The retired missile-tracking ship will be transformed into an artificial reef seven miles off Key West on May 27, said Jim Scholl, Key West’s City Manager and project administrator says that is the tentative date.

“There are factors that could delay the scuttling, Scholl explains, “including weather and other unforeseen circumstances.”

An exact time for the sinking isn’t official, but city administrators and project organizers say this event will likely ‘go down’ late in the morning.

Spectators watching the long-awaited event won’t be allowed in too close proximity of the action.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard, will enforce a 500-yard perimeter around the ship during the transit.

Then for the sinking, a one-mile perimeter will be enforced on the water and in the air. Unauthorized vessels or aircraft will not be permitted within the perimeters.

The 523-foot-long ship which once tracked spacecraft blastoffs from Cape Canaveral as well as Russian missile launches during the Cold War is currently in Key West Harbor undergoing final preparations to be scuttled. The day before she’s sunk, the ship with a storied past will be towed and anchored at a predetermined site situated south of Key West in 140 feet of water.

Following the scuttling, an assessment will be made to ensure the vessel has landed on the bottom properly. Then Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary officials are to begin installing mooring buoys. After the buoys are installed, the wreck will open to sport divers.

For more information about the Vandenberg project, go to or

More than 70 percent of the project’s $8.6 million cost has gone to ridding the vessel of contaminants so the Vandenberg can be sunk without adversely impacting the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo courtesy: Andy Newman/Fla Keys News Bureau

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