Terra Nova wanted for shipwreck duty in the St. Lawrence River. Divers rally to sink her
If group can find $2 million
Warship that saw Gulf War service could become
the St Lawrence River’s first artificial reef
By Stephen Weir
(April 2008, Diver Magazine - unedited version of feature including sidebars that didn't make it into print):
Canadian divers along the north shore of the St Lawrence River know what ship they want and where they want to sink it, but what they don’t have is the money to make it happen … yet. Late last December a small group of divers in Brockville kicked off a bold plan to create an artificial reef near this small Ontario city.
The Eastern Ontario Artificial Reef Association, (EOARA), have set their sights on the now mothballed HMCS Terra Nova. The “paid-off” 112 meter long warship, is currently docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A second warship, the HMCS Gatineau, is also available to the group. She has also been mothballed by the Canadian Navy.
“We really want the Terra Nova, it is the right height for where we want to sink her in the St. Lawrence,” said Michael Ryan, spokesman for the EOARA. “ We have located a large sandy flat spot (close to Brockville) away from the shipping lanes and still a thousand metres from shore where the depth is a maximum 43 metres. “
“ That is the maximum depth for recreational divers,” he continued. “ And we need almost that much water because the Terra Nova is so large – we should end up with 17 metres of clear water between the top of the wreck and the river surface.”
The two-year old Eastern Ontario Artificial Reef Association draws its membership from boat charter operators, clubs, wreck associations and individual divers living along the dive coast of St Lawrence – a zone that stretches from Kingston to Quebec border.
According to a press release issued by EOARA “the group's objectives for this artificial reef are to increase and improve Eastern Ontario's economic situation and tourism industry by attracting an additional 10,000 recreational scuba divers to the region in the first year following the sinking. These visitors will contribute an additional $8M in direct tourism revenues. A recent project in Pensacola, Florida, the sinking of aircraft carrier "Oriskany", has made headlines, and the county reportedly made its investment of $1M back in the first 3 days.”
Michael Ryan says that his group is getting “tremendous support” from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, Transport Canada Navigable Waters Protection, and neighbouring communities.”
This purported Ontario government support is an about-face for the province. In 1995 an attempt to create an artificial reef in Lake Ontario near the city of Toronto was scuttled when the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources placed a moratorium on the use of large ships to create artificial reefs.
The Brockville group has approached Canadian Artificial Reef Consulting (CARC) based in Vancouver, to oversee the sinking of the Terra Nova. Canadian Artificial Reef Consulting is a world leader in the creation of artificial reefs.
“ We are looking for the Canadian Navy to remove all the wiring, PCBs and asbestos from the Terra Nova in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia,” explained Mr. Ryan. “We will tow her to Prescott (a town near Brockville). Here CARC will prepare her for sinking – cutting holes, removing obstructions and (making her dive friendly).”
It is estimated that the cost of the towing, preparation and scuttling will cost about $2 million dollars. Mr. Ryan’s group doesn’t have that sort of money, so, fund raising efforts have already begun.
The EOARA will be holding a general meeting this winter to brief the public of their fund raising plans. If they are able to raise sufficient funds, the 49 year old Restigouche-class destroyer escort will be sunk in the summer of 2009.
This will not be the first time that divers in the St Lawrence corridor have tried to raise funds to sink the Terra Nova or the Gatineau. Waterfront Alliance Kingston spent four years trying to create an artificial reef in the St Lawrence River but in June 2002 shut the project down.
MORE SHIPWRECK NEWS
By Stephen Weir
• A 58 metre long retired Navy ship has been sent to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the Delaware coast. The ship, the Gregory Poole, was sunk about 35 kilometres southeast of Indian River Inlet.
• Texas divers have a new wreck to visit underwater. Late last year the Texas Clipper was sunk in the Gulf of Mexico off South Padre Island to become an artificial reef. The 473-foot Clipper was scuttled in November 2006 and ended up resting on its port side instead of upright, but is still accessible to scuba divers.
• Shipwreck enthusiasts in the Lake Michigan community of Muskegon are pushing the State of Michigan to protect and preserve the region’s shipwrecks and maritime history.
A seven-member board of the proposed West Michigan Underwater Preserve (WMUP) is formally requesting the protect of the State. The preserve, if approved, would stretch from Grand Haven to Pentwater.
The group, including divers, has identified 12 wrecks expects more to be found. According to press reports, the WMUP also want to sink a ship in the proposed preserve for divers to explore. In Michigan, an underwater preserve is allowed to sink one vessel.