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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 15:35 GMT
Warship scuttled in Cornish bay
Explosions rip through the Scylla
A former Royal Navy frigate has been sunk off Cornwall to create the UK's first artificial diving reef.

Thousands of people watched from Whitsand Bay near Plymouth as HMS Scylla was scuttled at 1533 GMT.

The explosives were detonated by 12-year-old Daniel Green, from Ivybridge, Devon, accompanied by environmentalist David Bellamy.

It is hoped the vessel, bought by the National Marine Aquarium, will bring 1m a year into the local economy.

It took only three to four minutes for the Scylla to disappear beneath the waves once a series of controlled explosions took place.

Sinking ship: HMS Scylla facts
Last warship from Devonport Dockyard
Built in 1968, commissioned in 1970
Weighs 2,500-tonnes, 113-metres long
Princes Andrew and Edward visited in 1973
The Cruel Sea author Nicholas Monserrat's ashes were cast from it
Decommissioned in 1993 - never went to war

The 2,500 tonne Scylla was the last Royal Navy frigate to be built at Devonport Dockyard and was taken out of active service in 1993.

Three on-board web-cameras beamed the sinking live to screens at the Plymouth-based National Marine Aquarium.

It bought the vessel with 200,000 funding provided by the South West Regional Development Agency.

Diving clubs from Holland and Germany have expressed an interest in using the wreck which it is hoped could generate as much as 1m annually for the local economy.

Local diving clubs say the first divers will be going down to the wreck from 1700 on Sunday, after the ship has been checked by Royal Navy divers.

The Scylla settled on the seabed about 500 metres from the Liberty ship James Eagan Lane which was torpedoed on her maiden voyage in 1944.

Among those watching the sinking from a nearby boat will be the Scylla's last Commanding officer, Captain Mike Booth, who said he was "delighted she will be put to such good use".

"It will be a great tourist attraction," he said.

"I am thinking of going down myself although it is unrecognisable inside."

The whole thing came about over a few beers
John Busby
Former members of the 270 crew were also there.

The project was the brainchild of Plymouth-based divers Nick Murns and John Busby, who formed the Artificial Reef Consortium five years ago, before the other agencies became involved and took the project forward.

"The whole thing came about over a few beers when Nick Murns and I were chatting about how the James Eagan Lane wreck was deteriorating," said Mr Busby.

"We are very pleased the project has been brought to fruition, and will benefit the South West in the way we expected it to."

The BBC's Rachel Ellison
"Diving schools say they're already fully booked"

Scylla sinking date revealed
01 Mar 04  |  Cornwall
Former crew visit reef warship
30 Nov 03  |  Devon
Reef ship clean-up starts
10 Nov 03  |  Devon
Reef vessel arrives in city
08 Nov 03  |  Devon


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