Destination Dive: Date Set for Sinking of Decommissioned Mexican Patrol Boat, Creation of Artificial Reef and Underwater Park Near Puerto Nuevo
On November 21, 2015, a few carefully calibrated charges will send the decommissioned Mexican Navy patrol boat Uribe to her final resting place: in 90’ of water in Bahía El Descanso, two miles off the coast of the famed lobster village of Puerto Nuevo.
The sinking will be the culmination of years of hard work – bringing the 220’ ship over from Manzanillo, cleaning and preparing her, and determining her ideal underwater location were all expensive and time consuming propositions – but also the beginning of a far more ambitious project, which is the formation of the 100-acre Rosarito Underwater Park (or Parque Submarino Rosarito).
In addition to a “ship graveyard” and artificial reef formed by the Uribe and three other vessels, the underwater park will also feature shallower sections showcasing, respectively, pyramids and statues that evoke Mexico’s Pre-Hispanic past, and a Titanic tribute with chimneys, propellers and other pieces of wreckage. There will also be an onshore museum.
Although it will take at least two more years for the artificial reef to develop into a flourishing marine habitat, it is expected that the park will eventually become a Pacific Coast dive mecca and major tourist draw. And since late summer and early autumn are the best times to dive – warmer waters translate to increased visibility – the park should provide a much needed boost during the region´s slow, off-peak travel season. Forecasts estimate as many as 100,000 people a year will visit the park, many form nearby Southern California.
The Uribe, or ARM (Armada de la República Mexicana) P121, was launched in 1982, and was the first of six Spanish built Uribe Class patrol vessels. These were the first ships in the Mexican Navy to operate onboard helicopters. P121 was named for Virgilio Uribe, a young Naval Cadet who died fighting U.S. Marines during the Battle of Veracruz in 1914. The ARM Uribe was retired following a crippling fire in 2011.
For more information, or to help contribute to the project, visit www.rosaritounderwaterpark.com.
The Uribe may well be the centerpiece of the most ambitious artificial reef ever created off the Baja California peninsula, but it will not be the first. That honor belongs to the Fang Ming, which along with another vessel confiscated for transporting illegal Chinese immigrants, was sunk near Isla Espíritu Santo – just north of La Paz – in November 1999. The Fang Ming lies approximately 70’ beneath the Sea of Cortez, and is now a thriving habitat for fish, mollusks, sea turtles, and other marine life.
And Cabo San Lucas has recently begun offering dive trips to its own artificial reef, thanks to Hurricane Odile. The category 4 storm devastated the Los Cabos area when it made landfall on September 14, 2014, but it did have at least one positive long-term effect: partially uncovering the forward half of the SS Harry Lundeberg, a cargo ship that went down in 1954 while transporting gypsum plaster from San Marcos Island near Santa Rosalía. That the ship sunk so close to Land’s End is rather curious, and local legend has it that the first mate knowingly steered her to her doom after suffering massive gambling losses. Whatever the cause, the shipwreck is now the site of a burgeoning artificial reef, and the southernmost city’s most exciting new dive destination.
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