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2 Ships Scuttled to Create Artificial Reef

November 29, 1987|Associated Press

KEY LARGO, Fla. — Two aging Coast Guard cutters have been scuttled to create an artificial reef for marine life and a new attraction for divers off the Florida Keys.

The 327-foot Bibb hit the bottom Saturday. It followed its sister ship, a 1930s-era rust bucket named Duane, which went down Friday.

Three 21,000-gallon-per-hour pumps filled the Duane with sea water. When the decks were awash after about five hours, ropes holding plywood patches in place on the vessel's sides were cut.

Bulkhead doors were welded open to provide easy passage by divers, and a pair of diver-sized holes were drilled near the stern.

"There is a degree of mystery and romance that attracts divers to wrecks, perhaps to a greater extent than the natural reefs," said Stephen Frink, president of the Keys Assn. of Dive Operators, which spearheaded the reef plan. "The wrecks will appeal to more experienced divers and will bring more repeat divers to the area."

Explosives traditionally are used for burials of derelict ships, but organizers feared an explosion would leave metal shards hazardous to divers.

The cutters were used to shepherd the tiny vessels that brought hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees to the United States in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

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