Last year HMS Ark Royal, the flagship and pride of the Royal Navy, was decommissioned. The aircraft carrier was the third and final vessel of the Invincible-class to see service after it was launched into service by the Queen Mother in 1985. Since then, it has served in both the Bosnian and Iraq wars, and holds the distinction of being the fifth ship to bear the name of the infamous flagship that defeated the Spanish Armada. But enough history, news is the aircraft carrier is now set to be scuttled and turned into a massive artificial diving reef, providing a haven for divers of all experience levels.

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This week Torbay’s council harbour committee voted to sink the aircraft carrier six miles off the English Riviera (after it has been stripped of technology and weaponry). Ever since it was decommissioned as part of defense cuts, there have been plans to turn the former flagship into a museum, helipad or simply scrap it — however the artificial reef has been picked.

The idea was conceived at a local sailing club and thanks to the local charity Wreck the World, a bid of £3.5m has been put forward for the Ark. Charity founder, Michael Byfield, said, “It’s been a steep learning curve and there are still lots of obstacles but we feel we are getting somewhere.”

It is hoped that Ark Royal would attract divers from all over the world bringing in over £10 million to the local economy each year. The proposal would see the top of the aircraft carrier lie 32 feet beneath the surface so it could be used by divers of all experiences.

Byfield said he believed it would be best to scuttle the ship so that the top of it came to rest 16-32 feet below the surface, making it accessible to many more divers than if it was sunk deeper.

Of course, buoys would be placed to make sure other vessels would not collide with the wreck as well as measures to stop harming local marine life.

“It’s good to think that if we can do this, Ark Royal would still be a guardian of our waters,” said Byfield. “She is such an iconic vessel, it would be wrong to see her just cut up for scrap or suffer some other undignified fate.”

The plan definitely has merit as the sinking of the frigate HMS Scylla in Whitsand Bay “generated a boost to the local economy of Plymouth and the surrounding area”. Plus no-one wants to see Ark Royal turned into a pile of scrap.

+ Torbay Council

Via The Guardian

Images: shirokazan and DarrelBirkett