BVI’S newest wreck witnessed an infamous, historic event before taking on a new life
One of only five surviving ships from the attack on Pearl Harbor, YO- 44 was not in line to be converted to a museum or studied for history-book fodder. Instead, the former Navy fuel barge was wasting away in a Tortola shipyard, waiting to be scrapped for metal.
That was before a forward-thinking group found it. Now, the 158-foot vessel has been repurposed as an eye-catching artificial reef, complete with a massive kraken-like sculpture — made of mesh and rebar, with 80-foot tentacles — guarding its deck. The wreck, to be sunk at 65 feet in a site south of Virgin Gorda’s Mountain Point in the British Virgin Islands, was scheduled to be scuttled in April. Coral restoration, goliath grouper rehabilitation and conservation education are among the project’s goals. It’s a joint effort between several groups that traces its origin to a think-tank challenge on Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
“This project provides an exciting opportunity to capture people’s attention and then to refocus it on important issues facing our oceans,” says Branson. “Perhaps most important, this project will hopefully excite our youth here in the BVI to put a mask on and to explore the magic of our underwater world and be inspired to spend their adult years advocating for how important it is to protect our reefs.”