If You Sink It, They Will Come

Key West sank a battleship and has a bunch of loot to prove it

By Hank Tester
|  Thursday, May 27, 2010  |  Updated 6:28 PM EDT
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Take a dive.

Take a dive.

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You Sank My Battleship

The U.S.N.S. Vandenberg took its last mission Wednesday and was sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic near the Florida Keys. The warship will serve as an artificial reef for the underwater wildlife and a tourist attraction for avid scuba divers.
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It went down with a bang and real quick, too.

And the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg has become a feature attraction just as quickly.

A year after the former U.S. Air Force vessel was sank off the coast of the Florida Keys, 113 different species of fish, sea turtles, and other sea life now call the rusty boat home.

More importantly to Keys officials, an estimated 20,000 divers have descended on the Vandenberg, and they haven't left their wallets at home.

"We went down, charted the whole boat, the company was excited to have that business," said Brian Kinsey, manager of Diver's Cove in Davie.

Kinsey took a group of 12 to Key West to dive the Vandenberg.

"We had dinner of Duval Street, stayed in a local hotel, had breakfast and the next day went up and did a dive at Looe Key," he said.

Local boosters say the ship is so big divers can't take it all in with just one dive. That's good news to hotel and motel operators who cherish return customers.

Reports are that some dive shops have seen an 18-percent increase in business since the big ship went down. Divers have come from around the world for the new and unique diving experience.

"You can't even see the ship there are so many fish," said Joe Weatherby who headed the project. "It is spectacular."

The 523-foot long artificial reef has taken well to its new underwater home, which in it's hayday would have been a death knell. The Vandenberg was a missile tracking ship.

Now it's tracking loot for the Keys.

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