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Transportation Earth

USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg To Be Sunk For a Reef 169

Posted by kdawson
from the give-reefs-a-chance dept.
caffiend666 writes "On Wednesday the USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg is to be sunk in 140 feet of water off of Key West to become the world's second largest artificial reef. (The largest was created by sinking the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany off of Pensacola, Florida, in 2006.) The Vandenberg was built in 1943 (chronology) and commissioned the USS Gen. Harry Taylor. In 1963 the Air Force took it over and recommissioned it, naming it after the Air Force general. For decades the ship served as a missile tracker and space relay. It was used in NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects and the Shuttle program. The Vandenberg was the set for some of the scenes in the '90s movie Virus as the Russian MIR relay station. Soon it will become one of the world's most awesome diving spots."
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USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg To Be Sunk For a Reef

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  • Too deep... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Too bad at 140 feet it's beyond the limits for sports/recreational diving.

    • Re:Too deep... (Score:5, Informative)

      by slim (1652) <`ten.puntrah' `ta' `nhoj'> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:31AM (#28092861) Homepage

      The recreational limit is 130 feet. So you won't be able to look at the very bottom of the hull. The rest will be much higher. Even beginners will be able to hover over the deck.

      • Re:Too deep... (Score:5, Informative)

        by malkavian (9512) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:10AM (#28093031) Homepage

        Just clarifying the parent post in case any real beginners are reading: Recommended for beginners is 60'/18m approx. With the next step up (assuming PADI or equivalent, then you'll need Advanced Open Water), then yep, 130/40m is the absolute maximum, with a recommended max of 100'/30m (for those that bounce that extra few feet up and down, and don't keep a close eye on the depth gauge). Also note, many holiday travel insurances will only cover you to 100' (30m).
        Spend any time at 40m, and just make sure you know what you're doing; deco stops come into play very quickly.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Malc (1751)

          I did a 30m dive a few months ago for my PADI Advance Open Water. I got pretty narced - I don't particularly want to do it again unless I'm with an experienced buddy. That doesn't sound like too much fun. Also, the more limited time at that depth (you go through your air faster) makes this worse.

          So who is this targetted at? And why does the person who submitted the story think this will shortly be one of the most awesome dive sites? It's either going to be very expensive, or there's some contradictions

          • So who is this targetted at? And why does the person who submitted the story think this will shortly be one of the most awesome dive sites? It's either going to be very expensive, or there's some contradictions in the story:

            Officials in the Florida Keys expect it to pay dividends, up to $8 million in annual tourism-related revenue, mostly from divers flocking to get a look at the underwater spectacle.

            [...]

            The idea is to not only to attract tourists, but to help protect the Keys' natural reefs, already suffering from excessive diving, snorkeling and fishing along with warming ocean temperatures.

            I have over 300 yards (over 900 feet) of line on my fishing reel. Getting down to the wreak is not an issue. My need to use 10-14 oz though. This will be a great fishing spot in a few years. Not just for the fish right on/around the wreak. People will be trolling (not the slashdot kind) over and around the wreak as well for fish.

          • by malkavian (9512)

            The bottom of the ship will be resting at 140'. This means the deck will be a lot higher, and the bridge higher than that. I'm not sure of the ship's dimensions, but I'd hazard a guess that the bridge will almost certainly be divable by complete beginners. This will give a great intro to what it's like to peer round a wreck (from the outside; I wouldn't recommend that you do a wreck penetration until well after you're comfy diving at depths , have a little training in wreck diving and would feel comfy ha

        • by SEAL (88488)

          Spend any time at 40m, and just make sure you know what you're doing; deco stops come into play very quickly.

          Not really an issue if you're diving with a single cylinder, which is usually the case for someone on vacation. You shouldn't be at that depth in the first place with that setup. But ignoring that, you'd probably be low on air before running into other problems.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          It has been a long time since I was diving but is it still the 60 60 rule?
          60 minutes at 60 feet was safe. Of course that usually just about worked out as a single tank.

      • Re:Too deep... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Werkhaus (549466) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:46AM (#28093201)

        The recreational limit is 130 feet. So you won't be able to look at the very bottom of the hull.

        Unless you're trained by an agency that includes deeper and more adventurous diving. BSAC, for example, will certify experienced divers down to 55m on air. Decompression stops are introduced (although briefly) to entry-level divers and deco planning is an essential part of training.

        To put the depth in context, one of most popular wrecks, the SS President Coolidge sits at about 70m but there are dives available for all abilities. 45m seems about right for a wreck of this size and I look forward to diving it in a few years time.

    • Re:Too deep... (Score:4, Informative)

      by elijahu (1421) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:55AM (#28092951) Journal
      Except that according to the wiki page on the ship (already linked above) the draft of the Vandenberg is 24' and it's 71.5' wide. Add to that a significant amount of freeboard and superstructure (judging by the picture). Not sure how close that would put the top of the ship to standard recreational diving limits (~60') but PADI Advanced Open Water (AOW) cert allows for diving up to ~100' and the "deep diver" certifications (130') putting most of the ship within reach.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hadlock (143607)

        For those following along at home, the draft is the part of the boat under the water line. Judging from the picture, assuming less than 10' of the boat sinks into the seabed, you've got a good three stories (four or five depending on what's still left of the radar dishes) of ship above the 130' depth. Most of the interesting bits (on the deck) should still be accessible to 100' divers.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      I'm not sure about feet, but I wouldn't like to be 43 metres below the surface.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slim (1652)

        I'm not sure about feet, but I wouldn't like to be 43 metres below the surface.

        40m is PADI's absolute limit - with their Advanced Open Water certification - and their tables let you stay there for a very short time.

        However, you'd probably not find it unpleasant at that depth - it's easy to keep going deeper if you don't monitor your gauge. It's deep enough to risk nitrogen narcosis - that 'just' makes you euphoric and foolish, like being drunk, and clears up immediately if you just swim up a bit.

    • The thing is 100 feet tall, so the top of the structure will start at 40ft. There will be plenty to see without deco stops and tri-mix.

      • by huge (52607)

        I was thinking exactly the same. If it is going to be anything like Zenobia [buddydivers.com] outside of Larnaca, Cyprus, it'll offer quite wide variety of possible dives. Shallow dives at Zenobia are very easy but still give you very good view of the huge wreck. Deep dives around the wreck give you access to the entrances to the wreck and main deck where you can still see cars and trucks suspended in their chains.

        As they actually plan to use it as a dive site, I'd assume that they also make sure that it'd be available for t

      • by Malc (1751)

        They're going to prevent it from rolling on to its side?

        • by slim (1652)

          It may well be wider than it is tall - in which case if it rolls the top will be more shallow.

          • by Malc (1751)

            The ship's beam is 71'. I don't think the deck will be vertical if it's lying on its side, so it will less than that above the bottom

    • The Vandenburg has a draft of 24 feet. So the waterline should be 115 feet down. From pictures of the ship, it looks like the bridge is about 50 feet above the waterline, so the top of the wreck ought to be no more than 60 feet below the surface.

  • Yes, I'm sure it'll be nice for the fish and a few extreme divers , but wouldn't it have been more use (and possibly be even more envirometally friendly than a new reef) to recycle all that steel? I wonder how much energy it takes to mine and extract 17000 tons of iron from its ore....

    • by mike2R (721965) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:34AM (#28093467)
      I had a look around and found this pdf [google.co.uk] addressing it - this is from some artificial reef creation society so is very much the case for..

      However, even if one could remove everything from these ships down to the rivets, and obtain optimal values, there is likely substantially less than a million dollars worth of value on one of the Destroyers. Then there would be the very substantial cost of disassembly, likely more than what all the scrap is worth. On the other hand, sinking them as artificial reefs creates jobs, and millions of dollars of income for the tourism industry, year after year after year. I mentioned earlier that, in 1989, the total value of dive tourism in BC was $2.3 million annually. I the past 11 years, it has about quadrupled, and we know that the "Saskatchewan", alone, is worth over two and a half million dollars a year. This growth can be largely attributed to our artificial reef program.

    • by hey! (33014)

      Well, it isn't just nice for the recreational divers, it's good for the tour companies, hotels, restaurants and bars that cater to them as well.

      In any case, this is not the only ship waiting to be scrapped. If it were economically valuable to recycle those ships at a higher rate, it would happen. As it is, there is currently a glut of steel, so the choice would be to keep the vessel dry docked indefinitely until steel prices rise enough to justify scrapping. World annual steel production is something like

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        That's the mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. Recycling is a huge opportunity for our species to reduce its environmental footprint, but that doesn't invalidate reuse.

        More importantly, recycling is really a last resort. Recycling requires a lot of energy, first to transport the materials to someplace where they can be melted down, and secondly to melt them down and reprocess them. That's why recycling isn't economical in many cases, because it's cheaper to simply mine new raw materials than to try to gather

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Well take the longer view of this.
          This ship started off as a troop transport in WWII It was built in 1943! It was mothballed and reactivated a few times and finally turned into a tracking ship.
          This ship has been reused often and now is going to be used as an artifical reef. Seems like a great use of resources to me.
          Eventually it will end up as... Iron ore again.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            I agree completely. Plus, considering the fact that natural reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate all around the world, any contributions we can make toward preserving the natural order with artificial reefs can only be a good thing.

            • by LWATCDR (28044)

              Plus I would love to dive this wreck!
              The whole green thing lets one feel good about a trip the Keys :)

    • by mdarksbane (587589) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:56AM (#28093649)

      Except for apparently about the only way the steel is worth more than the cost of disassembly is when you send it to India. And then you get stuff like this:

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13443629/ [msn.com]

      Where they pay a bunch of workers the bare minimum to wade through the asbestos and other chemicals, risking fire and falling, and leave the leftovers on the beach. I'm not sure the environmental and human cost of these operations makes the energy savings for the steel really pay off.

      Of course, I'm all for finding better ways to scrap ships, but the cost of steel right now is low enough there isn't a ton of a market.

      • I'm pretty sure that these boats are stripped to bare metal before being sunk. In other words, the hazardous materials part of the problem doesn't really exist.

        Still, (safely) chopping a boat up can't be cheap. However, we are hurting for jobs, so it couldn't hurt...

        (The deferred dismantling of the Reserve Fleet actually makes a lot of sense from an economic perspective. If the government has a project that it can defer almost indefinitely, it makes sense to wait until there's a recession and/or high une

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Still, (safely) chopping a boat up can't be cheap. However, we are hurting for jobs, so it couldn't hurt...

          If you mean "we" as in the USA, no, we're not hurting for jobs. There's a lot of out-of-work people, but strangely enough I don't see any of them moving to California or wherever so they can pick produce. There's tons of poor-paying jobs, but not many people are willing to do them. They'd rather sit around and whine that they can't find a job.

          The only "jobs" we're hurting for is extremely overpaid,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      A bigger issue to me is that Steel isn't just iron and nickel, there's all kinds of other stuff in it. This is littering, plain and simple. Remember in Zodiac when they're talking about some transformers or something which were turned into a "habitat for marine life"? When you drop stuff on the bottom of the ocean, of course it will be a habitat for marine life, that's where the marine life is. But will it be a good home, or will it be like some toxic housing projects where the sidewalks and playgrounds are

    • by slim (1652)

      Yes, I'm sure it'll be nice for the fish and a few extreme divers

      Why do you say 'extreme' divers?

      I suspect this thing will be swarming with dive tours every day the weather allows.

      • by Malc (1751)

        Most of those divers that swarm all over places are not qualified to dive to that depth. This thing will be sitting far deeper than the 18m limit recommended for most recreational divers.

        • by slim (1652)

          As discussed in another thread - you don't have to dive to the bottom. There's lots of popular wrecks that beginners (or even advanced recreational divers) don't reach to the bottom of.

  • by alexibu (1071218) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:10AM (#28093027)
    Steel is quite good to recycle.
    It takes about 25 gigajoules of energy per tonne to make steel, but if you recycle it you can get back 18 gigajoules per tonne.
    In carbon emissions it takes 2 tonnes of CO2 to a tonne and you get back about 1.5 tonnes.
    If most of the boat is steel that makes 9,000 tonnes of steel wasted , 163 petajoules of energy wasted or 13500 tonnes of CO2 emitted for an artificial reef.
    The energy is around the same required to run a 1 GW power station for almost a day.
    • by slim (1652)

      This may all be true.

      But to make a real economic evaluation of this, we'd also need to know the worth of having a man made reef right there, and the cost of the various alternative ways of creating one.

      If that spot really needed a reef, maybe one made out of reclaimed steel is the best way to make one. And one where the steel is already assembled into a suitable shape - so much the better.

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      If it's so profitable to recycle steel, then why didn't YOU buy the ship and recycle it?

      Most likely, the labor costs to disassemble all that steel would have more than made up for the energy savings in recycling versus mining new iron ore.

      Whereas, the profit obtained in tourism from having an artificial reef is worth far more than the money gained from recycling it.

  • Good for fishes... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by haeger (85819) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:27AM (#28093105)

    ...not so much for fishermen.
    Where I'm at we try to sink ships like these (steel ships) on or near fish breeding grounds. This will accomplish two things. First it'll provide refuge for fish and second it'll discourage fishing there. Trawlers can't fish if there's a big ship there. The trawls will break if they try so most stay well clear of sites like this.

    Experts say that about 90% of all "large fish" are now gone so we need to do something about overfishing. This is "something" although not nearly enough.

    • No, it is great for fishermen. Just not commercial fisherman.

      Who is hurting the fish populations more? The guy going out with his buddies can catch 20-25 fish per day when they can get out or the commercial fisherman who goes out and catches 30 tons of fish per day 6 days a week excluding hurricanes?

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Right you are. The most effective measure seems to be to create preserves where fishing is simply not allowed. This allows big healthy populations to build up, something you don't get if you just limit fishing.

      The most disturbing result of overfishing is that fish who mature early are more likely to reproduce, since smaller fish slip through the nets. This plays bloody hell with their life cycle.

      Ever been to Cannery Row in Monterey? Nowadays a tourist destination. Used to be a major port for landing and can

  • Our diving center wanted to sink a 70m long, 40+y old trading ship. The reason was that with it we could have more tourism in the town, more sea life, and the shipyard (which was the owner of the ship, located only 300m from the purposed sinking location) didn't have to pay for towing and scrapping the ship (net loss). But we soon come to an impassable obstacle in the form of a treaty which my country (Croatia) signed barring intentional sinking of any ship (for whatever purpose).

    This is what you get when y

  • Don't sink those antennas! I want!

    Antenna Envy is a terrible thing.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Screw that, I want one of those big guns for my front yard. Just try and egg my house THIS YEAR kids!
  • It's wild (Score:5, Informative)

    by wandazulu (265281) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:28AM (#28093427)

    I got my PADI certification in Hawaii and for the "deep" dive, we went out to where the U of H had sunk a research vessel that had once been a minesweeper. It was sitting upright at 100ft and that was an experience nothing to date had prepared me for: we descended down and down and suddenly this enormous black shape appeared right below me, and there was this ship, in all its sunken glory.

    Standing on the ocean floor, looking up at the ship from "ground" level, was wild. I'm not certified to do the kind of diving you'd need for the Vandenberg, but if I thought swimming over a minesweeper was a mind-blowing experience, I can't imagine what something like that Vandenberg would be.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gkndivebum (664421)
      If you have the "wreck bug" - go visit Truk Lagoon. Seriously some of the best diving I've ever done. While you can benefit from advanced training (mixed gas, wreck penetration/overhead environements) it's not necessary to enjoy the majority of the wrecks there. Many of them are completely encrusted with life and start at shallow enough depths that much can be seen even with a single 80. It's a long trip from most places (even here in Hawaii), but it's simply amazing wreck diving.
  • by maillemaker (924053) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:53AM (#28093599)

    As a scuba diver myself, I've never been terribly impressed with wreck diving. Oh, I suppose it would be interesting to dive on a historical wreck, as you are experiencing a part of history.

    But when they take an old ship, strip it to dilapidated wreckage you wouldn't take money to set foot on while it was floating, and sink it, suddenly I'm supposed to be all excited about seeing it underwater.

    I guess you could say that all the wildlife it attracts is what is really interesting to dive on, but then, why not dive on a natural reef?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xlation (228159) *

      Do you really want a bunch of inexperienced divers with no bouyancy control
      slamming into natural reefs & kicking up silt?

      Aside from being something different to see, wrecks make good training sites for all
      sorts of skills.

      As an added bonus they have a commercial/tourist value that helps
      make providing and improving marine habitat more affordable.

      • >Do you really want a bunch of inexperienced divers with no bouyancy control
        >slamming into natural reefs & kicking up silt?

        Who suggested that?

        >Aside from being something different to see, wrecks make good training sites for all
        >sorts of skills.

        My point was, and continues to be, that it is funny that you take a nasty, dilapidated stripped chunk of industrial machinery that no one would want to walk aboard if it were tied to a pier, sink it in 100 feet of water and suddenly it's a cool place t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          My point was, and continues to be, that it is funny that you take a nasty, dilapidated stripped chunk of industrial machinery that no one would want to walk aboard if it were tied to a pier, sink it in 100 feet of water and suddenly it's a cool place to visit.

          While I get your cynicism, it's a pretty fair argument that everything is more interesting under water. Boulders on land are generally boring. But if you drop it into a warm part of the ocean, it suddenly attracts colorful and often unique wildlife. Within a short period of time, it's unrecognizable.

          While you might be unimpressed by wreck diving, there are many out there, myself included, who are awestruck by the manner in which the sea reclaims otherwise uninteresting objects.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      why not dive on a natural reef?

      Might as well get used to the artificial ones. Natural reefs recently acquired this terrible habit of dying and disappearing.

    • I guess you could say that all the wildlife it attracts is what is really interesting to dive on, but then, why not dive on a natural reef?

      It was my understanding artificial reefs not only attract marine wildlife, they also promote it, which is a good thing if many natural reefs are, in fact, endangered. . .

  • Was anyone else disoriented by the designation "USAFS" and the very concept of a *ship* owned and operated (however briefly) by the Air Force? The mind boggles at the concept of a USAF-staffed ship; did they somehow contract the Navy to do it?
    • by fm6 (162816)

      Before it belonged to the Air Force, she belonged to the Army. During WW II, the Army actually had more tonnage afloat than the Navy.

      I find it interesting that the submitter labeled this ship a "USNS", as does the picture caption in the Wikipedia article. That designates a non-commissioned naval vessel crewed to some extend by civilians. This ship only carried that designation for a few years in the late 50s. Before that she was either a "USS" or a "USAT" (US Army Transport). And then she was a "USAFS" for

      • by WOV (652967)
        So, ok, in that case - a WWII USAT - and in the brief interval when this was a USAFS - who's the crew? Merchant Marine? Or do people like get trained in the Navy and then transfer briefly to Air Force control? I know that the Army has a huge rotary-wing fleet and maybe some fixed-wing exec transports, that the Air Force has some limited rotary wing assets for Special Ops and rescue, and the Navy and Marines have lots of both, and I knew the USAF had like some fishing boats to pick up crashed drones with,
        • by fm6 (162816)

          Where do you get the idea that the USAFS period was "brief"? It lasted from the early 60s to the late 70s.

          I suppose the navy has a monopoly on fighting ships. But why should they have a monopoly on other kinds of ships?

          I don't see any of this as counter-intuitive. It's only strange if you have a superficial understanding of what something is. Like people who think that all finned sea creatures are fish, all non-human animals with hands are monkeys, all warships are battleships, etc.

          We all make mistake like

      • (The marines are a holdover from the days when naval battles invariably included boarding actions.)

        Not quite. Aside from that, and shipboard security, they were also there so that a fleet had a body of trained ground-pounders available for shore actions. When you read about naval raids on Caribbean islands in the Eighteenth Century, remember that what went ashore was, mostly, the marine contingents of the various ships, with shore parties of sailors if needed, mostly serving as gunners.

        • by fm6 (162816)

          Those naval raids were carried out by the Royal Navy, right? No USMC before 1775. If I'd been thinking about non-U.S. marines, I would have mentioned one of their primary roles: keeping the sailors in line. The U.S. Navy always had an easier time with that because it never relied on pressed men [wikipedia.org].

          Even if you do need to do the occasional "force projection from the sea", that's not a serious reason to have a separate naval infantry service. You can always board Army troops, something they often had to do anyway

          • You can always board Army troops, something they often had to do anyway, since there weren't enough marines to sustain a shore action of any size.

            AIUI, the problem with this was that first, Army troops would take time to get accustomed to shipboard life while being transported and second they'd need some time ashore to get back into proper shape for the assault. Marines, OTOH, spent most of their active service aboard ship, and as they were expected to help run the ship (moving stores, hauling lines as t

            • by fm6 (162816)

              I suppose marines would indeed have an advantage over regular troops with respect to dealing with the hardships of sea travel. But I find it hard to believe that this played any role in the creation of a Marine Corps. In those days, there just weren't enough of them for that to be a factor. They weren't like modern marines, equipped for big amphibious deployments. They were just small cadres aboard fighting ships.

              That said, I have to admit I'm relying on logic and argument when I should be relying on docume

  • No officer, I'm not dumping a billion tons of military waste in the ocean to avoid the costs of disposing of it and recycling it properly. I'm making an artificial reef!

    There's an idea that started in marketing if ever I heard of one.

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