Ship To Be Sunk Off Key West To Create Artificial Reef

USS Vandenberg To Be Scuttled Off Coast Of Key West To Create Artificial Reef

A little bit of history pulled into Key West last week. The 523-foot long USS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg arrived from its previous berth in Norfolk, VA, where it had been languishing since being decommissioned in 1986, one of 25 retired ships often referred to as the “Ghost Fleet.” Now, rather than rusting away or being cut up for scrap, the WWII troop carrier will serve one final mission: it will be scuttled six miles offshore, where it will become the world’s second-largest artificial reef.

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The USS Vandenberg will be scuttled six miles offshore from Key West in 140 feet of water, where it will become the second largest artificial reef in the world

Key West boat captain Joe Weatherby conceived the idea for the project 13 years ago and began searching for a mothballed ship that would be suitable, eventually selecting the Vandenberg because of its interesting structure, military history, and massive size. For years he navigated myriad state and federal regulations in his attempt to bring the ship to Key West while the price tag grew into the millions. Prospects looked bleak until a boat yard filed a lien against the ship for unpaid cleaning and decontamination, forcing it to be sold at federal auction. First State Bank of the Florida Keys came to the rescue last December with a winning bid of $1.35 million.

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Severely rusting and listing, the ship had to be towed the 1100 miles from its previous anchorage in Norfolk, VA

The Vandenberg was towed 1,100 miles from Norfolk to Key West, where it was tied up to Truman Annex harbor. I was among the onlookers who arrived for a final glimpse of the hulking ship before it disappears forever beneath 140 feet of water. Like me, most wanted to snap photos and hold them for posterity, awaiting a time when a ghostly underwater outline of the artificial reef can be compared to the ship prior to sinking. Others had more personal reasons to see the Vandenberg. I spoke to one man whose best friend had served on board the ship during World War II, when it was called the Gen. Henry Taylor. His friend described cramped quarters with bunk beds stacked seven high.

A crew of 60 is currently removing asbestos, paint chips, and other contaminants and placing charges to create 47 holes for water to flow in and flood the ship. Because the top of the ship will be just 40 feet beneath the surface of the water, the wreck will be ideal for diving, snorkeling and even glass-bottom boat tours. While no exact date has been set for the scuttling, it is expected to be completed prior to the start of hurricane season on June 1st.

10 Comments on “USS Vandenberg To Be Scuttled Off Coast Of Key West To Create Artificial Reef

  1. Nice post,
    Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this topic so thoroughly. I look forward to future posts.

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  2. Video. Here is a video of the USS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg which is getting sunk tomorrow and becoming a reef! Move over USS Oriskany, the USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg will be sunk a mere 140 feet of water off Key West, creating the world’s second largest artificial reef after the Oriskany (Pensacola, Florida).
    The ship is just over 500 feet, and the water is stunning and clear.
    Says Joe Weatherby, project organizer at Reefmakers, in charge of tomorrow’s sinking…
    The video from the scene:gen. hoyt s. vandenberg-video-online

  3. That is a great idea. I wonder why the goverment does not just let some states take one of the boats instead of paying to maintain them. I know they need some but not all of the ones they have they should give away the ones that need the most work it would save them money.

    kath’s last blog post..Hotels in key west.

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