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Scuba divers excited about new wreck slated for Cayman Islands

This summer, the decommissioned naval ship, the USS Kittiwake, will be sunk off the northern end of Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach after approximately seven years of planning for this moment. This represents the single most significant occurrence in Cayman’s dive industry for a decade, and marks the first time that a US MARAD (United States Maritime Administration) ship has been donated to a foreign country for the creation of an artificial reef to preserve the marine environment.

The Kittiwake left the James River Reserve Fleet in St. Eustis, Virginia on in February and will be towed to Grand Cayman after being cleaned. The 251-foot historic ship, which was in service for more than 50 years since 1945, will be sunk in just 65 feet of crystal clear water, providing easy access of the site for both divers and snorkelers.

Originally commissioned as a Chanticleer-class submarine rescue ship in the United States Navy during World War II, the 5-deck, 2200-ton USS Kittiwake will soon become incredibly important to the future of Scuba diving in the Cayman Islands, a destination renowned for its underwater world and dive possibilities. Prior to sinking, the USS Kittiwake will be thoroughly prepared with the removal of all hazardous materials and chemicals to ensure that they will not leach into Cayman waters, or pose any potential threats to divers and snorkelers. In addition to providing yet another exciting wreck for exploration, the ship’s sinking further proves the Cayman Islands’ commitment to protecting its renowned reefs from environmental overuse by providing necessary relief for the destination’s most frequently visited dive sites.

The Kittiwake will become an instant habitat for a wide variety of marine life. With multiple vertical and horizontal cutouts enabling natural light to fill the ship, divers will be able to explore the ship in its entirety immediately after sinking. This landmark wreck joins MV Captain Keith Tibbetts, a Russian Frigate sunk off the coast of Cayman Brac, reinforcing the Cayman Islands’ position as a leader of the artificial reef movement.

“It is wonderful to see this project move to the next phase with the Cayman Islands now owning the Kittiwake,” said Shomari Scott, Acting Director of Tourism. “The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism anticipates that the Kittiwake will create a lot of buzz and visitor arrivals as it is new, exciting, and highlights Cayman’s significant dive and water-based tourist market.”

The Kittiwake was selected for the reefing project due to her size and height being suitable for Cayman waters, as well as her overall weight, being a heavy, solid steel ship with 18 bulkheads. This type of ship will have the longest life underwater and will be less susceptible to break-up and damage due to storms.

The sinking of the USS Kittiwake also serves as a supplement to Dive 365, an on-going project to establish a dive for every day of the year, ensuring that Cayman’s unrivalled, magnificent marine life will be available for further generations to explore.

Additional details about the wreck, including a new website and the exact date of the sinking will be forthcoming shortly.

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