US Military Ship Sleeps with the Fishes

A US troop ship has been swiftly sunk in the Gulf of Mexico. But it’s not a military disaster – rather an ecological project.

To put things into context the boat, the General Hoyt S Vandenberg, is a decommissioned veteran of the second world war. Originally named the General Harry Taylor, it was later used for tracking missiles before being retired in 1983.

The 523-foot long behemoth is now part of a project run by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The sinking, which took just two minutes after a series of controlled explosions, is to allow it to rest on the ocean floor seven miles south of Key West.

The idea is that it will naturally transform into one of the world’s largest artificial reefs, attracting sea creatures and relieving the stress on natural reefs in the crowded waters of the area. Organizer Joe Weatherby explained the natural transformation should be a simple and quick process: β€œThe marine life grows on the wreck and the little fish come and the big fish eat the little fish and just like that [it’s done].”

The new reef is also expected to become a tourist attraction for divers, with predictions it could generate $8 million a year for the region. That would make the project an immediate financial success as it cost $6 million to sink the boat. The majority of this cost came from a mammoth operation to strip the boat of anything which could contaminate the ocean, including wiring, asbestos and even paint.