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

One day, a young marine mechanic and photographer named Owen Buggy noticed a ship called the "Kodiak Queen" in a shipyard in Road Town, Tortola... rusting away amongst other ships waiting being scrapped for metal. Owen envisioned sinking the ship as an artificial reef and curious about the ship's origins, started doing some research. He quickly discovered the Kodiak Queen wasn't just a normal fishing trawler— but a missing piece of World War II history.

Owen's online research led him to a historian named Mike Cochran, who had previously stumbled across the ship in 2012 when sailing the BVIs. Cochran had created a page dedicated to the history of the Kodiak Queen— originally called the YO-44, suspected to be one of only five ships that survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. Cochran had posted the page as a call-out to the world, hoping this information could someday help preserve this piece of history.

In 2016, that dream came true.

After discovering the true history of this ship in Tortola, Owen made a plea to his employer, Sir Richard Branson, to help save the ship and sink it as an artificial reef. Sir Branson was receptive, but the question was: How to raise the funds... And what would make this meaningful enough to pull off?

Enter Lauren Keil, a bright young lady who had just launched a new foundation with Richard called Unite BVI, a social and environmental advocacy organization to boost localized impact in the islands.

When Lauren found out about this ship, she dove into preparing a complete presentation for visiting entrepreneurs, inviting people to help come up with sustainable solutions for a handful of issues in the BVIs, including the saving of this historic ship.

In April 2016, a group of friends from an entrepreneurial impact group called Maverick1000 came to visit the BVIs and spend time with Sir Richard Branson, for their annual weeklong Necker Island trip. Mid-week, during one of the "IMPACT" think tank sessions with the group, Lauren shared her presentation with these heart-driven entrepreneurs which included a challenge to help save this historic ship, rehabilitating vulnerable marine life, and supporting much needed swim education programs for BVI youth.

Her presentation ended with a 20 minute working session challenge:

In groups of 5-6 people, come up a sustainable plan to help solve all the above issues, either via one program or combined. The core criteria to be addressed included:

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

A quote from Sir 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

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

While most entrepreneurial groups love these types of challenges, the heart-driven Mavericks may love them the most.  In fact, it is creating "thought playgrounds" around meaningful issues such as these that fulfills the hearts and minds of an entrepreneurs.

In attendance was a couple with a hunger and passion for their next "impact" project. Mike Cline and Aydika James with Secret Samurai Productions had been on a four year journey into an impact and storytelling based art from they call "Engagement Art".  Or in other words, art that inspires people to think differently about themselves and the world around them... driven by the Power of Play.

In Lauren's presentation, they envisioned a combined solution to all issues presented, by creating a large-scale epic "Art Reef" with the Kodiak Queen, designed specifically as a marine rehabilitation site that could also help boost the local dive economy, fund youth programs, and provide a platform for controlled marine science.

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.

Excited at this quick turn of events, Lauren and Owen recruited the help of Chris Juredin, founder of Commercial Dive Services, and these five founding members had their first meeting the very next day, to scout potential sink sites and determine what would be required to pull off such a project. Chris's extensive marine experience helped generate an initial budget and environmental protocol around how to approach the challenge of preparing a ship to be sunk as an artificial reef.

Clasping their sketches of a large-scale, fantasy like "Art Reef" and rough diagrams of roll-out plans, Mike and Aydika committed to raising the remaining funds needed and producing the project to fruition, alongside Owen, Lauren and Chris.

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

(Did anyone actually become a resident of Necker Island as the challenge prize winners? Well, it turned out that everyone won the prize that day.

A new hatching of turtles was born that week, and named after each person in attendance!)