It’s not often that there is a charitable project that combines art, ocean conservation, world history, marine science and economy. The British Virgin Islands and Richard Branson are changing that with a unique Art Reef project.
Richard Branson is developing a new diving destination off the coast of the British Virgin Islands that will preserve history while giving divers an underwater cultural and environmental show.
The YOKO BVI Art Reef, as the project is called, will be saving a decorated WW2 ship from being scrapped for metal— suspected to be one of only 5 ships who survived Pearl Harbor— and transforming her into thriving artificial reef and “fantasy adventure dive site”. According to the dive web site it will transform the ship into a “living symbol of rebirth and regeneration, to honor those who gave their lives in the name of a better world.”
This project aims to rehabilitate over fished marine populations and boost income for local dive operators and the BVI economy by using breathtaking art sculptures as coral out-planting platforms to kick-start a thriving reef ecosystem.
The vessel is known as the Kodiak Queen (or YO-44) and will be submerged off the coast of Virgin Gorda. The boat is expected to be submerged April 2017. One or two months after it is sunk, divers will be able to explore the area.
Onboard the sunken boat, divers will be able to explore a sunken art installation. The crowning jewel of the collection will be a giant 80-foot Kraken sculpture that will wrap its arms around the boat. Once the Kraken, a legendary sea monster, and other art is installed, the team behind the project will monitor the underwater reef and artificial habitat to monitor and rehabilitate the marine health of the area.
The Kraken is made out of rebar and mesh, courtesy of Secret Samurai Productions, a group of artists who produce “engagement art”. There will also be rebar and mesh covers on the deck of the boat that will allow divers to see marine life in the habitat area. There will be specific areas on the ship for art installations, as well as dive through areas.
Branson is working in conjunction with several organizations to produce the diving site — including Unite BVI, a not-for-profit that empowers local children, Secret Samurai Productions and Maverick 1000, a collective of entrepreneurs who fund innovative new ideas.
According to officials, the “Maverick Art Park” reef and eco-dive site is now fully self-supporting, with a financial arm streaming a portion of dive tourism proceeds to reef health maintenance, cutting-edge marine science research and education and community programs for local BVI kids.
The whole venture is also planned to be utilized as an educational program for the local children to engage them in learning how to swim and dive, so they could be much closer to the marine environment.
This “fantasy art eco-dive” and ocean conservation site puts the BVIs on the map as having one of the most unique and meaningful dive sites in the world!