DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Okaloosa County officials have made another splash in the artificial reef industry.

The once oil exploration research vessel named MANTA is now resting 110 feet below the Gulf of Mexico surface.

County staff with the tourism development council and Visit Destin-Fort Walton Beach sank the 180-foot boat Sunday morning about 16 miles offshore. The MANTA is one of two large vessels to become artificial reefs in 2023.

“Today was awesome,” said Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg in a post-deployment press conference. “It was retired and has just been sitting at the dock rusting away. We were able to procure that, get it cleaned up, take all the things off of it that could potentially hurt the environment, bring it out to 110-foot of water, pull the plugs, and send it to the bottom.”

Spectators from nearby city offices and partners were invited to watch the ship sink from the surface. Fogg and his staff dove down to the boat after and said the MANTA landed perfectly.

“It was a little bit stressful when we first pulled the plugs and it started to sink,” said Fogg. “We didn’t know if it was going to land quite upright but once we got into the water to dive it and take a closer look, she landed upright and she is facing due north. The top of the structure sits at about 58-feet of water so the top is quite shallow but if want to explore down to the sand it’s about 110-foot.”

This reef is located at:

  • N 30° 8.630′
  • W 86° 39.192′

The team has plans to launch more reef structures this year including vessels and manufactured reef systems.

“Deploying anything as small as a 500-pound piece of concrete that’s pre-fabricated to be an artificial reef, and that will function great,” said Fogg. “But deploying these large vessels provides not only a great habitat for the fish, but a really cool destination for people to go diving. Everyone wants to come to a destination and dive a shipwreck, and these large wrecks are really what people are after.”

You can view more artificial reef locations online.