Kraken Attack: Art Reef Makes Waves in the British Virgin Islands

Kodiak Queen and kraken in their new home--Photo by Owen Buggy

Aye lads, it’s Captain Sparrow’s orders to  dive in and find the Kraken. When you get to the bottom you’ll have a chance to explore a ship wreck in the clutch of the huge creature with tentacles 30 feet long.

No, it’s not a scene from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, but a unique new attraction in the British Virgin Islands. The eco-friendly Art Reef  that just sank to the bottom of the Caribbean is as audacious as its patron: Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group.

It took a ship that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and wrapped it with a graceful 80-foot-long sculpture of a giant octopus. Then the whole art project was deliberately sunk to become what Sir Richard calls an “eco-reef” accessible to scuba divers.

Rob Sorrenti – BVI Art Reef

Awesome video from filmmaker Rob Sorrenti covering the project. This is a teaser to proper documentary that should be released in a month or two!

Posted by BVI Art Reef on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

According to the serial entrepreneur’s blog, the arty wreck, “will be a unique platform for capturing people’s attention on the importance of addressing climate change, protecting coral reefs, and rehabilitating vulnerable marine species.” The plan is that the hull of the ship will be a perfect habitat for sea creatures including grouper, corals, sea sponges turtles, and even sharks.

And while the attraction is near the billionaire’s exclusive Necker Island, he doesn’t expect to make a dime from his support of the project. The reef is open for divers from anywhere to visit.

It was intentionally sunk in a location and at a depth that is accessible to both divers and snorkelers. The top of the kraken is 20 feet below the surface and the visibility of the water is generally so clear that you can see most of the entire ship from the surface.

The ship herself lays on the sandy seabed at 55 feet, an ideal depth for recreational scuba diving, Newly certified open water divers are encouraged to explore just the outside of the ship, leaving penetration for more advanced, experienced divers. There have been several internal routes intentionally created with wide entry and exit points to allow safe entry and exit of the ship.

Kodiak Queen reef in BVI

The Kraken installed on deck of the Kodiak Queen–Photo by Owen Buggy

The project has quite a story.

The Kodiak Queen was a refueling ship stationed in Pearl Harbor and it won a battle star for services in World War Two, later to be rebuilt as a fishing boat in the Caribbean. It was destined for the scrap heap until photographer Owen Buggy, who was working on Necker Island, suggested to Sir Richard that the wreck with its historic significance could have a long-term future as an ecological marine habitat.

That led Branson’s non-profit organization United BVI to form a coalition of philanthropists, engineers, artists and scientists to create an Art Reef. Consultant Chris Juredin and a team of specialists from Commercial Dive Services removed any environmental hazards from the ship in preparation for her new role as a fishy apartment building.

Then a fantastic Giant Kraken was built of steel and mesh by Secret Samurai Productions — a team of artists that seeks to help resolve world problems through art. The body sits on the deck and its tentacles wrap tightly around the sides of the ship.

Sir Richard Branson in BVI

Sir Richard and team bid farewell to the eco-reef–Photo by Owen Buggy

The finished eco- artwork made its way to Davey Jones Locker in April, 2017. Phase 2 of the project aims to encourage coral growth on the Kraken, and add other artworks that to create living spaces that encourage the regeneration of vulnerable species like the endangered goliath grouper.

The location is relatively simple to reach for cruise visitors arriving in Virgin Gorda or Tortola. Dive boat operators, who will charge about $100 for single-tank dives and donate part of the proceeds to a fund for regional causes including marine preservation and social justice programs.

As for you, Captain Jack Sparrow, we’ll deal with you when we get back to the surface.

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About Wallace Immen

Wallace Immen is Executive Editor of The Cruisington Times, the Best in Cruising, Travel, Food and Fun. He's sailed on all of the world's seas to ports in over 100 countries and travelled on every continent. Contact: Website | Twitter | More Posts

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