Video: Tanker Reefed Off of Florida
On Saturday, hundreds of boaters gathered to watch the sinking of the fifty-year-old sludge tanker Lady Luck off of Pompano Beach, Florida.
The vessel went down with a wide variety of casino-themed installations on board, and her decks look much like a funhouse, with human figures, fiberglass sharks and oversized dice amidst her pipes; the man responsible for turning her into an underwater sculpture garden, local artist Dennis MacDonald, used to design exhibits for theme parks. Much of the artwork on deck was made with found objects from the tanker’s fittings and stores.
"There are lots of ships that are sunk," said Tom DiGiorgio, the chairman of the Economic Development Council of Pompano Beach, speaking to the AP, "but this will be the only one that is truly interactive and with artwork on it." He expects the site's accessible location and unusual features to make it a major attraction, drawing as many as 35,000 dive visits a year – and bringing more tourism dollars to Broward County.
The city of Pompano Beach and a local casino funded the $600,000 reefing project. They had been searching for an affordable ship for some time, and when the Lady Luck went to auction without a buyer, they scooped her up for less than half of the opening bid.
The process of sending her below was gradual to ensure she went down in the right orientation. She was partially flooded in advance of the ceremony, and then engineers pumped her down slowly, with no explosive charges. The crew stayed aboard until water was flooding on deck, monitoring and making sure that she would sink properly.
A former crewmember on the Lady Luck (ex name Newtown Creek) told local media that he was happy to see her reefed in the U.S. instead of being sent abroad for scrap. "I spent a quarter of my life working on her. She never let us down," said former deckhand Jon Bailey, who traveled from New York for the ceremony.
In her previous life, the Lady Luck carried sewage sludge for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The city still maintains five other vessels for the task of carrying over a billion gallons of the residual sewage solids for treatment every year; in decades past, the Lady Luck would have taken the sludge directly out to sea, but that practice was halted in 1992. Since then, the substance has been carried to city-owned plants where it is dried and pelletized.