OCEAN CITY — Shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the retired Navy destroyer U.S.S. Arthur W. Radford slipped quietly beneath the surface of the ocean just about 30 miles off the coast of Ocean City to its final resting place as part of a vast artificial reef system, ending weeks and months of anticipation and reefing madness.
The Radford’s sinking had been postponed several times over the last few months for a variety of reasons and the old vessel created a delay of its own on Wednesday. It was towed to the designated site on Wednesday morning and holes were cut in its hull to allow it to be strategically lowered to the ocean floor in an upright position.
About four hours later, shortly after 3:30 p.m., the stern lowered slowly and the bow of the ship pointed up briefly toward the sky before the 563-foot former destroyer quietly sank to the bottom with little more than a modest splash. According to observers on vessels nearby, the Radford went down in about 30 seconds.
The Radford was sunk on a permitted artificial reef site named “Del-Jersey-Land” in honor of the three states participating in the project. The reef site is equidistant from each state’s major Atlantic port at about 32 miles east-northeast of the Ocean City Inlet, 28 miles southeast of the Indian River Inlet in Delaware and 34 miles southeast of Cape May, N.J. It was sunk in about 130 feet of water and will create a vertical profile from the sea floor of about 70 feet, along with its 560-foot-plus length.
The Radford became the largest warship ever sunk as part of an artificial reef site on the East Coast. The 910-foot former aircraft carrier Oriskany was sunk in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Fla. in 2006, becoming the largest warship ever sunk expressly for the purpose.
It is expected to benefit marine life by creating or mimicking habitat while enhancing the coastal economies of the three states involved in the project, including Maryland, through recreational fishing and diving opportunities.
“The reefing of the Radford provides an immediate economic boost to offshore sportfishing and scuba diving in Ocean City,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “The reef project is a shining example of collaboration between the Navy and multiple states to protect our valuable natural resources and to create green, sustainable jobs.”
Delaware Gov. Jack Martell echoed those sentiments on Wednesday.
“Our artificial reefs bring in thousands of fishing and diving trips annually, and that brings in something else we like to see in our region- jobs,” said Markell. “Through this partnership, this ship represents a step forward in protecting our environment, promoting incredible biodiversity and providing special recreation opportunities for families and explorers.”