07/02/2012 at 10:22pm
to be Artificial Reef
In what marked an unprecendented event for Lee County, the WWII ship - the USS Mohawk - sunk beneath the gentle Gulf waves Monday afternoon just before 1pm. The sinking was the result of a joint effort between Lee’s Marine Resources Program and Reefmakers, LLC, a Key West company responsible for the successful scuttling of another WWII-era ship - the USS Vandenburg - off the Conch Republic in 2009.
The Sand Paper accompanied Lee County officials - including Natural Resources’ Steve Boutelle and Commissioner Ray Judah - on board the Great Getaway to witness the sinking, which will make the Mohawk into an artificial reef and veteran’s memorial. The Mohawk is the first such ship to be turned into a reef in Lee’s waters, and Boutelle gave credit to Weatherby’s team for a job well done and also told us that the ship is already generating business in the form of scuba divers scrambling to get a chance to be among the first to dive on the historic vessel.
"We’ve done artificial reefs in the past, but nothing like this,” Boutelle told us. "There are supposed to be six dive charters out here on the water today. After the boat sinks, there will be two crews going down - one to make sure all the ordinance has exploded and then one to get all our cameras and stuff off, then they will likely give the all clear for them to dive. Reefmakers - they're a great company - they are top notch - and they have done an amazing job getting this boat ready and even getting it out here."
By far the most important people on board the Getaway this morning however, were WWII vet Ed March and his wife, Delores. March, who actually served on the Mohawk in WWII as a cook from 1942 to 1944, was also celebrating his 63rd wedding anniversary.
The sinking was made possible by a $1.5 million grant from the West Coast Inland Navigational District (WCIND). The 165-foot Mohawk will rest in about 90 feet of water. For the full story, see this week’s edition of the Island Sand Paper.