An underwater art gallery amidst the beautiful blue water of Virgin Gorda.
A historical World War II ship converted to an artificial reef and art canvas.
A WWII warship could mobilize a global network of researchers, philanthropists and artists... to solve marine health problems through the Power of Play?
“This ship will quickly become a premier dive site, perhaps even rivaling the Rhone as an internationally recognized attraction.”
— Clive Petrovic, ARK Founding Member, Marine Biologist & Environmental Consultant
Saving a decorated WWII ship from destruction, and transforming her into a living symbol of rebirth and regeneration, to honor those who gave their lives in the name of a better world.
Coral out-planting and thoughtful engineering kick-start a thriving new reef habitat, to alleviate pressure from over-trafficked dive sites while providing a controlled "eDNA" research platform for new discoveries on the impacts of artificial reefs.
A "must see" underwater art gallery designed to become a thriving coral reef and optimal rehabilitation site for endangered marine life populations.
The way to make an impact and long-term change is to do something amazing, jaw dropping, stunning... and of course: BIG.
Swim, dive and ocean education programs for BVI youth, to empower our young stewards of these pristine islands into a bright and prosperous future.
A world class eco-adventure dive site that solves reef health challenges through fun, creative methods that unite communities and add economic horsepower for generations to come.
World History, Art, Ocean Conservation, Science, Education... and Play!
The historical relevance of the ship, the human interest elements of underwater sculptures, the opportunity to stimulate the local economy through the promotion of a new recreational dive site, the scientific study opportunities of an artificial reef with the primary objectives of protecting vulnerable species such as the Goliath Grouper, helping to eradicate introduced species such as lionfish to help protect our endemic species of local fish, coral restoration, recording the evolution of increased biodiversity as the ship develops it's very own ecosystem, and engaging with local schools and universities to create an educational platform on a local level...
These are some of the aspects that make up the vision of this project and what has driven us forward.
This is the story of learning from past lessons and coming together to create something greater; rooted in joy and fueled by the power of play.
This is the story of a group of friends from around the world who fell in love with the BVIs...
And turned a weapon of war into a platform for unity— and a catalyst for new growth.
This charitable kick-off project in the British Virgin Islands combines art, ocean conservation, world history, marine science and economy...
To solve a series of challenges in the BVIs by asking:
How can we use play and collaboration to install permanent solutions that boost the local economy, secure the prosperity of these pristine islands for generations to come?
Build a "fantasy art eco-dive" and ocean conservation site that puts the BVIs on the map for having one of the most unique and meaningful dive sites in the world...
...And one of the most forward-thinking approaches to creative problem solving that secures the education of its youth and the health and prosperity of this island nation.
This is about shifting the direction of one of the world's most beautiful island nations at a critical time of growth, by inviting the world to recognize its beauty in environmentally sustainable ways...
And inviting its youth into the ocean to play, so they can become powerful stewards who guide these islands to prosperity for generations to come.
und the world to fall in love with our oceans, come visit the beautiful BVIs, dive this incredible site and/or support the programs around this project to inspire and empower the next generation of young ocean stewards in the BVIs, through youth swim, snorkel and dive programs as well as projects helping rebuild this island nation after Hurricane Irma.
Thanks for your passion for our beautiful oceans— and for understanding how important they are to ALL of our survival.
Come dive with us this year!
We rallied a collaborative team of artists, engineers, scientists and donors to save a decorated WW2 ship from being scrapped for metal— suspected to be one of only 5 ships who survived Pearl Harbor— and transformed her into thriving artificial reef and “fantasy adventure dive site”...
...To rehabilitate heavily over-fished marine populations in ways that boost income for local dive operators and the BVI economy...
… Using breathtaking art sculptures as coral out-planting platforms to kick-start a thriving reef ecosystem...
… That provides a controlled platform for cutting-edge "e-DNA" marine science research, as well as swim and marine stewardship programs for local BVI kids.
If you’re a diver, we promise:
This will be one THE most memorable reefs you’ll ever experience.
The ship was sunk April 2017. It has been available to dive since June 2017.
Yes, Commercial Dive Services put a great deal of time into cleaning the ship, including removing some engines and a lot of loose debris.
Yes, we worked with an environmental engineering and the local government in the BVIs to ensure the area chosen would be ideally suited for the project and not contribute negatively to the environment.
Our recommendation is to contact any of the local dive operators in the BVIs for the most up to date information on this site. The goal of this project is to continue to add sculptures so you never know what you might find or what might be happening.
Additionally the local dive operators collect a small donation when you dive the site. This helps funds coral outplanting, a local swim education program, the environmental DNA studies and maintenance for the site. If you dive the site on your own PLEASE consider donating $10 per diver to the Unite BVI to help with the initiatives using the link at the bottom of the site.
The Kodiak Queen still sits about 60’ at her deepest, with her highest point about 15 - 17’ below the surface.
You'll see smaller corals growing on already growing on their own, plus countless schools of fish who have made the Kodiak Queen their home. Big schools of large snapper, blue runners, small juveniles, dolphins, sea turtles... and NO lion fish of late, which is fantastic! Locals have even mentioned needing to bring their identification book each time, as they keep spotting new types of fish they've never seen! Locals also report that there’s been a school of dolphins living in the BVIs since the storms... perhaps they came as kind guardians to oversee the regrowth. 😉
Impressively, the Kraken sculpture and Kodiak Queen both survived two massive hurricanes without serious damage. It was only after an ongoing battery of massive swells, one of the biggest series of swell events in the history of the BVIs, that the sculpture finally gave in. The swells shifted the entire ship 30 feet in position, damaging the "head" of the Kraken, originally intended to be a hiding and mating area for Goliath Grouper. At present the tentacles are still poking up and around off the ship— not quite the sculpture originally intended, but looking pretty wild nonetheless. Happily, the interior chambers of the ship are still in tact and awesome to dive!
The dive site is off Virgin Gorda and open to anyone to dive. However for the best experience and to get the full story, we recommend arranging your dive through Dive BVI, Sail Caribbean Divers, or Sunchaser Scuba.
Our firm philosophy with Secret Samurai is that every challenge presents new opportunities. And while it looks like the Kraken is now a different part of the ship's epic story than originally planned, she is down there, teeming with life, protecting the area from fishing... and providing us and other researchers a great platform to gather key data on how to create the most invincible (and ideally repeatable) artificial reefs from here forward.
Once the ship is sunk and the reef has been activated with coral grafting, the plan is to shift to a self-sustaining “legacy” model to sustain this ocean conservation, play and research site through generations, with commercial dive proceeds supporting reef health maintenance as well as education programs for kids.
By saving a decorated WW2 ship from demolition— one of only 5 ships who survived Pearl Harbor— and transforming her into thriving artificial reef and “fantasy adventure dive” that gives back to local economy and marine sciences, this project has something for everyone. If you’re a diver, this is going to be one the THE most unique and exciting dive sites you’ll ever experience.
Maritime Ceremony - February 25th, 2017
Ship Sink & Celebration - Approx. February 28, 2017 (Weather pending)
Once the ship is sunk, all Art Reef Founding Donors, cause partners and members of the collaborative teams will come together for a celebration to honor everyone who contributed… and kick off the coral grafting, “e-DNA” marine science research, further art installations, and swim education programs for local BVI kids. At this point, we shift from the Phase 1 funded model to the Phase 2 “self-sustaining” legacy model.
April 2017 - 2018
Donor Dive Celebration Party - April 2017
The Kodiak Queen reef and eco-dive site is now fully self-supporting, with a financial engine 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.
“In 1967 her registry was still US documented. She was converted to an Alaska king crab vessel and salmon tender and worked out of Kodiak, Alaska.
There are those of us who remember the Kodiak Queen in her glory days of crab fishing in Alaska. My brother, Dave Tippett, sailed on her as chief Engineer in the early 70s when Jack Johnson was running her and fishing King Crab out of Kodiak, Alaska. She was truly the Queen of the fleet.
She was one of the largest crab vessels at that time. As a converted WWII vessel she was over 30 years old then but she was well maintained and a safe vessel. She fished and tendered in Alaska till the early 2,000s when she was taken out of the fishery in what was called the “crab buyback program.” As a condition of the buyback program she could no longer fish anywhere in the world, so she was sold into what would appear to have been a not so glorious life for the last 10 years.
It is very fitting for her to have an afterlife in the warm waters of the Caribbean and to become a habitat for the fish. Much better than being melted down and becoming a toaster. She was truly one of a kind.”
— Ken Tippett
One day, a young marine mechanic and photographer named Owen Buggy noticed a ship called the "Kodiak Queen" in a shipyard in Road Town, Tortola... rusting away amongst other ships waiting being scrapped for metal. Owen envisioned sinking the ship as an artificial reef and curious about the ship's origins, started doing some research. He quickly discovered the Kodiak Queen wasn't just a normal fishing trawler— but a missing piece of World War II history.
Owen's online research led him to a historian named Mike Cochran, who had previously stumbled across the ship in 2012 when sailing the BVIs. Cochran had created a page dedicated to the history of the Kodiak Queen— originally called the YO-44, suspected to be one of only five ships that survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. Cochran had posted the page as a call-out to the world, hoping this information could someday help preserve this piece of history.
In 2016, that dream came true.
After discovering the true history of this ship in Tortola, Owen made a plea to his employer, Sir Richard Branson, to help save the ship and sink it as an artificial reef. Sir Branson was receptive, but the question was: How to raise the funds... And what would make this meaningful enough to pull off?
Enter Lauren Keil, a bright young lady who had just launched a new foundation with Richard called Unite BVI, a social and environmental advocacy organization to boost localized impact in the islands.
When Lauren found out about this ship, she dove into preparing a complete presentation for visiting entrepreneurs, inviting people to help come up with sustainable solutions for a handful of issues in the BVIs, including the saving of this historic ship.
In April 2016, a group of friends from an entrepreneurial impact group called Maverick1000 came to visit the BVIs and spend time with Sir Richard Branson, for their annual weeklong Necker Island trip. Mid-week, during one of the "IMPACT" think tank sessions with the group, Lauren shared her presentation with these heart-driven entrepreneurs which included a challenge to help save this historic ship, rehabilitating vulnerable marine life, and supporting much needed swim education programs for BVI youth.
Her presentation ended with a 20 minute working session challenge:
In groups of 5-6 people, come up a sustainable plan to help solve all the above issues, either via one program or combined. The core criteria to be addressed included:
A quote from Sir Richard on that day was.
"Don't think what's the cheapest way to do it or what's the fastest way to do it... think, "What's the most AMAZING way to do it?"
- Sir Richard Branson
While most entrepreneurial groups love these types of challenges, the heart-driven Mavericks may love them the most. In fact, it is creating "thought playgrounds" around meaningful issues such as these that fulfills the hearts and minds of an entrepreneurs.
In attendance was a couple with a hunger and passion for their next "impact" project. Mike Cline and Aydika James with Secret Samurai Productions had been on a four year journey into an impact and storytelling based art from they call "Engagement Art". Or in other words, art that inspires people to think differently about themselves and the world around them... driven by the Power of Play.
In Lauren's presentation, they envisioned a combined solution to all issues presented, by creating a large-scale epic "Art Reef" with the Kodiak Queen, designed specifically as a marine rehabilitation site that could also help boost the local dive economy, fund youth programs, and provide a platform for controlled marine science.
Mike and Aydika's group won the challenge by group vote and, on the spot, raised 50% of the total funds needed to complete the project from the Maverick group.
Excited at this quick turn of events, Lauren and Owen recruited the help of Chris Juredin, founder of Commercial Dive Services, and these five founding members had their first meeting the very next day, to scout potential sink sites and determine what would be required to pull off such a project.
Chris's extensive marine experience helped generate an initial budget and environmental protocol around how to approach the challenge of preparing a ship to be sunk as an artificial reef.
Clasping their sketches of a large-scale, fantasy like "Art Reef" and rough diagrams of roll-out plans, Mike and Aydika committed to raising the remaining funds needed and producing the project to fruition, alongside Owen, Lauren and Chris.
And this is where the story really gets started...
What if we could use cutting-edge technology to monitor the recovery of threatened marine species in an efficient, standardized and non-invasive fashion?
Beneath the Waves, a 501(c)(3) charity, has partnered with the BVI Art Reef to conduct the first of its kind assessment of shark and other marine life population recovery using artificial reefs and "environmental DNA," or eDNA.
Environmental DNA, or eDNA, refers to DNA gathered from a variety of natural surroundings, including seawater, soil and air.
In contrast to DNA samples taken from an individual organism, eDNA lacks obvious signs of the biological source material -- making it an efficient, straightforward, non-invasive, and standardized approach to monitor habitats.
Using cost-efficient DNA sequencing technology, researchers can detect the presence, absence and relative abundance of organisms in a given area. When studying threatened species whose monitoring is challenging and expensive, eDNA offers tremendous value.
eDNA has short degradation times in contemporary ecosystems, meaning that the detection of candidate species offers a short-term signal for species’ presence.
eDNA is well-suited for monitoring sharks and other large predators (i.e. grouper) on the BVI Artificial Reef program because we can noninvasively test whether the artificial reef serves as a recruitment beacon over time.
eDNA enables researchers to establish a standardized sampling protocol (i.e. monthly), including samples taken before the sinking and from a nearby 'control' site, to track changes in the fish community.
Because eDNA requires little additional scientific training compared to other methods, it's far easier to sustain field data collection over the long term.
Considering these advantages, it's no wonder that researchers are increasingly testing eDNA approaches to monitoring marine populations like whale sharks, sawfish and more.
Co-Founder & Producing Partner
Unite BVI Foundation Manager
Co-Founder & Lead Sinking Consultant
Ship Cleanup, Sinking & BVI Liaison
(This man made the impossible possible.)
Discovered the Ship in Tortola
Photographer, Marine Mechanic
Owen's Life - In A Nutshell
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