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Sinking the USS Vandenberg: Tim Ferris (My Bro), AMSI, CDI, and Nat Geo

Tim managing the dive log - pict from Stacey Loiseaux

"Tim Ferris managing the dive log" - Stacey Loizeaux

Carlos from Nat Geo gets a few sound bites from Tim

"Carlos from Nat Geo gets a few sound bites from Tim" - Stacey Loizeaux


Nat Geo wants Tim to say something about tomorrow’s sinking of the U.S.S. Vandenberg. The clip might be used in a Nat Geo documentary. Never one to pose, (charm maybe but not pose), Tim responds calmly. There is always danger when explosives are involved. But Tim’s crew will be safe tomorrow. They’ll be on a barge with a motley group of friends, crew, and family members, including me, a mile from the explosion. Tim Ferris and Tim Ivaine of AMSI and Thom (last name?) and Stacey Loizeaux of CDI, however, will be on the boat nearest the explosion. One of them will be pushing the button to detonate.

Tim has faced danger as a SAT diver. He has lost three friends (all SAT divers) over the last five years. (They were not diving with him.) During his time in Key West, his diving partner is another SAT diver who, oddly enough, has the same first and middle name and who also grew up in CT, Timothy Wayne Ivaine. He is one of Tim’s best friends and a great protector. (Tim Wayne Ferris’ family is deeply grateful for Tim Wayne Ivaine! )

Ivaine gearing up for a dive

Tim Ivaine gearing up for a dive -Pict from Stacey Loizeaux

How Big is the U.S.S. Vandenberg?


Preparing the Vandenberg

Stage 1: Norfolk VA

How does one sink a 520-foot, 17,000 ton military ship in one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the country? Very, very carefully. Jeff Dey of Reefmakers (xray-mag.com) explains how they made the U.S.S. Vandenberg as eco-friendly as a ship of it’s size on the ocean floor can be.

According to Jeff some 50,000 man hours went into the extensive clean up and preparation. Workers hauled off

  • 81 bags of asbestos,
  • 46 tons of garbage that could come loose and float to the surface
  • 300 pounds of materials (navigation devices and electronic equipment containing mercury and
  • 185 55-gallon drums of paint chips (lead).


  • stripped out 900,000 feet of wiring potentially containing toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls used in insulation before the carcinogen was banned)
  • off-loaded any remaining waste petroleum products . Oil from transformers to voltage regulators and electronic magnets were carted off and disposed of properly. Solid PCBs such as gaskets, cable, lanterns and batteries were removed.
  • pumped clean and triple rinsed the engine room and other compartments

(The cleanup was performed at two Norfolk, Va., shipyards)

In a addition, on the day of the sinking, “a perimeter was set around the boat not just to protect humans, but for dolphins, turtles and other curious but protected sea creatures that could stray into the high power blast area.” bigshipwrecks.com

Green Spot: Protecting Key West’s Living Reefs

The following information is from a forum in the NOAA Eco-Discovery Center in Key West on May, 2008, called “Water Quality – What the Experts Say” last-stand.org

Key West needs water standards that are more stringent than the minimum federal standards. Monterray California has shown this can be done.

Mike McCleary, program director for Key West conservation organization Reef Relief, reefrelief.org, notes that Key West’s living reef is dying, partly due to global warming and partly due to what is being put into the water, both from land and from the numerous boats and ships that ply the Key West waters.”An advanced wastewater system is the protection our living reef needs,” says Mike, “Poor sewage treatment is the real cause of reef decay and water-quality problems.” McDleary notes that Florida has mandated (EPA “2010 rule”), a July 2010 deadline for everyone in the county to be hooked up to central sewers and stop discharging sewage into the Keys waters.

Cruise ships discharge up to 30,000 gallons of waste (treated and untreated) per ship per day. They are prohibited from doing so within 3 miles outside of state waters and, in general, they voluntarily refrain from discharging waste within 12 miles of shore. However, Sewage No Discharge Zones need to be expanded to include federal waters which extend farther offshore.

What is the single worse source of contamination of Key West waters?

Stormwater. Both because of what’s in that storm water and because it’s runoff can re-suspend contaminants (heavy metals such as lead, copper, and arsenic) that are present in the sediments on the bottom of the ocean. Dredging also re-suspends the contaminants.

What can be done to reduce contaminants in stormwater?

Some measures that can be taken include picking up pet waste, maintaining vehicles so they don’t leak oil, care in disposing of wastes such as oil, antifreeze, etc., reduction or eliminatioin of lawn fertilizers, etc

Re-use of treated water is likely feasible for some uses, but treatment doesn’t remove all contaminants (e.g. pharmaceuticals and other contaminants) and therefore isn’t safe for drinking.

Note: Fort Zachary Taylor consistently shows only low levels of contamination, the reason being that there’s good flow of water past that point, and that there’s no stormwater discharge near there.

Hopefully Key Westers are willing to put in the time, energy and money necessary to protect the reefs and keeping the ecosystem clean. “Sustainable development means meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their needs.” -United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development

Info on green/clean living in the Keys: keysglee.com

Reef protection: reefrelief.org

Stage 2: Associated Marine Salvage, Inc. (AMSI), Key West, FL

After the Norfolk the ship was brought to Key West and placed in the highly capable hands of the Associated Marine Salvage, Inc. (AMSI) Crew. (Green Note:Great company that is committed to protection of the environment and carries first-response pollution control equipment.) amsisalvage.com

These guys flame cut 49 holes in the hull and the inside walls with a torch. Extremely hot work under the blazing Key West sun. (Many of the guys had spark burns on their arms) These holes both allow for sinking and serve as access holes for scuba divers and marine life. They cut the holes high enough so that there would be no danger of taking on water if the sea conditions were rough when they take the ship out to its final resting place. The boat looks a little swiss cheese-ish in the end.

AMSI Crew that helped prepare the ship for sinking

The stellar Associated Marine Salvage Crew that helped prepare the ship for sinking- Pict by Heather Ferris

A relaxed Gordon Olson of AMSI Day after the sinking -pict by Stacey Loiseaux

"A relaxed Gordon Olson, VP of AMSI, Day after the flawlessly conducted sinking." - Stacey Loizeaux

Who’s Idea was this Anyway?

“Jeff [Dey] walked into our office 2 mos. ago and said ‘Hey, you guys ever sink a ship?’ We said ‘Nope, but we’ll give it a whirl!’ … Joe [Weatherby], founder of Artificial Reefs of the Keys (ARK) managed to raise $1.5MM to get the Vandy on bottom! Nice work, Joe!” -Stacey Loizeaux of Controlled Demolition, Inc.

Jeff Dey and Joe Weatherby of Reefmakers

Jeff Dey of Reefmakers.com Joe Weatherby of Artificial Reefs of the Keys (ARK)

Stage 3: Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI)

The Vandenberg project is part of a CDI series documented by National Geographic called “Blowdown” in which CDI prepares and fells different buildings around the world. Here’s an episode trailer of them demolishing a NASA rocket launch tower. parallaxfilm.com/capecanaveral The series started in 2008 and is continuing through 2009.

Great family! Company has 4 world records! controlled-demolition.com


Women Who Detonate… (and Sing?): The Loizeaux Family

women who detonate, Devon and Stacey Loiseaux of CSI

Women who wire, detonate and demolish, sisters Devon and Stacey Loizeaux of CDI (Controlled Demolition, Inc.), very fun and very smart. Do not mess with either! -Vandenberg in background- Pict from Stacey Loizeaux

Devon looking thoughtful, seasick, drunk? No thoughtful I think-Pict from Stacey Loiseaux

Devon Loizeaux looking thoughtful, seasick, drunk? No thoughtful I think - Stacey Loizeaux

Devon Loizeaux is also a pretty amazing singer songwriter. Her band is called Shugar. myspace.com/shugar

Loizeaux mom

Mom Loizeaux inspects the CDI Plaque - pict by Stacey Loizeaux

Mom (Loizeaux) inspects the CDI Plaque - Stacey Loizeaux

The next picture makes me laugh. She looks like she’s been caught in the act of doing something very naughty…like wiring a boat to blow it up. – comment by Heather Ferris
The Stacey creature spotted in her natural habitat wiring -pict by Stacey Loizeaux

"Stacey Wire, wire, wire, wire...Dev and I capped (attached the detonation system) the charges behind Thom and Ray as they mounted them." - Stacey Loizeaux

When you’re blowing big things up you really don’t want to make mistakes! Stacey Loizeaux taps into her dreams! Very handy!

“I was typing up those darned captions so fast, I misspelled something…and, you won’t believe this, I had a DREAM ABOUT IT…alerting me to the misuse of the word…(yes, I’m anal like that!)..the ‘dream correction’ thing happens to me a lot, actually…even with regard to field work stuff…it’s as if my subconscious KNOWS it’s wrong when I do it, and waits until I’m dead asleep to alert me to the fact…” Stacey Loizeaux

Now that is a seriously helpful subconscious!

Dad Loizeaux

Dad Loizeaux, head of CDI with Carlos of Nat Geo - Pict by Stacey Loizeaux

Dad Loizeaux, head of CDI with Carlos of Nat Geo - Pict by Stacey Loizeaux

The CDI Men: Thom, Dad Loizeaux, and Ray

All the CDI Men: Thom -----, Dad Loizeaux, and Ray Zukowski, Field Op Manager - pict by Stacey Loizeaux

Last Hurrah, Day Before the Sinking

The gutted and clean Vandenberg is taken to the sinking location 7 miles off coast where the AMSI crew drop four huge anchors, about eight tons apiece, to secure it to the ocean floor.

Tim Ferris, Dad Ferris and Nat Geo Camera man - pict Stacey Loizeaux

Tim Ferris, Dad Ferris and Nat Geo Camera man - pict Stacey Loizeaux

"Ultra-Stud" Ferris of AMSI. See him down there HAND-BREAKING the bow anchor as she's lowered down...yes, I said HAND-BREAKING...un-freakin-real!! Even Thom and Ray developed admitted "man-crushes" on him that morning...LOL! -- Pict and commentary by Stacey Loiseaux

"Ultra-Stud" Ferris of AMSI. See him down there HAND-BRAKING the bow anchor as she's lowered down...yes, I said HAND-BRAKING...un-freakin-real!! Even Thom and Ray developed admitted "man-crushes" on him that morning...LOL! -- Pict and commentary by Stacey Loizeaux

FWC Fish and Wild Life swat team guard the ship overnight -pict from Stacey Loiseaux

Stacey and Devon Loizeaux with the FWC, Fish and Wild Life, swat team who will protect the boat from piracy, dynamite-loving robbers, & general trouble makers, through the night -pict from Stacey Loizeaux

Sinking The Vandenberg

Two helicopters are flying overhead. One is checking the waters for dolphins, turtles and other protected sea creatures. The swat team finally disembarks from the massive, old vessel.

U.S.S. Vandenberg -Pict by Stacey Loiseaux

U.S.S. Vandenberg -Pict from Stacey Loizeaux

One last sweep around the ship by FWC looking for any wildlife (namely turtles) that are a bit too curious.. - Pict by Stacey Loizeaux

- Pict by Stacey Loizeaux

5 minutes to:

A five minute warning horn goes off and the friendly National Geographic Camera man, who has been quietly kneeling on my left, rises to point his camera on the face of Gordon Olsen, the head of AMSI. Gordon counts down the minutes and on cue the explosives, attached to the ship’s hull beneath the water level, are detonated. We hear a loud blast and grey smoke puffs appear around the boat water line.

In 1 minute and 49 seconds, without flaw, the 17,000 ton, 523-foot-long ship sinks 140 feet to the sandy bottom.

Here is the Video. The little boat at the bow is the one that Tim was driving. It was from this boat that they pressed the button to detonate.

Sinking Slowly at first - Pict by Stacey Loizeaux

Sinking Slowly at first - Pict by Stacey Loizeaux

Vandenberg Going

Going - Pict from Stacey Loizeaux


Going -Pict from Stacey Loizeaux


Gone - Pict from Stacey Loizeaux

The U.S.S. Vandenberg, a massive World War II ship used by the U.S. Air Force to track missiles and spacecraft, a ship that was chosen by Oscar-winning director John Bruno to depict the spooky Russian research ship infected by aliens in the 1999 movie “Virus” (Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland), is now one of the world’s biggest man-made reefs.


Post Sinking: Nat Geo interviews & Fuzzy Navels

Tim motors up to our barge with Thom, Stacey, and Tim Ivaine

Mission accomplished flawlessly, Tim, Thom, Stacey and ..... pull up to the main barge

Mission accomplished flawlessly, Tim Ferris, Thom -----, Stacey Loizeaux and Tim Ivaine pull up to the main barge- Pict by Heather Ferris

Just Back from Sinking, Gordon Olson, Thom ---, Tim Ferris (making funny face), & protector Tim Ivaine

A few good men just back from sinking the U.S.S. Vandenberg, Gordon Olson, Thom ------, Tim Wayne Ferris (making funny face), & Tim Wayne Ivaine- Pict by Heather Ferris

Two Nat Geo Camera-men disembark from their motorboat onto our barge to do interviews with Tim and the CDI crew. The first pict below shows the really nice Nat Geo camera man that was with us on the barge.

Thom and Nat Geo

A happy Stacey in forground & Thom and Nat Geo camera man - Pict by Heather Ferris

Tim and Nat Geo

Tim and Carlos of Nat Geo -Pict by Heather Ferris

Our Barge: Camera men, AMSI crew, family, and close friends

Celebratory Fuzzy Navels on the Barge: Camera men, AMSI crew, family, close friends and the main players - Tim is standing to the right of the guy that looks like Jesus- Pict by Heather Ferris

Day after

Tim has just returned from a motorcycle ride with Devon Loizeaux. He relates the following.

We [Devon and I] stopped by the side of the road for a drink and a guy asked whether I was a Key Wester. I didn’t want to answer more questions so I just said yes. But, he kept asking more questions so I finally had to disclose that both of us were down here for the S.S. Vandenberg project. The guy responded, “Really? What do you do?” So I said, “I prepared the Vandenberg for sinking,” and pointed at her,”and she sunk it.” The guy eyed her and rolled his eyes, “Yeah right.”

Diving the Vandenberg: Safety First

Be careful about rough and sharp metal edges where the explosives cut through!

Stay out of situations for which you’re not properly trained.” That means keep the thrill of the dive in check.[3] Remember the basics: Monitor depth and air supply, and stay out of enclosed spaces that don’t offer a clear swim to the surface. “No wreck dive is entirely safe, and the Vandenberg will have its hazards,” Bob Smith, the professional dive trainer who leads the clearance operation.

Oy, It’s a hard job: Our Fantastic Hotel..Thanks Tim!


My awesome stepmom and me in an Ocean Key cabana. Rough life.

My fabulous stepmom (Tim's full mom) and me in an Ocean Key Hotel cabana. (We had a exceptional week in this great hotel! The staff members were super friendly, the food was delicious, and the service was excellent.) Pict by Jay Ferris

Dad- Looking superstar-ish in his shades

Dad- Looking uber fab in his shades

About Heather

My name is Heather Ferris. I am the founder and creator of Nurture Nature Project! I believe together we can re-imagine the future and re-create systems to support the sustainable regeneration of healthy life on our planet. Listening to your own heart and living from your inner truth is the first step to building a better world. Every person has something important to offer.


6 thoughts on “Sinking the USS Vandenberg: Tim Ferris (My Bro), AMSI, CDI, and Nat Geo

  1. Heather, I need to get in touch with Tim for a big marine project. Can you please forward his contact information?

    Posted by Brian Von Herzen | May 20, 2010, 7:26 pm
  2. Dear Sir
    I am very thankful for your web site which I have been seen by channel national geography so I like to introduce myself to your respective side .
    My Name : Mohamad Madbouli
    My JOB title:International Egyptian Elec Power System Expert Engineer
    and Accredit from eurobian union as an expert in new resourcesand innovation alternative energy and I know very well your scop of work adjusting destructive for different bulk building for all over the world so please kindly request the e.mail of your great sister Stacey Loizeaux to contact her respectivbecause her job Control Manager like me
    Finally higly appreciated to your great family LOIZEAUX /
    yours sincerely
    mOHAMAD madbouli

    Posted by Mohamad-Madbouli | November 13, 2009, 9:14 am
  3. Perfect!

    Posted by flash-player | July 7, 2009, 2:03 pm
  4. MY! My! my!! 🙂

    Posted by Jay Ferris | June 8, 2009, 3:33 pm
  5. Joe, Kevin and I can attest to similar man crushes! JCD

    Posted by Jeff Dey | June 8, 2009, 12:22 pm
  6. Great work, Heather!! Glad some of my photos could help to tell the story!

    Posted by Stacey Loizeaux | June 8, 2009, 11:49 am

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