Cod War combatant HMS Scylla is shortly to become the skeleton for Britain’s first artificial reef

Cod War combatant HMS Scylla is to become the skeleton for Britain’s first artificial reef according to the Artificial Reef Consortium (ARC), whose plan received ministerial approval yesterday. Once all potential pollutants have been removed from the hull she will be scuttled off Whitsand Bay, near Plymouth.

She will settle close to the most visited wreck in Britain, the James Eagan Laine, a liberty ship sunk by U-boats in 1944 at the end of her maiden voyage from America. The wreck is ‘degrading’ and becoming dangerous while other wrecks – that of the prototype submarine A1 and the Rosehill – are too deep for inexperienced divers.

Within ten years, the submerged hull of the Scylla will provide divers with an exciting new challenge and become a feature of the food chain – home to a myriad of corals, crustaceans and fish.

The Leander class frigate, launched in 1968, has been decaying quietly at her mooring in Portsmouth Harbour’s Fareham Creek since her decommissioning in 1993. Prior to that she found fame briefly as the British warship that collided with the Icelandic trawler Aegir during the Cod War in 1973.

After the sale of sistership HMS Sirius in 1998, HMS Scylla is the sole Leander class frigate in Britain. Along with ARC’s proposal, there were plans to convert her into a Royal Naval Cold War museum but yesterday’s announcement has cleared the way for ARC. They must now find the estimated £45,000-£80,000 required by the Disposal Agency for the ship.

The process of converting the hull into a wreck is expedcted to take up to ten months and will involve removing all pollutants, such as fuel oil, asbestos and refrigerants, and cutting emergency exits in the hull. The Power Station Wharf near Plymouth’s Laira Bridge has been mentioned as a potential site for the conversion.