HMS Ark Royal could be turned into artificial diving reef

Posted: 09/16/2011 in all marine news

Steven Morris – 

An ambitious scheme to scuttle the decommissioned aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal off Devon to create an artificial diving reef has won the backing of councillors.

Members of Torbay council’s harbour committee voted unanimously to support the proposal to sink the Royal Navy’s former flagship six miles off the English Riviera.

But the harbour committee’s unanimous backing of a proposal to lease part of the seabed from the Crown Estate to create a final resting place for the Ark is seen as a major step forward by the many champions of the plan in Devon.

Other schemes that have been floated for the ship have included turning it into a museum or a helipad or simply selling it for scrap.

In Torbay the idea of buying the vessel and turning it into an artificial reef was hatched over drinks at a sailing club and quickly turned into a solid plan. A charity called Wreck the World has been formed and it has put in a bid of £3.5m for the Ark.

One of the charity’s founders, Michael Byfield, said: “It’s been a steep learning curve and there are still lots of obstacles but we feel we are getting somewhere.”

Wreck the World believes that divers would be attracted to Torbay from around the world if the scheme came to fruition, bringing in an estimated £10m a year to the local economy.

Byfield said he believed it would be best to scuttle the ship so that the top of it came to rest five to 10 metres below the surface, making it accessible to many more divers than if it was sunk deeper.

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