British Virgin Islands Transforms Hurricane Wreckage Into Dive Sites

Image of individuals "riding" in a shark-shaped plane
Photo by The British Virgin Islands

This month, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) will sink three disused, airplanes (which have artfully been crafted to resemble sharks) to create an artificial reef for marine life. Beyond the Reef, a team comprising an underwater engineer, an oceanographer, a metal sculptor and an environmental filmmaker, is working on the project in collaboration with the local BVI community. Three abandoned airplanes, sourced by the group, will be transformed into sharks and purpose-sunk to create an artificial reef. In addition to the planes, the former Willy T floating bar, which was also wrecked during Hurricane Irma, will be sunk.

Instead of discarding these structures after the devastation of Irma, Beyond the Reef re-purposed them into tourism attractions. The vessels have been stripped of all hazardous materials. Openings were formed in their surfaces to provide diver access. This month, "sink week" will lower the vessels down to the seabed, where they will securely be sand-screwed into place.

Divers planning to see the shark-like planes will be asked to donate $5, which will go to teaching local children to swim. This pledge will raise awareness on swim safety and shed a light on the vulnerability of ocean-life.

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According to BVI Tourism, less than half of children living in the British Virgin Islands know how to swim. In response to this, the Beyond the Reef team hopes to have every child swimming in the next 10 years.

The upcoming wreckage will join existing dive sites like Kodiak Queen, which was sunk in 2017, and the RMS Rhone, a British Royal Mail steamship that sank in 1867.

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