The HMAS Adelaide has been sunk off the NSW coastline, after a morning of delays due to a large pod of dolphins in the area.
Thousands of spectators gathered on the beach as the decommissioned frigate sat idle about 1.8km from the shore.
Protesters held hands with their backs to the sea when the vessel was scuttled off Avoca Beach on the NSW Central Coast.
The ship was due to be sunk at about 10.30am (AEST) to form an artificial reef which is expected to become a popular diving site, but was delayed by a pod of dolphins.
The dolphins had to be shepherded out of the exclusion zone by a NSW National Parks vessel before the ship could be scuttled.
Opposition to the scuttling
The No Ship Action Group set up on the beach, with a few dozen members saying they were saddened that their multiple attempts in courts have failed to stop the scuttling operation.
Group spokesman Quentin Riley, who has lived at Avoca Beach all his life, says the presence of the wreck will change the area forever.
“The beach is part of me, it’s part of my life and they’re trying to destroy it, and all for money,” Mr Riley told AAP.
The group says the wreck will lead to environmental damage, introduce health risks, change surf conditions and cause beach erosion.
A last minute bid by the No Ship Action Group to halt the sinking failed.
The group filed a summons at the Land and Environment Court, addressed to NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson and NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker.
An excited audience
Onlooker Ian Lindsay said there will be no significant environmental harm from the sinking of the ship.
His two sons are underwater surveyors, who believed the appropriate cleanup operations were performed prior to the ship’s scuttling, he said.
“Everyone I speak to is for it,” he told AAP.
“Those against it are a very small minority.”
Brett Ferguson welcomed the new tourist attraction, but said it would only benefit the beachside suburb of Terrigal, where all the area’s scuba dive shops are located.
He also said any controversy that did surround the ship’s sinking would disappear soon after the ship did.
“Give it a month and no one will say anything,” Mr Ferguson said.
Karen Morgan-Smith was initially against the scuttling operation but now believes there will be no harm to sea life or beachgoers.
“I wasn’t totally for it when I first heard about it but once they addressed the issues I was for it,” Ms Morgan-Smith told AAP.
“But once it goes down under I don’t think it is going to be as controversial.”