The Build Begins!

BVI Art Reef HQ
Eden, Utah

With just two weeks before we fly our art team into Virgin Gorda to begin the massive “Kraken” sculpture build... before sink this 158-foot long WW2 ship next month— things are getting hot and heavy.

From work permits to fundraising, to questions like, “How much does an 80-foot long steel tentacle weigh?”… there are are TON of details to cover. When things get overwhelming, I close my eyes and go back to my mantra: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Happily, we have an incredible team between our US-based artists and our BVI-based production team, and every day brings more good news of confirmed resources, plans and partnerships.

And, suffice to say we’re just a “little” delighted to see how tickled Richard Branson is about this project and eager to join the fun. Who would’t want to have and having a “sunken art gallery” in their backyard?

For those of you who don’t know…

What is the “Art Reef BVI"?

Project “YOKO Art Reef BVI” stemmed from a vision founded during our annual week on Necker Island last spring with the Maverick1000 group... which throughout 2016 flourished into a large-scale artificial reef plan that combines world history, ocean conservation, philanthropy, cutting-edge marine science, local economic and educational impact, and most of all: PLAY!

This project is about coming up with creative solutions to rehabilitate heavily over-fished marine life... in ways that benefit the local community, vs prohibiting BVI fisherman and causing more friction in an already delicate cultural relationship.

In the long-term, the Grand Plan is to create the foundation for a crowd-driven platform that solves a series of problems that divide humanity and nature… with sustainable win-win solutions that unite us.

Huge thanks to our cause partners in this project, including Sir Richard Branson, Unite BVI, Association of Reef Keepers, and Beneath the Waves and the Maverick IMPACT Fund!

  • 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 have ever experienced.
  • Phase 2: IMPACT
    Once the ship is sunk (late February), we’ll throw a grand Dive Celebration Party with Richard Branson in April to honor everyone who contributed… and begin the coral grafting, “e-DNA” marine science research, further art installations, and swim education programs for local BVI kids (75% of whom don’t know how to swim!). At this point, we shift from the Phase 1 funded model to the Phase 2 “self-sustaining” legacy model.
  • Phase 3: LEGACY
    The art reef marine park 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 university involvement, local kids education and community programs.

What’s the Latest?

1) It's official... Welcome to the Maverick Marine Park
While the project is called the “YOKO BVI Art Reef” (see website for the story behind “YOKO”), we’re officially re-naming this war vessel ship back to her original name when she served—and saved lives— in Pearl Harbor: Thus, once sunk she will forever rest as the "YO-44."
Click here for some cool history about this ship's life.)

As for the dive site itself… we're officially going on the world map as the “Maverick Marine Park.”

2) “e-DNA Research” Studies in the works!

We have some exciting cutting-edge "e-DNA Research" plans in the works, with a team of marine scientists led by our cause partner, Dr. Austin Gallagher with Beneath the Waves ( Miami-based Gallagher sure has the Maverick DNA, and laughs about “bringing the sexy back to marine science.”

What’s e-DNA research?

“eDNA has been touted as a means for revolutionizing the field of conservation biology, specifically for threatened species where their monitoring is challenging and expensive…[it] is well-suited for monitoring sharks and other large predators (grouper) on the BVI Art Reef program, because we can non-invasively test whether the artificial reef serves as a recruitment beacon over time by examining the very building blocks of life - DNA.

This first-of-its kind project is also valuable since it is relatively low cost, requires little additional scientific training to sustain field data collection, and is a cool and appealing technique.”

Initial e-DNA Project Goals on the Maverick Marine Park:

(1) To test whether the artificial reef attracts and restores populations of threatened marine predators over time using eDNA from seawater samples, and if so how long does this process take?

(2) To establish an ongoing community-based research program that activates local kids and dive-stops to help collect water samples from the reef.

3) The Ship is Clean & Ready for the (BIG!) Art Installation
Ship cleanup and dive-through prep has gone swimmingly (mwa ha ha)— and after breezing through initial environmental audits, we now have tremendous support from the local marine scientists who are applauding the care and detail with which we’re planning this reef.Clive Petrovic, ARK founder, Marine Biologist & Environmental Consultant recently told us in an email:

"This project breaks new ground here in the BVI... In my years in the Territory, this is the first time a proposed ship sinking has undergone such a detailed planning process….  I have no doubt this will be a successful undertaking that will set the standards and will be used as a guide for all future artificial reef projects in the BVI."

4) Release the Kraken!

Holy cow has this sucker been a beast to plan... and we're preparing for the big build. Check out these images of the sculpt maquette for the massive "Kraken" sculpture we're building onto the ship. This will be one of the largest coral grafting platforms, and includes cool "tentacle diver attack photo opps”, dive-through experiences into the original ship mess hall… and into the head of the kraken itself.... which we’ve designed as optimal place for scuba divers to play and endangered marine life like the Goliath Grouper to hide and feed.

The actual sculpt will be rebar and mesh for coral grafting, and we're looking to use locally source recycled glass for the eyes, plus a bunch of other fun "easter egg" designs all through the dive site.

5) The big build begins this month
On January 20th, we fly our team (and ourselves) into the BVIs to begin this build, which we anticipate to take 28 long, hot days… and then, we sink this baby.

Want to Be Part of This Vision? Donate Now!

Total raised to date: $110,000
Funds needed to complete Phase 1: $80,000

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 site through generations, with commercial dive proceeds supporting reef health maintenance as well as education programs for kids.

However creating this reef and laying a self-sustaining foundation requires a tremendous amount of time and resources.

To date, we’ve now raised $110K (thank you contributing Maverick rock stars!), which has enabled us to purchase the ship, harbor her in Tortola, clean her up and prepare the dive-throughs to make her 100% environmentally sound and safe for divers and marine life.

Now, we’re seeking to raise another $80K in charitable donations to complete Phase 1 as follows:  

  • $60K for the large-scale “Kraken” art build. This is the main coral grafting platform to set the artificial reef in motion (and diver hearts a-flutter!)
  • $20K for the e-DNA research program installation, to become part of the self-funded engine in Phase 2.
    $80K = Total Donations Needed


Get Involved!

“This ship will quickly become a premier dive site, perhaps even rivaling the Rhone as an internationally recognized attraction.”

Clive Petrovic, ARK Founding Member, Marine Biologist & Environmental Consultant


Join the Party... Donate Now!

Email us today to become a founding visionary of the Maverick Marine Park with a charitable donation at:

Where does your tax deductible donation go?
U.S. Donations will go through Beneath The Waves, our cause partner and U.S. based NPO. Beneath the Waves has 501 (C) 3 registration for tax exemption status, an incentive for US Donors. Your funds will in turn be made available to our BVI-based cause partner ARK, as and when required.

Whether you were with us on Necker on not, thanks for being a part of the magic that made this possible, simply by having the Maverick DNA.

Cheers to solving global problems through the Power of Play…

Aydika & The Art Reef BVI Team


6 thoughts on “The Build Begins!”

  1. British Virgin Islanders point proudly to the fact that the majority of BVI land remains in British Virgin Islanders’ hands, and British Virgin Islanders attribute their independent character and strong economy to this fact.

  2. Technically the name of the Territory is simply the “Virgin Islands”, but in practice since 1917 they have been almost universally referred to as the “British Virgin Islands” to distinguish the islands from the American Territory.

  3. This is symbolized by the coat of arms that appears on the BVI flag and on many official publications that depict Saint Ursula framed by eleven oil lamps, which represent the eleven thousand virgins after whom the BVI were named.

  4. H. Lavity Stoutt Community College has instituted a program of Virgin Islands studies to encourage and develop local art forms, as well as to revive traditional BVI crafts such as strawwork, boat-building, and iron work.

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