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Sink the Vandenberg!
June 11, 2012 8:13 PM   Subscribe

At 522 feet, the USS Vandenberg is the largest artificial reef in the Florida Keys.

Beginning life as the USS General Harry Taylor, an Army transport, she was commissioned in 1944 at Richmond, CA. She was eventually transferred to the Air Force and redesignated as the USS Generaly Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a missile-tracking ship. She was decommissioned in 1993, and became the set for (and star of) the movie Virus in 1998.

By 1999, the Vandenberg was past the end of her service life, and proposals were made to turn her into an artificial reef. A committee formed in Key West to place the ship 7 miles offshore, to provide an attraction for SCUBA divers and marine life. On 27 May 2009, the Vandenberg was towed off of Key West Harbor, and scuttled.

Today, the Vandenberg is the largest artifical reef in the Florida Keys, and the second-largest in the United States, after the USS Oriskany.

Spanish Fly, with Jose Wejebe (since deceased), did a feature on the Vandenberg's transformation into fishing and diving attraction.

Sink The Vandenberg! has several videos they captured before, during, and after the sinking.

Sinking of the Vandenberg

As Key West is home to many artists, so the Vandenberg served as an art gallery.

Defend the Vandenberg!
posted by the man of twists and turns (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
... saw a show on the Vandenberg this very evening! Almost makes me want to take up scuba-diving again.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:18 PM on June 11, 2012


Today, the Vandenberg is the largest artifical reef in the Florida Keys, and the second-largest in the United States, after the USS Oriskany.

Missed a trick there -- the ex-Oriskany dive site is called The Great Carrier Reef.

Alas, thanks to a hurricane, the deck is no longer safely reachable for recreational divers. Originally, the deck was at 135 feet, but after the storm caused the whole thing to slide, the top of the island is now 80' underwater, and the deck is 145 feet, which is a little too close to max operating depth for air (21% Oxygen). At 145 feet underwater, you're looking at a partial pressure of oxygen of about 1.15 bar breathing compressed air, which is starting to get into dangerous territory in terms of oxygen toxicity. Technical divers can reach the deck easily with 18/45 trimix.
posted by eriko at 8:36 PM on June 11, 2012


A ppO2 of 1.15 is not an issue, 1.4 is the commonly accepted maximum.

But at 145ft it's a very short no decompression dive (a few minutes), so its no really worth it without devo.

And chances are the diver will be narced, hence the use of trimix.
posted by coust at 8:59 PM on June 11, 2012


Is it just me or does "turning it into a reef" just a nice way of saying dispose of by dumping conveniently into the ocean?
posted by three blind mice at 10:29 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, artificial reefs aren't without controversy.
posted by dhartung at 11:14 PM on June 11, 2012


Not convenient at all really, all manner of US regulations had to be complied with. It would have been far more convenient to send it where most old ships are scrapped, on the beach in India or Bengaladesh

The Vandenberg spent the last decades of her active career in the western Pacific, at the Kwajalein missile range in the Marshall Islands.
posted by Abinadab at 3:27 AM on June 12, 2012


The Vandenberg was scuttled near enough to the island that we were able to watch it from the White Street Pier with binoculars. The only downside was that the wind blew the smoke from the detonations directly toward us, obscuring the initial slide.

It was still pretty cool to watch.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:28 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


More ships, trains, boats, trucks, tanks, airplanes, trolleys, tankers, rockets, construction equipment and other large, cool things should be sunk and made into snorkle and scuba attractions.
posted by lstanley at 6:08 AM on June 12, 2012


Redbird Reef, off Delaware.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:16 AM on June 12, 2012


By "disposing" of them, these wrecks become great havens for fish to live on and structures for coral to grow on. Coral polyps can't just settle down in the sand and start making a new reef, they need something to grab on to - that's above the sand, like a rock or ledge, or artificial structure - so they can start building a new colony and not get choked out by sedimentation. As a diver, I notice that even little tiny structures (natural or artificial) become teeming ecosystems - the smaller the structure the younger the fish I've found hiding around them!

I'm not saying let's keep dumping stuff in the ocean, but these artificial reefs, when done properly and responsibly, can be great for the environment.
posted by danapiper at 9:22 AM on June 12, 2012


three blind mice writes "Is it just me or does 'turning it into a reef' just a nice way of saying dispose of by dumping conveniently into the ocean?"

They don't just sail the ship out there and sink it. First they remove anything of worth and then all the harmful material. They then cut it up is such a way to make it safer for diving and then it's sunk. Ideally all that would be sunk would be relatively inert, durable metals and glass.

Interesting that it turns out cheaper (at least for subway cars) than cutting them up for scrap. I wonder what is special about subway cars that they can't use the same reclaim process as regular automobiles.
posted by Mitheral at 7:03 PM on June 12, 2012


I feel like I buried the lede with this one - the last link: Defend the Vandenberg! is a chase between two free-divers around, over and through the ship. Also it has a great soundtrack.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2012


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