Hawaii: Ship to become an artificial reef

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Posted by on December 11, 2005 at 23:37:18:

LAHAINA, Maui The Carthaginian II, a replica 19th century sailing ship that was once one of Lahaina's most recognized attractions, is set to begin yet another incarnation, this time as an artificial reef.

Atlantis Adventures has obtained state and federal approvals to sink the 97-foot vessel Tuesday in 95 feet of water a half-mile offshore between Puamana and Launiupoko to create a marine habitat. The ship will be anchored to the sandy bottom away from any coral reefs, and will not affect swimming or surfing spots, according to Atlantis officials.

The tour company previously created artificial reefs off Waikiki using a Navy tanker, an old fishing vessel, and large sections of two airplanes. Atlantis president and CEO Ronald Williams said the practice has successfully increased the variety and volume of underwater activity at those sites, attracting fish, coral, sea turtles and other marine life.

The artificial reefs also enhance Atlantis' submarine tours, company officials said, and give scuba divers more to look at.

For more than 30 years, the Carthaginian II was a symbol of Lahaina's days as a 19th century whaling port, but it had little historical value. The German-made vessel was christened in 1920 and plied the Baltic Sea as a cement carrier. The Lahaina Restoration Foundation purchased the ship in 1972 and had it rigged to resemble the brigs that brought supplies for whalers and returned to New England with barrels of whale oil.

While tied up at Lahaina Harbor, the Carthaginian II housed a whaling museum. Rust began eating away at the hull, and as maintenance costs increased to $50,000 a year, the foundation decided, on the advice of marine engineers, to scuttle the ship instead of continuing to pay for repairs.

The attraction was already losing its appeal because it lacked authenticity. The whaling museum saw its attendance drop while historic buildings and other attractions in Lahaina were gaining popularity.

The foundation in 2003 approached Atlantis to acquire the Carthaginian II for use as an artificial reef instead of scuttling it at sea. The company retained a team of environmental and marine consultants to prepare and oversee the sinking, and is paying the entire cost of the operation.

Jim Walsh, general manager of Atlantis Submarines Maui, said it took two years of planning, which included meetings to get public comments.

"This will keep the Carthaginian in Lahaina's waters where she belongs, while improving the quality of our sub tour. It's a good solution for the community," Walsh said in a statement.

Atlantis also operates in Kona, Guam, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

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