After years of preparation and legal wrangling, HMCS Annapolis is now sitting at the bottom of Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park off Gambier Island, in Howe Sound just northwest of Metro Vancouver.
On Saturday afternoon, explosives sunk the former Canadian helicopter carrying destroyer in waters with a depth of about 30 metres. Charges cut through the hull at approximately 1:30 p.m. and the vessel disappeared beneath the water in just under three minutes.
The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia acquired the Annapolis from the federal government in 2008 with the intent of converting it into the largest artificial reef near Metro Vancouver.
A thousand volunteers spent the subsequent years stripping the vessel and cleaning it of any hazardous and pollutant materials. About 250 tons of material were removed from the vessel, leaving only the steel hull and aluminum superstructure for the use of an artificial reef.
The sinking was originally scheduled for January 17, but local environmental activists successfully sought an injunction that claimed the vessel’s exterior paint contained a toxic chemical that prevents organisms from growing on the hull.
However, a judge dismissed the injunction and ruled last month that the vessel could be sunk, saying the Annapolis’ organism-repelling paint was in an inactive state because the paint is more than two decades old. In addition, the Artificial Reef Society followed federal and international guidelines for cleaning the vessel.
HMCS Annapolis was first commissioned in 1964 in Halifax and served both the Maritime Forces Atlantic and Maritime Forces Pacific fleet until it was decommissioned in 1996.
This is the Artificial Reef Society’s largest and most complex artificial reef project to date. In the past, it has sunk five other large former naval vessels, a coastal freighter that participated in the D-Day landings, and a Boeing 737 aircraft.