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by Rick Wall – Director, Communications – The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia:
Vancouver BC, 12 May 2015. The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (ARSBC) successfully completed its latest project on 4 April, 2015 when the former Canadian warship ANNAPOLIS was finally sunk in the Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, creating the first major artificial reef in the Vancouver area.
Since 1989, the ARSBC has sunk more ships to create marine habitat than any other non-profit group in the world. The ANNAPOLIS Project which started in 2008 with the purchase of the former HMCS Annapolis (110 metre helicopter-carrying destroyer-escort) from the Canadian Government turned out, however, to be the most complicated and controversial project ever undertaken by the Reef Society. Financial issues, changing federal government regulations, emerging environmental concerns and legal challenges all forced the Project timelines and costs to be extended. In the end, the work to prepare ANNAPOLIS took almost seven years to complete, involving more than 1,000 volunteers from the local dive community and consuming almost 20,000 person-hours. Once all the federal permits had been issued and legal challenges put aside, a six-week window was identified to complete all the final preparations for the sinking. A dedicated team of specialists agreed to come onboard and complete this work, which included:
- Detailed surveying of the ship to assess the stability of the ship;
- Identifying locations for explosive charges;
- Identifying requirements for venting arrangements;
- Mapping diver access arrangements;
- Preparing towing arrangements for moving the ship to the sink site;
- Preparing anchoring arrangements at the sink site to ensure accurate positioning of the ship; and
- Ensuring safety for all spectators.
Three days before the sink day, the ship was moved to Halkett Bay and positioned over the small shelf that had been designated as her new home and final preparations completed. With tide conditions deemed optimal, an air horn sounded and the bay echoed as fourteen charges were detonated in the ship. Two minutes later, all that could be seen was a cloud of smoke hanging over the water where ANNAPOLIS had been floating. Society President Howie Robins commented:
“This was by far the best executed sinking operation for the Reef Society. Divers are already enjoying the experience”.
Divers started visiting the ship on 6 April, after it had been inspected by the safety divers. To date it is estimated that 95% of the ship`s interior has been explored. Here are some common comments that have come back to us (courtesy of Sea Dragon Charters):
“The Annapolis sits perfectly upright on the bottom at about 105 feet. This is great as it allows for extra bottom time compared to some of the other artificial reefs in BC”
“The Annapolis has a multitude of swim-throughs – all at various deck levels. This is exciting, even if you are not wreck certified. You can safely see inside the wreck without entering”
From Deirdre Forbes McCracken, owner of Ocean Quest Dive Centre, who has made two dives to the ship:
“On our second trip back to the ship, the school shiner perch had grown to be several hundred! Tiny shrimp now hopped along the exterior decks of the ships in numbers far too great to count! On our first dive out, other teams of divers had reported seeing red rock crabs at the base of the stern, and now we find more crabs taking up residence [in the operations room]! In just a few weeks to see so many creatures already finding this new reef home was a very rewarding and emotional moment!”
ANNAPOLIS is the most comprehensively prepared naval ship in the ARSBC fleet of artificial reefs and has been designed for the enjoyment of divers of all skill levels. Equally importantly, though, is that after only one month ANNAPOLIS has already begun its transformation to a viable marine habitat.
This project was truly a team effort, involving a large number of people, without whom it would never had been completed. In addition to the long hours put in by the volunteers from the local dive community in preparing the ship for the various environmental inspections, additional thanks must go out to those specialists who contributed both their time and unique expertise in executing a text-book perfect conclusion to a long and complicated endeavor. Those companies include:
Crosby Marine Services, Gibsons, BC
Reliant Marine Services, Gibsons, BC
Mountain Towing and Recovery, Maple Ridge, BC
Pacific Blasting and Demolition Ltd, Burnaby, BC
Damet Services Ltd, DeWinton, AB
Accurate Energetic Systems, LLC, McEwen, TN
Dyno Nobel Industrial and Mining Explosives Manufacturing
Artificial Reefs International, Key West, FL
Derek W. Davis, Inc. Naval Architect, Victoria, BC
Seaspan Marine Corp, North Vancouver, BC
Sea Dragon Charters, West Vancouver, BC
Rick Wall – Director, Communications
The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia
c/o Vancouver Maritime Museum
1905 Ogden Avenue
Vancouver B.C. V6J 1A3
Web site: www.artificialreef.bc.ca