A former Royal Navy frigate has been scuttled off the South West
coast to create Europe's first artificial diving reef. (Saturday
27th March 2004).
Devon schoolboy Daniel Green joined environmentalist David Bellamy
in pushing the plunger that sent HMS Scylla to her watery grave.
The pair stood side-by-side on board a press boat as they set off
the charges that sank the decommissioned Royal Navy warship.
were detonated on board by 12-year-old Daniel Green.
year old Daniel, a keen diver from Ivybridge, hopes to visit HMS
Scylla at the bottom of the sea this summer.
Thousands of people watched from Whitsand Bay near Plymouth as Scylla
was scuttled on Saturday 27th March 2004.
Five years of planning came to an end as the explosives were set
off just after 3.30pm. Many of those watching sounded their boats'
horns as the bow of the vessel sank slowly below the surface half
a mile off the shore.
took only three or four minutes for the ship to disappear beneath
the waves after a series of controlled explosions were triggered
on board the vessel.
Among those observing the Scylla's final descent was Captain Mike
Booth, the Scylla's last commanding officer.
Any sadness was outweighed by the excitement of the moment, he said.
He added: "All the other ships I have served on have been scrapped
or sold into some other navy.
"Scylla has been sitting at the top of Portsmouth dockyard for ten
years rusting away. Now she will be a useful vessel for the next
30 or 40 years."
hoped the vessel, bought by the National Marine Aquarium, will bring
£1m a year into the local economy.
Scylla lies about 800 metres from another wreck, the James Eagan
The NMA - with funding from the South West Regional Development Agency
(RDA) - paid around £200,000 for the Leander Class Frigate.
Scylla was built in the late 1960s and was the last warship built
in Devonport. She was taken out of active service in 1993
Similar projects to create artificial reefs across the world have
generated millions for their local economies and the team behind
this project are confident the same will happen here.
THAT SINKING FEELING
The ship will be used for divers to explore, as well
as for it to be colonised by local species of fish.
Director of the National Marine Aquarium, Kelvin Boot, says the
first creatures will start making Scylla their home from day one.
"It's a great experiment - we don't really know what's going
to happen," he says. "We'll be monitoring it for weeks,
months and years to come.
Eels like smaller tube-like homes. Picture
courtesy Paul Naylor **
thinks the first animals will start investigating the ship within
24 hours of her hitting the seabed.
"Maybe we'll see conger eels coming to have a look - and the
crabs and lobsters will soon start to move in.
like having a big block of flats on the seabed, each one with different
exposure to currents, different light levels, different sizes and
each of the creatures will find different parts more inviting.
"For example the conger will live in the smaller tube-like
areas whilst a fish called a bib - which is a relative of the cod
- will probably live in the darker areas.
Kelvin likens the reef to an oasis in the regular, mainly
some interesting stuff out there," he says. "We know it's
a nursery area for flat fish and we'd love to see a thing called
the Pink Sea Fan move in - it's the sort of jewel in the crown of
British marine nature.
prefer the darker places. Picture
courtesy Paul Naylor **
have our fingers crossed that maybe it will colonise and we can
learn lessons, for example about how long it takes to grow and what
conditions it likes to live in."
Boot says the reef may also attract some larger animals. "Who
knows? As the months go on we may have sharks, seals or dolphins
cruising around because it will be a bit of a focal point - a bit
like a fishy take-away!"
HMS Scylla is on the seabed, there are plans to attach web cameras
to the 2,500-tonne vessel.
The National Marine Aquarium hopes to share its findings with other
project around the world via the internet.
"The more lessons we can learn the better advice we can give
to others who may like to follow suit in the future," says