Sharkplaneos and Swashbucklers
Beyond the Reef finally got the green light with full blessings from the British Virgin Islands government to sink four vessels this month. These will create artificial reefs for marine life and divers to enjoy.
The vessels include three airplanes, christened Sharkplaneos, artfully crafted into metal sharks. The fourth vessel is the old and infamous Willy T pirate party barge, destroyed by hurricane Irma. Instead of discarding these structures, Beyond the Reef is resurrecting them as tourist attractions with purpose.
The intrepid team includes an underwater engineer, an oceanographer, a metal sculptor and an environmental filmmaker. They are passionate about the ocean and dedicated to making a difference. The group is working in tandem with the local BVI community.
It has taken many months to prepare the airplanes. First the planes had to be removed and relocated from the airport. Next, all hazardous materials were removed. The final stage was applying artistic skill and ingenuity to sculpt and paint them into Sharkplaneos.
The Legendary Willy Ts
The original Willy T was stripped down of hazardous materials. Holes were cut in the deck so divers can explore the hull. Underwater welding, patching and pumping out of the boat made the structure safe. Then the artwork was applied. This intensive process took more than a month. The pirate-themed art is designed to be very interactive and educational. It showcases the BVI’s exceptionally rich and somewhat forgotten pirate history.
Fans of the old Willy T will be delighted to know that a new Willy T has launched. The experience remains the same. The painkillers are lethal, people take the death-defying plunge off the upper deck, and the legendary level of mayhem continues undiminished.
Divers planning to explore the Sharkplaneos and Willy T sites are asked to donate $5. The money goes to programs that teach local children to swim. The pledge raises awareness about swim safety and sheds light on the vulnerability of ocean-life.
All of the BVI dive companies have agreed to participate. They will ask for a $5 donation from each diver. Upon diving the wreck sites, a diver is given information on the wreck and the swim initiative. They also get a souvenir sticker to commemorate their dive and donation.
The long-term goal of Beyond the Reef is to set a global example. Great tourist attractions, such as Sharkplaneos and an artful sunken pirate ship, can also serve a great purpose. According to BVI Tourism, less than half of the children living in the British Virgin Islands know how to swim. In response to this, the Beyond the Reef swim initiative aims to have every child swimming in the next 10 years.
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