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‘Perfect Storm’ ship to be sunk for artificial reef
WOODLAND PARK, N.J. — After several months delay, the ship that helped rescue seven people during The Perfect Storm is scheduled to be sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coast next week, state officials said Tuesday evening.
The Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa will join other ships forming an artificial reef about 26 miles off Cape May at a ceremony Tuesday, barring bad weather, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Agency.
The 73-year-old ship, which also had a distinguished career in World War II, had been scheduled to be sunk late last year. It was delayed when lab tests confirming the ship was free from cancer-causing PCBs — a prerequisite before sinking — came in later than expected.
The sinking comes a few months after the 25th anniversary of storm, a confluence of three weather systems off the New England coast in October 1991 that generated 40-foot waves and wind gusts over 70 mph.
The Tamaroa’s crew helped save three people on a sailboat before rescuing four of five crewmen of an Air National Guard helicopter that had to be ditched in the ocean when it ran out of fuel during a similar rescue mission. The ship gained fame when its exploits were documented in Sebastian Junger's 1997 book, The Perfect Storm, and three years later in a film starring George Clooney.
News of the Tamaroa's sinking generated significant interest among former crew members. Many would rather see the ship used as a reef than demolished for scrap metal.
The ship already had a decorated history as the Navy's USS Zuni, towing crippled U.S. warships across the Pacific in World War II and aiding in the invasion of Iwo Jima. It was transferred to the Coast Guard shortly after the war and spent almost a half-century conducting search and rescue operations along the East Coast.
The Tamaroa was decommissioned in 1994. A decadelong effort by a group of veterans to restore the ship ended when its hull sprang a significant leak in 2012, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
The Tamaroa will join the Navy destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford 120 feet below the ocean's surface on the Del-Jersey-Land Reef, which is managed by Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland.