The sunken destroyer that didn't sink as it was supposed to

The Saguenay sank to the bottom of Lunenburg Bay in 1994, but that wasn't the problem. How it sunk was the problem.

Saguenay was purposely sunk off coast of Lunenburg, N.S., in June 1994

The sinking of the Saguenay

28 years ago
Duration 1:55
The intentional sinking of a retired naval ship didn't go exactly as planned in 1994.

The Saguenay sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, but that wasn't the problem.

It was supposed to sink and become an underwater park for recreational divers to visit in Nova Scotia's Lunenburg Bay — a venture that was supposed to generate $1 million a year in tourism-related revenues.

The problem was how the Saguenay came to rest once the sinking occurred on June 25, 1994.

"The mammoth destroyer was supposed to plunge to the bottom and lay on its side," said the CBC's Leslie MacKinnon, when reporting for Prime Time News two days after the ship had been scuttled.

'It's almost upright'

Some journalists and members of the public were out on the water watching the HCMS Saguenay sink back in June of 1994. (The National/CBC Archives)

"Instead, it's almost upright, resting upright on its stern, parts of it resting on the surface."

That posed a potential problem for other ships.

"We can only assume that there may be a navigational hazard associated with that vessel as it sits now," said Adrian MacDonald of Environment Canada.

'This is only one disaster'

Russell Selig predicted the way the Saguenay sunk off the coast of Nova Scotia was "only one disaster" that would result from the decision to make it into a marine park. (The National/CBC Archives)

Local lobstermen weren't happy about the situation either. They feared the ship's presence could damage lobster habitats.

"This is only one disaster, but there's many more to follow," said Russell Selig.

MacKinnon said a time limit of two weeks had been set for the Saguenay to stabilize.

"After that, if it isn't at least 12 metres under the water, the marine park operators must either roll the giant ship over— a major undertaking — or start cutting parts of it off," MacKinnon told viewers.

CBC would continue to report on the Saguenay story. 

The month after the sinking, CBC's 1st Edition reported the ship was sitting only two metres below the surface. The people who wanted the Saguenay to stay where it was were talking about trying to get an amendment from the existing regulations.

Eleven months after the Prime Time News report aired, however, CBC's 1st Edition reported that waves had pushed the ship over onto its starboard side during its first winter underwater.

Guided trips for divers to visit the wreck are still being advertised today.

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