Local News

State Marine Officials Sink Ship On Purpose To Create Artificial Reef

Posted June 11, 2004

— A Coast Guard ship went down off the coast of Morehead City this week. It was sunk on purpose. The Division of Marine Fisheries flooded the ship 20 miles off shore as part of its artificial reef program.

The Coast Guard cutter, Spar, began rescue missions and buoy patrol in 1944. Two days short of its 60th birthday, the State Division of Marine Fisheries sank it.

Kenneth Ball served 22 years in the Coast Guard, some of that time on the cutter's sister ship. He wanted to watch it go down.

"It's always an emotion when you see one go under, but it's for a good purpose," he said.

The Spar will now serve as an artificial reef. It took weeks of cleaning and hauling, but it took minutes to disappear. Ocean experts said it should become a breeding ground for marine life.

"In addition to artificial reefs creating habitat in and of itself, it keeps people from anchoring up on fragile natural reef sites," said Jim Francesconi, of the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

A big part of the artificial reef program is trying to bring more people to the coastline. They said traditionally sunken ships are a great place to fish and dive.

Less than an hour after it sank, crews made the first dive. They discovered the ship landed perfectly on the bottom and was already attracting fish. They can now chart the site for visitors.

"It will last maybe 70 to 100 years in pretty good shape," Francesconi said.

Ball said it is a fitting way for the Spar to retire.

"It could be sitting in some graveyard somewhere just rusting away," she said.

The newly sunken ship holds a place in the history books. It was the first Coast Guard ship to circle North America.

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