Naval Ship Reborn as Grand Cayman Dive Site

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This summer, another watercraft will find a home on the ocean floor of the Cayman Islands. The USS Kittiwake, a decommissioned naval submarine rescue ship used during World War II, will be sunk near the north end of Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach in order to create a new dive and snorkel site.

The vessel will join the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, a Russian warship sunk in 1996 off the coast of Cayman Brac in order to create an artificial reef.

The ship, which weighs 2,200-tons and measures 251-feet long, will be sunk in 65 feet of water. The top of the vessel's bridge and smokestack will linger only 20 feet below the surface, making the site a draw for snorkelers.

Officials hope the vessel will attract more visitors to the island.

"Diving has always been a cornerstone of the tourism industry in the Cayman Islands," McKeeva Bush, minister of tourism for the Cayman Islands, told Travel Weekly on March 23rd. "When the Cayman Islands Tourism Association approached the Ministry of Tourism seven years ago with the idea for a new dive attraction to stimulate tourism, we were happy to support the project financially."

In February, the Kittiwake was towed to the island from Fort Eustis, Va., where it was part of the James River Reserve Fleet. The ship was specifically chosen for its height and weight, which make it less susceptible to storm damage, according to Travel Weekly.

Before sinking, the vessel will be cleaned to remove all hazardous materials and chemicals, and multiple panels will be cut to allow natural light to enter.

Once the ship is below water, it will be marked so divers will be able to easily identify different sections of the vessel, including the air bank storage, engine room, dive locker, and recompression chamber.
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