The World War Two-era coastal freighter Shearwater, hull FS-411, was scuttled off the coast of Delaware by contractors for the state’s Department of Natural Resources, ending her long and varied service and creating a new artificial reef.
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“Shearwater is a great addition as reef structure,” said Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) official David Saveikis.
Prior inspection determined that the Shearwater met Coast Guard standards for sinking as an artificial reef. All petroleum products, electrical cables, machinery, doors, hatches, and electrical navigation equipment were removed from the ship.
Reefing specialists Coleen Marine prepared her for sinking and towed her to the final destination. The Shearwater took six hours and several interventions to go under, including the cutting of holes in her bow to release trapped air.
The 180-foot Shearwater, classified as a miscellaneous auxiliary, was built by California yard Hickenbotham Brothers at the end of the Second World War for use by the Army (not Navy). She was operated by a Coast Guard crew in the Central and Western Pacific, including Hawaii, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.
She was transferred to the Navy in 1950, and later served as a Military Sea Transportation Service survey support ship with civilian crew from 1964 to 1969. At the end of this service she was transferred back to the Army.
After her useful life as a military vessel was over, she was sold to fishing company Omega Protein and gutted for use in the menhaden fishing fleet. Her 70-year seagoing career ended in 2012 when she was sold to Coleen Marine and DNREC for stripping and sinking.
Delaware’s artificial reef system includes more than 1,300 former New York City subway cars, tugboats, smaller commercial fishing boats, decommissioned military vehicles, and the ex-USS Arthur W. Radford, sunk four years ago and at over 600 feet the longest ship reefed on the East Coast to date.