Wed 24 Jun 2009“Sink the Vandenberg!”Stevens’ research and planning work helps create artificialreef off Florida KeysBy Patrick A. BerzinskiDirector, University CommunicationsOn May 27, 2009, at 10:24 a.m., the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg became the basis for anartificial reef in 140 feet of water, seven miles off Key West. Now resting in an uprightposition on the sea floor, the Vandenberg measures ten stories high in the water column, with thekeel set at the deepest point. It is at the top of the structure that most of the ship’s interestingattributes, including RADAR dishes, are located, some purposely cut from one part of the shipand welded elsewhere to make attention-getting dive spots from bow to stern, all trimmed toreach within 40 to 50 feet of the surface.The successful sinking of the ship in an upright position, meant to maximize its potential as anartificial reef, represented the climax of weeks of model-testing and repeated sinkings of a mini-Vandenberg in the high-speed towing tank at Stevens Institute of Technology’s Davidson Lab,an integral department of the university’s Center for Maritime Systems (CMS).“This was the first time we intentionally tried to sink anything [in a test],” said Davidson SeniorTechnician Bob Weiss. “We usually try to avoid that.”
Dr. Raju Datla, Naval Engineering Assistant Director at the CMS, noted the logic behind theextensive testing. “There were concerns about the ship not sinking properly, or landing itsideways [on the sea floor]. We were looking for how it sinks for different scenarios. In all thepermutations we tried…all the time it sank properly.”In April 2008, New Jersey Network’s Science and Technology correspondent Patrick Reganprofiled the test-sinkings then being conducted at Davidson:Get the Flash Player to see this content.All of this analysis led to the successful spring 2009 sinking of the mighty wartime cargo vesselin the tropical waters off Key West, as covered by CNN:Get the Flash Player to see this content.With a hull measuring 500-plus feet, holes cut along the outside of the ship to help it sinkprovide swim-through opportunities for advanced and skilled technical divers; yet the properlycertified and trained wreck-diver will be able to swim a full 475 feet along the starboard sectionof Deck 1.Though it is unlikely divers underwater will be able to see end-to-end because the ship is nearlytwo football fields long, it is possible that one dive on the Vandenberg could reveal both shallowand deep-water fish such as Goliath grouper and sailfish, attracted by the clouds of bait expectedto school around the wreck. Of course, it will take multiple dives to get a real sense of its scale.And over the course of decades the ship is to be densely populated with coral species, sponges,invertebrates, sea fans and sea whips. Divers will want to make this Florida Keys ShipwreckTrail entry in their logbook over and over again to see the progression of marine ecosystems asthey develop.This article incorporates material from related web sources.