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Offshore parking lot for reef at USVI

Jan 1, 2003

What at first glance appears to be the wreck of a Spanish galleon isactually a barge that crashed into reef on St. John, USVI, dumping 300 tons of cement. The barge was being towed from Tortola when it was cut loose by the tugboat crew during a squall in December. It grounded about one-quarter mile north of the resort at Caneel Bay.

The cement quickly spread out on the ocean floor and solidified. It has formed an underwater parking lot of sorts that covers an area about the size of a football field, according to reports from St. John.

"Thankfully, the load of cement wasn't dumped right onto a field of coral," said Ries Collier, chief of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park Resource Management Department. "We think there was a certain amount of coral damaged, but it could have been a lot worse."

A plan by Resolve Towing of Fort Lauderdale to refloat the barge and begin removing the cement was underway at press time.