Annapolis to become artificial reef this week

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Former HMCS Annapolis, stripped of all environmental contaminants, awaits its final fate alongside Long Bay on Gambier Island.

On Saturday, the last of the Annapolis Class Helicopter Destroyer Escorts (DDH) will be at the bottom of Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park on Gambier Island, British Columbia, to start its new life as an artificial reef.

Former HMCS Annapolis, decommissioned in 1996, will be sunk by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (ARSBC) on Jan. 17.

ARSBC purchased the ship in 2008 from the Federal Government.

However, changing provincial and federal regulations, environmental concerns, and legal challenges drastically slowed the project.

“The project is now rapidly moving into its final phase of readiness,” says Howie Robins, President of the ARSBC.

“We successfully navigated through all the obstacles and now have all the required federal and provincial permits in place, and the legal challenges dismissed in federal court.”

Annapolis spent nearly three decades in service to the Royal Canadian Navy.

It was used as a training vessel, and noted for being the first navy vessel to have a towed array sonar system, as well as the first to have a gender-integrated crew.

The vessel has been prepared for sinking by ARSBC, which stripped it of all hazardous materials, making it the most comprehensively prepared man-made reef in the world in terms of environmental cleanliness.

Following its sinking, Annapolis becomes one of seven marine habitats created by the Reef Society; the seven are five former RCN vessels, a coastal freighter present during D-Day, and the world’s first intact Boeing 737 passenger jet, all sunk in different marine areas of B.C.

“The ARSBC’s mandate is to create long-term sustainable marine habitats using ethical means of vessel preparation that help promote eco-dive adventure tourism. It’s good for the small businesses, the economy, the environment, and the province as a whole,” says Doug Pemberton, ARSBC Vice President.

The sinking will take place the morning of Jan. 17 at Halkett Bay, and the public is welcome to view it from water craft at a distance established by the ARSBC.

More information on the sinking can be found at the ARSBC website.

Shawn O’Hara                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Staff Writer

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