New wreck sunk off the Alabama Gulf Coast
(DiverWire) On May 26, 2013, the Alabama Gulf Coast area dove into a new niche market – scuba diving. Thanks to the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation, The LuLu was successfully sunk approximately 17 nautical miles south of Perdido Pass in Orange Beach (29° 59.520′ / 87° 33.037′) putting Alabama on the map as a scuba diving destination.
“The sinking of The LuLu has opened a new market for us, spotlighting the beauty and diversity of the nature-related activities that Alabama’s Gulf Coast has to offer,” said Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism (GSOBT). “We’re thrilled to embrace this opportunity and welcome diving enthusiasts to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.”
Orange Beach-based Walter Marine owner David Walter brought coastal freighter M/V Yokamu to Alabama’s coast for recreational diving purposes in 2012. Mac McAleer, owner of Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores became the title sponsor of the reef, naming the freighter for the origin of the term “lulu” – an extraordinary person, place or thing.
“The LuLu has been an exciting project for Walter Marine,” said Walter. “I have sunk 13 ships as artificial reefs, and this ship is different than any other due to its size and structure. The LuLu is unique because it is cavernous with a lot to explore, including a cargo hole and flat deck area all the way to the superstructure. Experienced as well as novice divers are able to explore this reef, and marine growth will begin immediately with small fish attracting the larger fish. One factor that has made this artificial reef different than the rest is the fact that our community has come together to make this happen. The local chamber, CVB and area businesses have all contributed to the success of this sinking on the Alabama Gulf Coast.”
The sinking of The LuLu marked the first project of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in July 2012 by the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce.
“What a great project this has been!” said Vince Lucido, president of the reef foundation. “The community came together to make this happen. The state, the county commission, the municipalities and local businesses have all stepped up to be sponsors. Community leaders have worked hard and shown support in so many ways. The entire community will reap the benefits from this and the continued work of the foundation. We owe a big debt to business people like Mac McAleer who’ve invested in the future of our dive market and our expanded fishing opportunities.”
The artificial reef provides a sustainable, environmentally friendly structure for marine life to inhabit and scuba diving enthusiasts to explore. On Memorial Day (May 27), divers were able to investigate the reef for the first time. Chandra Wright, nature tourism specialist for GSOBT and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium is secretary for the reef foundation. As an avid diver, Wright was one of the first to dive the new wreck.
“It was a bit surreal diving a brand new shipwreck that was just sitting on the surface yesterday,” Wright remarked. “We were happy to see good visibility with The LuLu sitting upright and fish already checking out their new habitat. In the coming months, we expect algae and corals to start growing and smaller fish to move in. The smaller fish will bring in the larger fish, and The LuLu will soon be its own marine village. It will be exciting for us divers to visit often to watch this process unfold. It was also satisfying to see the foundation’s hard work over the past several months pay off in such a big way, and we look forward to our next project.”
With the addition of this first purpose-sunk whole ship, coastal Alabama will enhance its variety of existing diving sites including Liberty Ships: Allen Reef, Sparkman Reef and Wallace Reef; bridge rubble: Atlantis, Rome, Road Bed, and Pillars and Flats; tug boats and other structures: 105 Tug, CSX boxcars, M-60 military tanks, and oil rigs; natural bottom sites: Trysler Grounds; and beach dives: Alabama Point sea wall, Alabama Point jetties and the Whiskey Wreck. Several Florida sites are also easily accessible by Alabama dive boats due to the close proximity to Florida waters including the popular Oriskany reef.