Uribe Finally Goes Down

Listened to the speeches, watched the sinking, bought the t-shirt
BY: REN DRAKE HILL

With much pomp and circumstance the 33 year old 220 foot Mexican Navy ship Uribe has been blasted to the floor of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Puerto Nuevo to become the first stage of the much anticipated Rosarito Underwater Park.

ship going down.jpgIn addition to being a destination for recreational divers from around the world, this artificial reef will provide the international science community with a field laboratory to study sea life.

Cleaning crews worked for more than a year to prepare the ship for becoming a sea life habitat, stripping it clean of all toxic materials and liquids, and then finding just the right place to deep six her. (A nautical expression indicating a water depth of 6 fathoms (36 feet), as measured by a sounding line; “deep six” acquired its idiomatic definition because something thrown overboard at or greater than this depth would be difficult, if not impossible, to recover.)

The creation of the park will generate new jobs, including staffing a new museum in Puerto Nuevo that will include exhibits containing reproductions from the Titanic and sea flora and fauna (plants and fishies). Five underwater cameras will capture real-time underwater activity for viewing on monitors in the museum. The museum is at least two  years off, however.

In addition to a ship graveyard and artificial reef formed by the Uribe and three other vessels that are on their way, the underwater park will also feature shallower sections with fake concrete pyramids and statues that are supposed to evoke Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. There will also be a cheery Titanic display with ship chimneys, propellers and other pieces of wreckage.

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. Forecasters estimate as many as 100,000 people a year will visit the park, but that what do they know?

There were three ways to officially register for the viewing. In a standing room only ceremony of more than 500 people held at the Baja Puerto Nuevo Hotel, many dignitaries droned on and on, including the governor of the state of Baja and a bunch of VIPs and chosen members of the press. Then there was a bumpy boat ride from Ensenada for an up close and personal view a mere few yards from the vessel. (This reporter was one of the chosen, but declined due to her notsoseaworthy tummy).

ship down.jpgMany others viewed the sinking from along the side of the road, or at the dunes of Primo Tapia. About two dozen personal watercraft joined the party, circling around the fun zone.

The military ships all tolled three bells in preparation for the big bang and at precisely 12:11pm a single explosion detonated at the aft end of the ship, and after a dramatic pause  of several minutes when we all wondered if she really was going to go down, she started for Davy Jones’ locker.

Once she started going down, she went rather quickly, stern first, and quietly, without any hysterics or even much of a disturbance in the water.  Quietly, she slipped under the surface only minutes from when she started to go. Most of us gathered to see the final moments thought it rather anticlimactic.

The viewing ship was positioned on the other side of the Uribe, creating a gray-on-gray viewpoint, so the vision of the sinking ship was not at all dramatic to those viewing from the shore. 

Local resident Scot Richardson shot the whole episode with a camera dangling from his drone, which was a way better view.  For a truly awesome video of the sinking, check it out at www.onceuponatimeinrosarito.com or friend his Facebook page, OnceUponaTimeinRosarito.