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Federal permit issued to create artificial reef in Canadian waters



artificial reef

Environment Canada has issued a permit allowing a group to sink the former warship HMCS Annapolis to create a diving destination and artificial reef on the West Coast of British Columbia. However, not everyone is happy about the project’s go ahead.

Opponents, who for several years have been trying to stop the scuttling, say the ship poses a pollution hazard, and Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park is the wrong place to scuttle it.

But Howard Robbins, president of the Artificial Reef Society of B.C., said the Environment Canada permit shows the ship is clean and won’t pollute the bay on Gambier Island, just a short boat ride from Vancouver. He’s confident a provincial permit will be issued soon, which would complete all the paperwork needed to blow holes in the vessel and sink it. That has been the group’s dream since it got the retired destroyer escort from Canadian Forces in 2008.

“We now have all of our federal authorizations in place. Next will be our park use permit, which will be issued shortly, and at that point we are fully compliant with both governments and we will plan our sink accordingly,” Mr. Robbins said earlier this month.

He said after years of battling opponents and meeting government requirements, he believes all the major hurdles have been cleared, although a marine contractor who worked on cleaning the ship has an outstanding financial claim that needs to be dealt with.

“We’re in talks right now to get the financial matter resolved,” Mr. Robbins said. “Once that’s done we should be good to go. We’re inching our way closer to the sink date right now.”

He said the ship should go down later this year. However, he’s made similar predictions several times in the past, only to have the date delayed while regulatory conditions were met.

The project has long been under attack by environmental groups and local residents who object to Halkett Bay becoming a graveyard for the 50-year-old Annapolis. The Artificial Reef Society had to undertake a massive cleanup effort on the ship, with 1,000 volunteers putting in more than 17,000 hours of work, in addition to the efforts by professional contractors.

“It’s been a very complicated project on many levels but we’ve been able to navigate all of it successfully to the point where we are now,” he said.

Mr. Robbins claims the ship, once sunk, will create an artificial reef on a section of ocean floor that is largely featureless.

“The Annapolis provides something that is not available in Halkett Bay right now and that’s a complex marine habitat,” he said.

But Gary MacDonald, a spokesman for the Save Halkett Bay Marine Park Society, said his group will ask Environment Canada for a hearing to contest the permit because the ship is a pollution threat.

In July, Environment Canada received a consultant’s report that declared the vessel was free of interior insulation and other contaminants, but Mr. MacDonald rejects that report, saying it was written by a lawyer, not an environmental scientist. “We want to see an independent test report that shows the ship is actually clean,” he said.

Mr. MacDonald is also pressing ahead with a petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In that action, filed last week, the group seeks an order requiring the provincial government to stop the sinking, arguing it would violate the Park Act to put a wreck down in a marine park.

Christianne Wilhelmson, of the Georgia Strait Alliance, said there are deep concerns about artificial reefs in general.

“Continuing to sink these ships when we have so many outstanding questions is reckless,” she said.

Although divers maintain sunken ships soon become flourishing reefs with fish species moving into the nooks and crannies, there has been no long-term environmental assessment.

“Nobody is monitoring the other artificial reefs that were created from ships to our knowledge,” she said. “So to me this says we are continuing to dump things into the ocean without looking at the long-term impacts on the environment.”





Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings, Part 13: Dollar Cove, just what is the ‘truth’?



Reprising our popular series of Cornish Wreck Ramblings by Mark Milburn…

Part 13: Dollar Cove, just what is the ‘truth’?

For many years treasure hunters have been searching for the fabled “Dollar Cove” wreck. Dollar Cove’s actual name is Jangye Ryn; it got the name “Dollar Cove” from the silver pillar dollars, pieces of eight, that used to regularly wash ashore. Most stories online state that coins washed up from the 17thC wreck are dated up to around 1775, so late 18thC. The San Salvador is quite often listed as being the dollar wreck, it was a hundred years too early. Although it was reportedly wrecked near Gunwalloe Church Cove, the wrong side of St Winwalloe Church to be the Dollar wreck.

Underwater artefacts

Within the church records of St Winwalloe, there is an entry from 1787, it states that a Portuguese wreck occurred with several bodies washed ashore. There are no records of this wreck anywhere, which is no surprise. There are many wrecks along that piece of coast without any records.

The current suspect, is the Rio Nova, it sank in 1802, near Penzance. The whole of Mounts Bay was classed as close to Penzance, back in those days. The Rio Nova was carrying 19,000 silver coins, 12,500 of which were recovered at the time. Many coins have washed up over the years, on one day in the late 19th century, 484 coins were said to have washed up one night. The main problem with the Rio Nova being the dollar wreck, is that divers said they found the Rio Nova near Penzance many years ago.

A lone 18th Century Cannon, possibly from the Dollar Cove Wreck

Some other sources of information state:

A Spanish ship struck the cliffs midway between Gunwalloe Church Cove and the fishing cove, half a mile westward. She broached, end to end, and spilled her cargo of pieces of silver. In 1845 a limited company tried to recover the cargo by damming the mouth of the gully with the intention of pumping it dry at low water. However, their attempts were thwarted by a southwest gale which swept the dam away. (2)(3)(4)

The distance between Church Cove and Fishing Cove is a couple of miles, the gully they dammed was believed to be the one on the headland, between Church Cove and Dollar Cove.

Another attempt was made in 1847 when a gang of miners were hired to cut a passage down and steps down the cliff and sink a shaft 3 metres in diameter and 25 feet deep in the rocks. The miners then drove 40 feet under the gully, but no coins appeared; but the sea did and they just escaped with their lives. (2)(3)(4)

Some of their efforts are still visible around the headland, the main one being a cutting on the far most northern corner.

A 2006 attempt to locate the treasure

Thirty years later, a Mr Boyd, with engineers and divers, attempted to pump out and sieve the contents of the 1847 shaft. No dollars were found so they decided to blow up the shaft and sieve it but to no avail. (3)(4)

In 1877 two bankers from Helston sold 200 shares at £3 each to finance another attempt. The circular mentioned several ships rather than one and the promoter John Toy had occasionally picked up dollars around the cove. He had divers working within a caisson, but nothing was found during the first season. However, the following year an unspecified quantity of coin was recovered, but it was insufficient to repay the shareholders and the company went into liquidation. (3)(4)

There are several ships in the area, this story seems to have been echoed many years later, on another wreck in Cornwall.

In June 1890 another attempt was made by the Liverpool salvage steamer ZEPHYR, but it came to nothing. The last attempt was made by a London businessman, who hired a suction dredger and shifted thousands of tons of sand, but no coins were found.

Since the 1890 attempt, many people have looked, including the legendary Roland Morris. He implied that he may have known where it was, after an argument with the National Trust about ‘rights to wreck’, he left. The NT told Roland to tell them where it was, he just laughed and told them he never would,

The last I can remember was in 2007, when a business man from Chippenham, hired a boat with some local divers including myself, to try and excavate the site. We visited twice in 2007 and recovered hundreds of artefacts but no coins. The first visit found the inlet, which was dammed in 1845, to be completely void of sand, nothing was found apart from some steel beams and a sounding lead. So either all the coins had all been removed, or they were never there in the first place. He is still looking.

Artefacts recovered during a 2006 attempt


(2) Richard Larn 1987 A Diver Guide, Dive South Cornwall – 2nd Edition Page(s)116-17
(3) by Richard Larn 1996 A Diver Guide, Dive South Cornwall – 3rd Edition Page(s)166-69
(4) R. Larn 1983 The Diver Guide to South Cornwall – 1st Edition Page(s)134-35

Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba at

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Photo Gallery: Dive Fest Barbados



In our Gallery feature, we let the photos tell the story… Each Gallery showcases a selection of outstanding images on a chosen theme, taken by our Underwater Photography Editor Nick and Deputy Editor Caroline of Frogfish Photography. This time they reflect on their visits to the Caribbean Island of Barbados for the annual Dive Fest celebrations.

Dive Fest Barbados is a week of celebrating the marine life, diving and snorkeling this idyllic island has to offer. There are activities organised each day for all those that attend that include wreck diving, marine conservation, learning to dive, snorkeling and one an unusual dive for us – riding a submarine to the bottom of the Caribbean Sea! Dive Fest Barbados allows divers to get the very best out of a trip here, with plenty of diving, but also to sample the unique atmosphere, mouth-watering food and drink, stunning scenery and beautiful beaches.

For more images from Barbados and around the world, visit the Frogfish Photography website by clicking here.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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