Sinking a WWII ship to create an underwater art reef

Can a World War II ship mobilise a global network of researchers, philanthropists, engineers, entrepreneurs and artists, helping to solve marine health issues while creating a world-class dive site? Yes! Introducing our new project in the British Virgin Islands to create an underwater ARTificial reef.

We are planning to sink the former USS YO-44, a ship that served - and saved lives - in Pearl Harbor during WWII. This historic vessel was primed to be scrapped for metal before Owen Buggy, former marine mechanic and photographer on Necker Island, identified it and the team dreamed up this project. The ship will form the centrepiece of a unique new dive site called The Maverick BVI Art Reef. 

It will include a large scale art sculpture of an 80-foot Kraken. This will double as a human interest feature for divers and a coral out-planting platform, which will kick-start a thriving reef ecosystem through innovative and effective coral restoration techniques. I’m sure it will be one of the most unique dive sites in the world.

The project will also help to rehabilitate heavily over-fished marine populations; a special focus will be on bringing back vulnerable species of Grouper, such as the Goliath Grouper. Like us, the BVI Tourist Board is confident this new dive site will boost the local economy by putting the BVI on the world map as a top dive destination. What’s more, the project is supporting cutting edge scientific research called eDNA (environmental DNA) facilitated by NPO partners Beneath the Waves, as well as swim programs and providing ocean conservation platforms for inspiring our next generation of ocean stewards.

Unite BVI, our not-for-profit foundation in the British Virgin Islands, have partnered with Secret Samurai ProductionsBeneath the Waves, Commercial Dive Services and Association of Reef Keepers, along with entrepreneurial adventure group Maverick1000, to get the project off the ground and under the ocean. It came out of a brainstorm on Necker Island to create a sustainable idea from the creation of the artificial reef. I told the group: “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?”

This charitable project combines art, ocean conservation, world history, marine science, economy, education and – most importantly - play. I’ve always found I learn best when I’m playing. This reef will allow people to experience the wonder of the ocean and its species up close, while having the time of their lives. That way, what they learn will stay with them and affect them deeply, and hopefully turn into more action to conserve the ocean.

I’m confident the BVI Art Reef will be among the most unique and meaningful dive sites in the world and, in turn, will help to inspire future ocean conservationists in my own backyard. Head over to to get involved and find out more, and look out for all the action from the sinking coming soon.


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