with their fierce under bites, call it home. Schools of amber jack and spadefish swarm past the port holes. Black sea bass, grunts and cigar minnows also visit.

Fish can't resist the Jane Yarn, which offers the only shelter in its neighborhood, said Greg McFall, the sanctuary's research coordinator.

"It's like finding a condo out in the desert," he said.

So they moved in fast.

"It was a surprise to see how quickly they colonized the wreck," McFall said. "To reach the capacity they already have, I thought it would take the better part of a year."

The 63-foot ship was named for Jane Hurt Yarn, a Georgia conservationist who helped convince President Jimmy Carter to designate Gray's Reef, to the east of St. Catherines Island, a sanctuary.

About three weeks after the vessel was sunk, biologist Danny Gleason inspected the new artificial reef. He saw a barracuda and a school of spadefish but little else.

The Georgia Southern University researcher is interested in seeing what creatures attach themselves to the steel-hulled vessel.

So far, the Jane Yarn is covered in acorn barnacles, so many that they obscure the ship's name.

But artificial reefs don't necessarily attract the same corals, sponges and other creatures as natural reefs, Gleason said.

"It's like how you can create a wetland, but it never functions like a natural wetland," he said.

He plans to study the succession of animals on the ship, possibly by scraping off patches of barnacles and monitoring what grows back.

"That's what interested us in the Jane Yarn," he said.

Others, including local divers and fishermen, for whom the Jane Yarn is already becoming a destination will be keeping tabs on the variety and volume of fish.

McFall called for them to be patient.

"Snapper and grouper were not there in the numbers they will be when it's established a little more," McFall said. "It might take a couple years to be fully functioning community."


Sunday, January 20, 2008

City centre TV link to shipwreck


January 20, 2008

A live visual feed to a sunken warship off south east Cornwall is going on display to the public in a city centre.

The anchor from the HMS Scylla will have monitors acting as an "underwater eye" to the wreck 23m (75ft) below the surface in Whitsand Bay.

The decommissioned Royal Navy frigate was sunk in a controlled explosion in March 2004 to become Europe's first artificial diving reef.

The anchor will become an attraction at Plymouth's railway station.

Thousands of divers have visited the artificial reef since 2004.

The ship was built in 1968, weighs 2,500 tonnes and is 113m (370ft) long.

She was bought by the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth in 2004 with £200,000 provided by the South West Regional Development Agency.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Warships sunk for artificial reefs may pose PCB hazard - claims an environmental group


The Province
By Marianne White
January 08, 2008

An environmental group is worried that Canadian navy ships that were sunk as artificial reefs may pose an environmental threat because they contain PCB-contaminated wiring.

One of the scuttled vessels, the former HMCS Saguenay, has been sitting on the ocean floor outside Lunenberg, N.S., for more than 13 years. This type of warship was built in the 1950s and 60s and PCBs -- that have been linked to cancer -- were then not known to be harmful.

The man behind the sinking of the Saguenay denied a media report that this ship and others scuttled off the B.C. coast may contain PCBs because they were not stripped of all of their wires.

"Anything that was considered a hazard had been removed," said Richard Welsford of the Nova Scotia Artificial Reef Association.

Welsford thinks no one should be worried about the PCBs and said that very little wire is left in the Saguenay.

But Nova Scotia's Ecology Action Centre still fears that the PCBs or other toxic substances, such as paint, could harm marine life.

"There are no ecological benefits to sinking ships," said the centre's Mark Butler. "They only do it for tourism and diving purposes.

"You have to be very cautious because you never know what you might discover in five or 10 years time that you hadn't taken into account. Once you [sink] a ship, it's never coming back up again," he added.

Butler said he is relieved that the navy has decided to strip two decommissioned warships, HMCS Gatineau and HMCS Terra Nova, of all wiring before they are sunk as artificial reefs.

Michael Ryan, the head of the association that plans to buy the Terra Nova, said the navy had notified him that the ship would be sold wire-free and PCB-free. It is reported that the work will cost about $1 million per ship.