BVI Art Reef, a collaborative project comprised of Sir Richard Branson and a global network of philanthropists and artists, salvaged the Kodiak Queen, a decorated WWII ship, from the scrap heap and transformed it into a magnificent underwater art gallery with a giant octopus sculpture sitting on top to encourage the replenishment of marine life, such as coral.
This spectacular project is the result of cooperation of nonprofit Unite B.V.I., artist group Secret Samurai Productions, social justice entrepreneurial group Maverick1000, and ocean education nonprofit Beneath the Waves. It’s taking place in the Caribbean Sea and the person which is mainly responsible for its occurrence is British photographer Owen Buggy.
Structured to promote the growth of transplanted coral, the artificial reef is composed of a WWII fuel barge topped by an elaborate 80-foot mesh kraken. Named the Kodiak Queen, the BVI Art Reef is also open to divers, as well as marine scientists and local students from the British Virgin Islands. The ship, which is one of five that fought at Pearl Habor, was set to be scrapped before photographer Owen Buggy discovered its historical significance and brought this unique idea to Sir Richard Branson, who lives on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.
The entire reef works in harmony with the existing ecosystem, with the sculptural kraken fostering coral growth that will help feed and house local species, such as the over-fished Goliath Grouper. Images from a July dive by photographer Michael Shronk already show signs of life on the reef, as coral grows on the mesh and local fish swim in and out of the giant tentacles.
“The BVI Art Reef gives us a unique platform to capture people’s attention on the importance of addressing ocean conservation and in particular, combat climate change, protect our coral reefs, and rehabilitate vulnerable marine species,” shares Branson. “This is an incredible opportunity to create one of the most meaningful dive sites in the world.”