Every year, at least twice in the summer, the Toronto Scuba Centre packs the van and heads up to Brockville, Ontario. Once there, we take our divers out on the St. Lawrence River to either dive for fun or to complete their Advanced Open Water Diver certifications. Why Brockville? Well, I have discussed this before, but that portion of the St. Lawrence River has a fantastic array of shipwrecks in fairly shallow waters. This gives the luxury of being able to take our divers down, enjoy the difference of fresh water and current diving and take a peek at wrecks that sank anywhere from 100 to 135 years ago. And, because the wrecks lie in fresh water with no noticeable annual storm systems, for the most part, they are excellently preserved. Few can boast of actually diving on what is effectively a fully intact 150-year old wooden schooner!
One of the things the wreck do not have, however, is a significant level of marine life. There are a number of fish and eel varieties in the St. Lawrence in that area, but one wouldn’t probably categorize them as “colourful”.
So, why am I talking about wrecks and the St. Lawrence again? Because I was reading an older article this morning on efforts being made to sink a decommissioned Canadian Annapolis-Class helicopter-deploying destroyer just outside of Vancouver, B.C. (you can read the article here: http://www.cdnn.info/news/industry/i100413.html).
One of the most memorable dives I have made was on the HMCS Chaudiere, another decommissioned and purposefully-sunk ship off the coast of Sechelt, a little north of Vancouver (memorable mostly because it was freezing bloody cold, but also a great wreck with interesting swim-through penetrations).
Although the waters might be a bit chilly, the wonder that this area of Canada provides, below the waves, is a stunning variety of marine life, from wolf eels, to octopus and a host of corals.
There has actually been a global increase of ships being purposefully sunk in the last few years. The benefits appear to be plentiful. Obviously, divers get to pop down and enjoy wrecks in spots specifically chosen for recreational diving purposes. Aside from our enjoyment, however, the sinking of these ships also appears to be massively beneficial to the marine ecosystems in those waters. Generally (and I say generally, because it is a little difficult to verify this for further-flung corners of the world), prior to sinking, the ships are meticulously cleaned and de-toxified prior to sinking. A large part of the purpose for sinking these ships is to create new artificial reefs and to encourage marine life to set up shop. Toxic substances would quite simply stop that from happening.
Yet opposition to the sinking of these vessels often centres on the environmental damage that will be caused. Personally, I love diving on unintentional wrecks, even though they clearly would have a more negative impact on the environment (not having been specifically cleaned of course), because of the story that goes with exploring the wreck. The argument, however, that a ship that has been environmentally cleaned will actually cause damage seems to me to be a little contradictory. Especially if the sinking of that ship will encourage new reef and marine ecosystem growth, because sadly, our world is losing what little it still has! It seems to me that local residents who oppose such sinkings are perhaps woefully misinformed.
As many divers can tell you, there is an awful lot of garbage and an awful lot of odd and ends that are lost, thrown or sunk in both the oceans and in fresh water. You might consider a destroyer a huge piece of garbage, but if a number of eels, corals, fish and critters call it home, and safely as well, how can that be bad?
I think opposition to these schemes possibly has more to do with a NIMBY protocol, as evidenced by the article above, when local residents are worried about a mass invasion of hordes of scuba divers. Gods forbid that a number of divers would want to add to the local economy. The idea of hordes of scuba divers in coastal B.C. waters made me have a chuckle in any event. Perhaps Howe Sound will be the new Cayman Islands?