The New Venture, a 250-foot-long and 56-foot-wide former research vessel, has been flooded and sunk about 20 miles south of Orange Beach to create a new diving adventure and artificial reef environment for fish.
With coordinates of 29 54.052N 87 32.893W, New Venture, now composed only of a stripped hull of the ship with holes in the sides to create pass-throughs, made it to its resting place beneath 120 feet of water on June 20, 2018.
New Venture was deployed near The LuLu, a 271-foot coastal freighter deployed in 2013.
The top of the structure is between 55 and 60 feet below the surface.
During its previous life, New Venture was used to perform different types of surveying with large spools that released cable into the water to find possible mineral and oil resources.
“There’s a lot of complexity to this vessel, compared to a cargo ship of similar size,” said Craig Newton, artificial reefs coordinator for the Alabama marine Resources Division. “It has a lot higher sides than most cargo ships. There are a lot of different levels. It has more decks than a typical ship, so we’re excited about it and the dive possibilities.
Newton described how reef sites are selected. “When we look for reef sites, we look for coarse sand bottoms that are not too close to adjacent reefs. We try to place them in spots that help maintain the production potential of the reefs nearby without creating a negative competitive interaction among the critters from one reef to the next. The preferred distance between reefs is about 200 meters.”
Holes cut into the sides of the ship to create pass-throughs add complexity to the structure to increase habitat quality. “It will start holding fish within the first several months. Maximum productivity will take several years. There’s a lot of substrate for what I call bioengineers—corals, bryozoans and sponges and things like that—that will grow on the side of the ship and create complexity at a much smaller level. Those organisms will provide some rugosity to the shipwreck so things like different types of crabs, shrimp, blennies, gobies and damselfish can seek shelter.”
Newton said bigger fish will begin moving in within the first few months. “Fairly quickly, red snapper, amberjack and blue runners (hardtails) will be swimming around the shipwreck, as well as tomtates, gray snapper and triggerfish.”
Newton added that the shipwreck will provide excellent opportunities for divers with a wide range of skill sets.
“The top of the superstructure will be just 60 feet below the surface, so divers with less experience can go down and see the superstructure and swim in the shallower portions of the shipwreck and stay within their dive limits,” he said. “But, it’s going to have opportunities for technical divers, divers with more experience, to gain some dive time as well. The dive will be right at 120 feet.”
Divers will be able to dive both the New Venture and The LuLu on the same trip.
Diving opportunities abound on the Gulf Coast. Bring your diving party and choose a light-infused corner-unit vacation rental on the Gulf.