January 5, 2015

Since 1989, the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (ARSBC) has sunk more ships to create marine habitat than any other non-profit group in the world. Today we are announcing that we are moving forward with plans to sink the former HMCS Annapolis, a 366 foot (110 meter) helicopter-carrying destroyer-escort to create an artificial reef in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park on Gambier Island, British Columbia. This involves two steps:

  1. The ship will be towed from Long Bay (also known as Port Graves) to neighbouring Halkett Bay on January 13, 2015 for anchoring over the sink site. Final preparations will be made before sinking on Saturday January 17, 2015.
  2. The sinking is expected to take place in the late morning, and as it is a weather-dependent event we advise watching our web site for updates. The viewing public is welcome to attend via watercraft from an establish stand-off distance.

Leading up to the sinking, the Annapolis has been meticulously cleaned of hazardous and pollutant materials in compliance with federal regulations, and an estimated 250 tons of materials; almost everything but the steel hull and aluminum superstructure will have been recycled.

The ship was purchased from the Federal Government in 2008 with the intent to making this the largest artificial reef in the Greater Vancouver area. In the past, B.C. Parks placed a number of smaller artificial reef structures in other provincial marine parks such as Porteau Cove Provincial Park. The Annapolis will be the second vessel prepared and gifted to B.C. Parks, the first being the GB Church, sunk in 1990 at Princess Margaret Park, Portland Island B.C. (now part of the Gulf Islands National Parks Reserve).

Howie Robins, President of the ARSBC, commented: "We are deeply appreciative to all our volunteers for their hard work and dedication to the Project. And a special thanks to the many who remained confident in our determination during the more difficult periods of the Project".

Annapolis has been the most complicated and most controversial project ever undertaken by the Reef Society. Starting with the stock market correction in 2008 and the rapid fall of recycling metal values which undermined the economics of the project, the ARSBC also encountered changing federal government regulations, emerging environmental concerns, and erroneous legal challenges. These all forced the Project timelines and costs to be extended. The Project has consumed over 17,000 person-hours on the part of over 1,000 volunteers who came out to complete the preparatory work on the ship.

Robins added, "The project is now moving rapidly into its final phase of readiness. We successfully navigated through all the obstacles and now have all the required federal and provincial permits in place and the legal challenges dismissed in federal court".

Once sunk, the Annapolis will be the most comprehensively-prepared man-made reef anywhere in the world in terms of environmental cleanliness. The Annapolis will provide a unique recreational diving experience for all diver skill levels, and will be a strong tourism draw due to its close proximity to Greater Vancouver.

The Reef Society has sunk an impressive fleet of seven underwater marine habitats/tourism attractions in B.C. coastal waters, including five large former naval vessels, a coastal freighter that participated in the D-day landings, and the world's first intact Boeing 737 passenger jet, mounted on a cradle support system.

The artificial reef programme, by virtue of its international visibility, has made a major contribution to dive tourism in B.C. by bringing international media attention, and in turn divers, to the Province's superb diving conditions. These projects quickly attract an impressive variety of marine life. Biological reviews on the Boeing 737 sunk in Chemainus B.C. in 2006 documented the accumulation of over 110 species of marine life in just the first two years after sinking. This is similar to the ships that were sunk.

"The ARSBC's mandate is to create long term sustainable marine habitat using ethical means of vessel preparation helping promote eco-dive adventure tourism. It's good for the small businesses, the economy, the environment, and the province as a whole," commented Doug Pemberton, ARSBC Vice President.

Randall W. Lewis, Environmental Advisor as approved by Squamish Nation Chief and Council added, "This form of habitat creation, especially in the rehabilitation of many marine species and particularly rockfish is an essential asset, in many ways, to the area where the ship will be sunk. The ship served our country well and will now create a new habitat and nursery for marine life on the bottom of the ocean. Squamish Nation has always supported environmental restoration in our respective territory."

The ARSBC will dedicate this ship symbolically towards the restoration and preservation of rockfish and lingcod species in Howe Sound. According to Dr. Jeff Marliave, Vice-President of Marine Sciences at The Vancouver Aquarium, "The ship will provide dark recessed areas and act as a pinnacle with cave-like setting suitable for rockfish species, notably yellow-eye, tiger and quillback".

The former HMCS Annapolis is the last of the Annapolis Class Helicopter Destroyer Escorts (DDH) sold through Crown Assets Distribution. The Annapolis was named after Nova Scotia's Annapolis River, was commissioned in 1964 and decommissioned in 1996. The ship at 366 feet long was one of only two destroyer escorts designed to carry the CH124 Sea King helicopter used to extend the ship's range of submarine surveillance.

Because of its unique characteristics, Annapolis has over 40% more external habitat surface space than her previously sunk sister ships because of a number of external features which include overhead swim through companion ways, a helicopter flight deck and hangar, and an exterior bridge. There will also be a few new design features for divers to enjoy in this advanced artificial reef.

"With the sinking of Annapolis on the mainland side, we effectively close the eco-adventure dive tourism loop allowing divers to visit each ARSBC sink site thereby adding to a unique Wreck Trek adventure experience second to none in the world." Robins added.

We wish to express our sincere thanks to senior Parks staff for supporting and endorsing the Project in Halkett Bay. We also wish to thank Federal officials at Environment Canada, Transport Canada and The Department of Fisheries and Oceans for their assistance in permitting the project.

The ARSBC deeply appreciates the support of The Squamish Nation and The Tsleil-Waututh Nation for their endorsement of Project Annapolis and a special thanks to Randall W. Lewis for his advice and guidance. The ARSBC gratefully acknowledges the help and support of our many sponsors and donors for their contributions.

A large number of photos including examples of undersea life and previous projects can be found on the ARSBC website at