Plans are taking shape to sink the 20,000-tonne aircraft carrier off the south coast

HMS Ark Royal may be deliberately sunk in Lyme Bay to form Britain’s largest artificial reef.

The 20,000-tonne aircraft carrier would be scuttled five or six miles offshore in about 40 metres of water, and a system of buoys and sonar would be deployed to warn off deep-draught ships.

A bid of around £3.5 million for Ark Royal by a group called Wreck the World is one of a number of offers for the ship being considered by the Ministry of Defence. A decision is expected soon but, even if Wreck the World’s bid is successful, it will be several years before the vessel makes her final voyage.

Not only will she need to be thoroughly cleaned and have all contaminants removed, but sharp and potentially dangerous edges will need to be smoothed off and access points made for divers. In addition, archaeological and environmental surveys of the seabed will also need to be carried out.

If the project goes ahead, Ark Royal will become the second largest artificial reef in the world, only beaten by the former US aircraft carrier Oriskany, which was scuttled off the coast of Florida in 2006.

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