Manta is Okaloosa County's newest artificial reef

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Another ship has gone down. 

The 190-foot Manta sank Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico as the newest addition to the Okaloosa County artificial reef system. 

Once the plugs were pulled on the Manta it went down in less than an hour. The Manta is the newest addition to the artifical reefs off Destin-Fort Walton Beach.

"It was very exciting,” Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg said. 

The Manta is the first of two ships that are being deployed as reefs to be used by divers and fishermen alike. The Manta’s sister ship, the Dolphin, will be deployed in about a month, Fogg said. 

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The ships were used for oil exploration out of Louisiana.

“It has a very open bottom, which allowed them to move equipment off the back. That’s probably what made it so attractive to us … for a dive and fishing spot,” Fogg said. 

“It has a significant overhang for divers and a shelter for some of those fish that are going to be hanging around it,” Fogg said. 

“I can almost guarantee this thing is going to have some goliath grouper on it in no time,” he said. 

The Manta is 190-feet long and now sits at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico as an artifical reef.

The Manta was deployed Sunday morning out of Destin was onsite about 9:30 a.m. 

“We pulled the plug shortly after that, and in less than an hour she was on the bottom … it was awesome,” Fogg said. 

“And fortunately, she landed upright which was even better,” he said. 

The Manta is 16 nautical miles to the southwest of Destin Pass in 111 feet of water. 

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It is also one of the largest artificial reefs put down in recent years. The largest is still the Liberty Ship, which was deployed in the 1970s in collaboration with the state of Florida and the military. The Liberty Ship is 440 feet long. 

“It’s been down there a long time. It’s more like a bath tub. It doesn’t resemble much of a wreck, it never really did. The whole top of it was scrapped,” Fogg said. 

The Manta was deployed on Sunday 16 nautical miles southwest of Destin Pass.

The Manta, however, is large and tall and will provide options for experienced and novice divers as well. 

“It’s 15 feet to the top, so those divers that are relatively new can explore the top of the it” without going all the way to the bottom, Fogg said. 

“I want to remind everybody to have the proper training before doing anything like this,” he said. 

As for fishing, Fogg said he bets there will be fishermen on the spot the next good weather day. 

“They’ll probably be a little upset when they don’t catch anything. The general rule is, give it a year or so and you’ll start seeing stuff,” Fogg said. 

“The reefs that we have deployed over the last couple of years are functioning pretty good,” he said. 

The vessel Manta has a lot of open area for divers to explore as well as homes for fish.

“Fish do show up pretty quick, but it’s not going to be that functioning ecosystem like when it’s been down for a couple of years,” Fogg said. 

Prior to the ship being deployed it was cleaned up just like any other vessel. All the fluids, glass and plastics were removed. 

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“It’s basically a metal shell. There’s nothing in that boat that could harm anything,” Fogg said. 

Once the ship was on the bottom, Fogg said they did a few dives to make sure it landed upright, take some measurements and remove lines and straps that were used in the deployment process. 

“It’s a very cool one,” Fogg said. 

The artificial reef expansion project was fully funded by the Tourist Development Department, including the purchase of both vessels. Under the direct oversight of the Coastal Resource team, Tri-Native Contractors performed the extensive cleaning and preparation to eliminate environmental impacts and transported the ships from Lafite, Louisiana, to Orange Beach, Alabama. The vessel was then moved from Orange Beach to the location offshore Destin-Fort Walton Beach by Walter Marine.  

The new Manta lies at 30 degrees 8.63 minutes north latitude and 86 degrees 39.192 minutes west longitude.