KEY WEST, Fla. -- A huge American flag was unfurled underwater Monday, to mark Memorial Day and the 10th anniversary of the intentional sinking of a former military ship in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a former missile tracking ship that monitored Soviet launches during the Cold War, was scuttled May 27, 2009, to create an artificial reef. It took 1 minute and 45 seconds for the 523-foot-long ship to hit the bottom that day.
The main objectives of the Vandenberg artificial reef were to take pressure away from natural reefs, provide additional habitat for sea life and create recreational fishing and scuba diving opportunities.
"The Vandenberg has just been an unbelievably successful environmental project," said Joe Weatherby, who helped direct the ship sinking initiative. "We’ve had 200 species of fish that weren’t there before -- and we have lots and lots of scuba divers, and fishermen and snorkelers and boaters, from all over, enjoying this shipwreck every day."
The process to complete the scuttling of the Vandenberg cost about $8.6 million and took about 10 years.
Located approximately seven miles south of Key West in 150 feet of water, Vandenberg remains the world’s second-largest vessel intentionally sunk as an artificial reef.
The ship was also used to track early NASA space mission launches off Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Follow decommissioning and before becoming an artificial reef, Vandenberg received public exposure when "cast" as a Russian science ship in "Virus," a 1999 motion picture starring Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland.