US Navy ship scuttled to create dive attraction

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A decommissioned US navy ship has been scuttled in the clear Caribbean waters of the Cayman Islands, where officials say the sunken vessel will attract fish and tourists.

The USS Kittiwake, a 1945-vintage submarine rescue ship, now rests on a sandy bottom off Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach.

The 47-foot-tall ship is at a depth of 62 feet, so the top deck is close to the Caribbean Sea's surface, making it easily accessible for snorkelers and divers.

Crews carefully flooded the rusty hulk so the 2,200-ton ship would settle upright. Holes were punched in the hull and large pumps gradually piped sea water into the ship, which was compartmentalised into three sections.

As it began to sink in a cascade of bubbles, the Kittiwake leaned a bit to its starboard side, but divers reported it landed upright on its keel.

The ship, which assisted US submarine operations around the globe for decades, was anchored in recent years among the rusting vessels of the James River Reserve Fleet, commonly known as the "Ghost Fleet," in Fort Eustis, Virginia. It was towed to the Cayman Islands last month.

Besides being a lure for tourists, the Kittiwake will be an artificial reef that can shelter fish and crustaceans in waters known for excellent visibility and abundant sea life.

The Kittiwake joins the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, a Russian frigate sunk off the coast of Cayman Brac in 1996 that is now covered in a thick coating of sponges and corals.