HMS Ark Royal could be turned into diving wreck

HMS Ark Royal
HMS Ark Royal

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THE Royal Navy’s former flagship HMS Ark Royal could have a new future in the world of diving.

A group of scuba divers is bidding to turn the old aircraft carrier in to a dive wreck.

Michael Byfield and James Doddrell, from Torbay, believe turning the former Portsmouth-based ship into a reef could bring £40m into the Devon economy, creating the largest artificial shipwreck reef in Europe. It would mean towing the vessel to a port to be stripped and made clean enough to be sunk.

The idea could repeat the success of HMS Scylla, which since being sunk has attracted thousands of divers to Plymouth, generating millions of pounds for the local economy.

The divers have formed a team called ArkRoyalReef which was one of a number of interested buyers to tour the vessel last week.

They say they do not want to see the former flagship follow in the wake of HMS Invincible, which was towed to Turkey for scrap.

Mr Byfield said: ‘We are talking to a few companies about towing her, and talking to ports where we could store her.

‘We would love to get it ready in time for the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics when we could sink it, with a fireworks display, to coincide with that and get worldwide coverage.

‘It should bring us worldwide attention because Ark Royal is the flagship of the Royal Navy and it would be the third largest artificial shipwreck reef in the world and the largest in Europe.’