British Columbia

Wreck of HMCS Annapolis showing signs of life, say divers

It has only been a year since the Canadian Navy destroyer HMCS Annapolis was sunk in Howe Sound, and already divers are discovering plenty of new life around the old ship.

The old Canadian destroyer at the bottom of Howe Sound is B.C.'s eighth artificial reef

The former Canadian Navy Destroyer HMCS Annapolis was sunk in Howe Sound in April 2015, making it B.C.'s eighth artificial reef. (Chris Straub/Artificial Reef Society of B.C.)

Just one year since the Canadian Navy destroyer HMCS Annapolis was sunk in Howe Sound divers are discovering plenty of new life around the old ship.

The 51-year-old Annapolis was sunk in Halkett Bay Marine Park off Gambier Island in order to create B.C.'s eighth artificial reef. Before the sinking, there was a long legal battle over the toxicity of the paint and its impact on the water.

Since the sinking, divers have been keeping a close eye on the wreck for signs of life, says Donna Gibbs, a taxonomist with the Vancouver Aquarium.

"It's been really interesting because it looks pretty barren at first and we are anxiously looking for settlement, and then we start to see a plumose anemone on one dive ... and two worms ... and  algae settling," she says.

Gibbs says she has compared the data with other natural sites nearby and so far they have found 12 unique species on the Annapolis.

"I wasn't thinking I would see unique species just to the wreck. I thought I would see similar things that I see in the area, so that was pretty exciting," said Gibbs.

Diving destination

In addition to providing natural habitat for fish and other underwater creatures, the wreck is also becoming a destination for divers from across North America.

Kevin Breckman from Sea Dragon Charters has taken out hundreds of divers to see the wreck. He says, despite the great natural diving in the area, the wreck is an extra special draw that has made Howe Sound a popular destination.

"The beauty of it is we've got incredible wall diving here and incredible natural diving right here in our own backyard, but we didn't really have that little draw, that little extra special thing, and having the wreck — we've got that now."

Kevin Breckman from Sea Dragon Charters has taken out hundreds of divers to see the wreck. (CBC)

Ontario diver Brian Jahn was in Vancouver for a conference this past weekend and said one of the highlights was a dive on the Annapolis.

"B.C. is on my bucket list to get out here and dive, and the Annapolis is definitely what I call a bucket dive."

One of the things that impressed Jahn was how well the ship was prepared for any level of diver.

"Everything is laid out very clearly. It's very safe. There are huge cutaways where you can see the inside of the ship and actually go inside the ship without getting tangled on anything."

"It's a very fresh wreck, so there isn't a lot of rust. There isn't a lot of overgrowth. It's almost like a dive amusement park."

The decommissioned HMCS Annapolis, pictured in Howe Sound in 2010, was prepared for diving by the Artificial Reef Society of B.C. (Canadian Press)

With files from Megan Batchelor

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.