Core Initiatives

  • Ocean Conservation and Marine Life Rehabilitation
  • Crowd-Driven Art and Inspiration
  • Honoring World History
  • Advancing Marine Sciences
  • Ocean Education for Local Kids
  • Boost Local Economy & Empower Local Culture
  • Financially Self-Sustaining

The Transcendence Of The YO-44

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.

Project Phases

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.

Phase 1: BUILD
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)

Phase 2: IMPACT
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.

Timeline: April 2017 - 2018
Donor Dive Celebration Party - April 2017

Phase 3: LEGACY
The "Maverick Art Park" 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.


The Story

Owen Buggy noticed the Kodiak Queen in Road Town, Tortola amongst other ships awaiting being scrapped for metal. Owen envisioned sinking the ship as an artificial reef and started doing some research. He quickly discovered the Kodiak Queen wasn't a normal fishing trawler but instead a piece of World War II history.

Mike Cochran, a historian, had previously stumbled across the ship in 2012 when sailing the BVIs. Mike's interest in historical artifacts led him to put together a webpage dedicated to the history of the ship, one of only a few that survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941 and to make a call-out to the world to preserve this piece of history. Mike assembled a information he could find in hopes someone, like Owen, would stumble across the website and be inspired.

That inspiration happened.

After finding Mike's website Owen put together an initial document to present to his employer, Sir Richard Branson, on how impactful something like this could be. Owen quickly found help from Lauren Keil, who was just starting a new foundation with Richard called Unite BVI, whose intention it is to create more localized impact.

Lauren and Owen collaborated and recruited the help of Chris Juredin, founder of Commercial Dive Services to determine what all would be required to pull off such a project. Chris's extensive marine experience helped craft the budget and how to approach the challenge of preparing a ship to be sunk as an artificial reef. Lauren dove into preparing a complete presentation on the project idea that included citations of underwater art sculptures, fish species impact, and local recreation dive impact.

In April 2016, Maverick 1000, an entrepreneurial adventure group came down to the BVIs for their annual Necker Island trip to spend time with Sir Richard. At one of the "give back" think tank sessions with the group, Lauren presented a handful of challenges Unite BVI was trying to address in the BVIs, including saving a derelict ship, rehabilitating vulnerable marine life, and supporting much needed swim education programs for BVI youth... and gave the group a 20 minute working session challenge.

The Challenge:

In groups of 5-6 people, create a sustainable idea from the creation the artificial reef. In other words, what is the best way to do this and should it be done? The core challenges to be addressed included:

  • Financial sustainability
  • Long-term Environmental Impact
  • Educational & Community Impact
  • How do we solve this in an AMAZING way?

The Prize: You will become a resident of Necker Island.

Most all entrepreneurial groups love these types of challenges. In fact it's the mental exercise of these types of challenges that fulfill the hearts and minds of an entrepreneurs.

A quote from 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

In attendance were two individuals with a hunger and passion for their next art project. Mike Cline and Aydika James had been on a four year journey working on a art concept called "Engagement Art". Art that gets strangers to play together, to connect, to become acquaintances, to become friends, to not mindlessly walk by others on the street by to stop and take notice of something in an togetherness.

They saw Lauren's presentation as an opportunity for their next big art-impact project.

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. In doing so, Mike and Aydika stepped into driving the project from their bigger vision alongside Owen, Lauren and Chris.

And this is where the story really gets started...

 Did anyone become a resident of Necker as the challenge prize?
It turned out that everyone won the prize that day. A new hatching of turtles were named after each person in attendance.