Annapolis Update from BC artificial reef organization


By Doug Pemberton, Vice-President ARSBC
Eighteen months ago the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (ARSBC) began work on their latest project. The helicopter carrying destroyer escort HMCS Annapolis is a large ship, 370’ long with five decks containing hundreds of compartments, including crews’ quarters, offices, galleys and dozens of cramped machinery spaces (pictured left). Powered by diesel powered steam turbines there is also a huge engine room and boiler room to deal with. The scope of work necessary to ensure that these ships are cleaned to the meticulous standards as set out by Environment Canada and also made as safe for divers as training, experience and common sense will allow, is a bit intimidating.
We had not sunk a ship since the Cape Breton in 2001, but last year there was an air of anticipation, optimism and confidence within the society and the local diving industry and we knew it was time. The Annapolis is our eighth project in BC over the past 20 years and we are no stranger to the trials and tribulations and hard work necessary in preparing and deploying an artificial reef.
For this project, we are working with members of the Canadian Artificial Reef Consultants (CARC), a group of alumni from the ARSBC who have gone on to take the artificial reef model internationally.
The first several months were spent removing the ‘low hanging fruit’, the easily accessible items such as bunks, doors, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, aluminum racks used to hold up the miles of wiring, and air ducts and copper pipes that wind their way throughout the ship. We also dismantled hundreds of filing cabinets in storage areas in the lower decks. And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite job, removing and bagging fiberglass insulation (640 bags to be exact!) from areas of the ship where it might pose a hazard or in areas where bulkheads need to be exposed in order to cut diver access holes.
Funding for these projects has always come mainly from the recycling of metals on board such as copper, brass and aluminum and when we started this project the economy was good and prices of these metals were at an all time high. Then, last September the world economy collapsed and metal prices went with it forcing us to rethink the parameters of the project. But nothing could dampen our determination and being adaptable is a necessity when working on these projects.
Presently much of the ‘simple’ work is pretty much done and we have moved into the next phase of the operation which involves the dismantling of the boiler room, engine room and other machinery spaces. These are also the areas where the majority of the salvageable metals are to be found.  
It is planned that the ship will be ready for its final inspection early in the New Year and then the process of application for a sink permit can begin. If all goes well we may be issued that permit next spring. After that it is a matter of waiting for suitable weather and organizing events around the sinking.
The artificial reefs that we have sunk to date make for some great diving but more than that they provide important benefits to the marine environment. They provide the horizontal and vertical profile needed to provide safe habitats for a great diversity of marine invertebrates, fish and plants at a variety of depths. The large convoluted surface area interacts with nutrient-rich currents that also carry planktonic or juvenile forms of life looking for a suitable environment. For that reason placing these ships is always a challenge as the sink site must meet very specific criteria as far as depth, bottom topography, exposure to current and existing marine life. There are also issues that deal with underwater cables, boat traffic, commercial activities and other recreational activities, impact to local residents and First Nations consent. Our goal for the Annapolis has always been to place this ship in Howe Sound but our challenges have been complicated by the fact that Howe Sound is a fjord and most areas are either too steep, too deep or too shallow. There are also active shipping areas with tugs and ferry traffic, underwater cables and areas that are recognized as sport fishing zones. After surveying a variety of locations we have picked Halkett Bay, a small bay at the east end of Gambier Island about a 20 minute boat trip from Horseshoe Bay.
It has been an incredible, very busy, but very rewarding year. We are starting to see the results of all our efforts. And it is not just the efforts of the ARSBC. The ARSBC has always relied heavily on volunteers to get these ships prepared and the Annapolis is no different. To date volunteers have put in nearly 9000 hours of untiring commitment to the project! Like the proverbial mailman we have been out on the ship in every kind of weather, from downpours to snow storms and blistering heat to freezing cold. Volunteers have come from all over British Columbia, Alberta, California, Oregon, as well as a strong and regular contingent from Washington State. Volunteers have been invaluable to this project and we are so grateful to their hard work and determination.
For more information on the ARSBC and the Annapolis, please visit our website



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