It wasn’t the easiest of sinkings for Alabama’s latest addition to the nation’s largest artificial reef zone.
“No, but it’s down,” biologist Craig Newton of the Alabama Marine Resources Division said.
The New Venture, a former 250-foot research vessel, now sits on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico about 20 miles south of Orange Beach, or about two miles south from where the LuLu was sunk in May 2013. The LuLu went down in one try. Not so much with the New Venture.
The first attempt was on June 20 but several problems arose when the ship was finally in position.
“The biggest problem was the pumps that were taken out there were not in good operating condition and didn’t keep them running,” Newton said. “Then we had to wait until we got another boat out there with some appropriate pumps, with pumps in good condition.
“By that time the boat had drug its anchor outside of the reef zone. Then we had to wait until a tug could make it out there and tow it back to the reef zone and to the reef site. Once we got that done we were able to sink it that day.”
Even the eventual sinking didn’t go as planned, Newton said. Initially, the stern, or back of the boat, was supposed to flood first and hit bottom first, followed by the bow.
“There were too many pipes connecting the forward and aft tanks, so we were unable to isolate where the water was going,” Newton said. “Everything essentially ended up draining toward the bow of the ship, resulting in the bow going down first.”
But when all was said and done the new addition to the reef system was sitting pretty on the bottom.
“It still landed upright and is sitting on its keel,” Newton said. “There’s no notable list of the ship sitting on the bottom and the pilothouse is about 57 feet below the surface.”
At that depth divers with the lowest certification can explore the New Venture. But even the experienced divers onsite to explore the wreck and retrieve cameras that recorded the sinking had trouble with the churning Gulf.
“The current was horrible,” Newton said. “We had a hard time just keeping our marker buoy on the ship for our divers to go down. It wasn’t for the novice diver. That’s part of diving in the Gulf.
“We’ve got some footage from inside the ship from GoPros that captured the flooding and they turned out real well.”
The coordinates of the New Venture are N29 54.052 W87 32.896.
Another project the AMRD is currently involved with is the deployment of 600 pyramid reefs from Dauphin Island to Orange Beach in seven new reef zones six to nine miles offshore.
“These are 10-feet tall concrete pyramids. So far we’ve got 100 of those pyramids out now and we should have another 100 of them put out probably Friday or Saturday of this week,” Newton said. “The construction schedule is getting out another 100 of these every other week.”
Photo and video courtesy of the Alabama Marine Resources Division.