Information provided by Sheri Lohr and Artificial Reefs of the Keys
Seaduction.com is proud to be an integral part of the project to sink the historic ship Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg as an artificial reef off Key West, Fla. We'll tell you more in the days and weeks to come, so come back to the site often for the latest updates and exclusive behind-the-scenes stories and photos.
Q: How big is it?
It's huge! Displacement: 17,250 tons. Length: 522 feet, 10 inches. Beam: 71 feet, 6 inches
Height: 100 feet from keel to the highest point. We have trimmed the stacks and antennas to allow the required 40 feet of clearance from the surface when the ship is deployed at 140 feet. Much of the superstructure will be just 40-50 feet below the surface. The keel and the ship's four, 8-ton anchors will rest at 140 feet.
Q: Where will it be sunk?
The wreck will be located about 7 miles offshore at 24.27 N, 81.44 W, between Western Sambo and Sand Key, south of Hawks Channel marker #32. The site was carefully chosen 10 years ago with input from many interested parties and was subject to 18 different permits. More than 130 dives were conducted to survey the site before it was approved. The ship will rest on a hard, barren bottom with no coral and no submerged cultural resources (i.e., historic wrecks).
Q: How will you sink it?
Cutting charges will open holes in the lower deck. Water pressure will push the cut-out plates inward, water will flow in at the bottom and air will vent out the top. The ship has tons of ballast near the keel, which was placed there to create a stable platform for the big tracking antennas. It should sink straight down in less than 3 minutes.
Q: What is the ship's history?
Here is a basic timeline.
1943: Built by Kaiser shipyard in Richmond, Calif.
1944-46: The ship was originally named the USS Gen. Harry Taylor and commissioned as a troop transport carrying personnel to Atlantic and Pacific ports during World War II. After the surrender of Japan, she was the first ship to return to New York Harbor
1946-50: USAT General Harry Taylor served in the Army Transport Service, bringing home the troops.
1950-57: USNS General Harry Taylor served the Military Sealift Command, carrying refugees and displaced persons from Europe to America and Australia.
1958: Decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet.
1961: Acquired by the U.S. Air Force and completely refitted to serve as a missile tracking ship.
1963: Re-commissioned as USAFS Gen Hoyt S. Vandenberg.
1964-1983: Reacquired by the Navy, the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg continues her mission, tracking U.S. and Russian missile tests and later, space program flights.
1983: Retired and transferred to the Maritime Administration's "Ghost Fleet" on the James River in Virginia.
1996: The ship was used to film the Universal Pictures movie, "Virus" (released 1999) starring Donald Sutherland and Jamie Lee Curtis.
1999: Artificial Reefs of the Keys was incorporated, having identified Vandenberg as an ideal candidate for an artificial reef in Key West.
March 31, 2007: Vandenberg is towed from the reserve fleet to a shipyard in Norfolk, Va., to begin the extensive cleaning process necessary to become an artificial reef.
April 12, 2009: The ship leaves Norfolk under tow, bound for Key West.
April 22, 2009: Vandenberg arrived at the Truman annex dock in Key West for the final preparations for sinking.
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: Good question! As an artificial reef, the Vandenberg will:
* Boost the local economy, encouraging tourism and creating jobs
* Create marine habitat and increase marine life population
* Relieve diving pressure on natural reefs
* Provide an opportunity to scientifically document the effects of artificial reefs with an ongoing monitoring program
* Provide a platform for education and research
* Preserve the ship's history and honor the memory of those who served and traveled on the vessel.
Q: When will it sink?
We are aiming for a sink date between May 27 and June 1, depending on weather, sea conditions and harbor traffic. Stay tuned!
Q: Who were the men honored by the ship's various names?
General Harry Taylor was born June 26, 1862 in Tilton, NH, and upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in 1884, joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In the years that followed, Taylor served in the field on various projects, including East Coast defenses and the Columbia River project. By 1916 he was Assistant Chief of Engineers in charge of the River and Harbor Division. At the start of America's participation in World War I he sailed for France as Chief Engineer Officer, American Expeditionary Force. In this capacity he supervised the construction of railways, barracks, wharves and shelters throughout France. Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Taylor returned to Washington and in June of 1924 was named Major General, Chief of Engineers. He retired in 1926 and died Jan. 27, 1930 in Washington, D.C.
General Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg was born in Wisconsin on Jan. 24, 1899, and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in June 1923. He played a major role in developing tactics and strategy and is considered "The Father of the Modern Air Force." He was instrumental in developing the Key West Accords during the Truman Administration which formed the basis for today's Department of Defense. He went on to serve as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force from 1948 to 1953, before retiring. Gen. Vandenberg died in Washington, D.C., on April 2, 1954.