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'A Gift To History': The 'Vandenberg' Slips Below The Waves As The Second-largest Intentionally Sunk Ship; Sinking Picture Gallery

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KEY WEST, Florida -- Thirteen years in the making, the plan to sink the decommissioned military ship “Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg” finally came to fruition today. At 10:24 a.m. EST, cutting charges were detonated and ship quickly sank below the waves 114 seconds later.

Among the thousands on hand to witness the event, perhaps none other was as proud as Sheri Lohr, treasurer and secretary of Artificial Reefs of the Keys, the organization formed that conceived, designed and financed the Vandenberg project. Sheri has been associated with the Vandenberg project since 1998.

"It took 13 years to dream it and two minutes to sink", she said. "It stunned me. Over the years we were delayed by fund raising, by bureaucracy, and, at the last minute by a sea turtle that wandered into the sinking zone."

When asked what drove her to stick with the project for 13 years, she said, "I did it as a gift to history and for the town of Key West. I held on when people did not believe it or understand it - because it was right."

The ship, now resting 140 underwater, is second largest vessel ever intentionally sunk to become an artificial reef

Divers are working with a team of other underwater specialists to survey the ship to ensure it is safe for public diving. Other divers are retrieving more than 20 cameras that were mounted on the ship to capture images of the “Vandenberg” as it sank. Another team is securing mooring buoys near the ship.

Officials indicated the ship may be ready for public diving by Friday morning.

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