Phuket’s Coral Reef Squadron 90% Destroyed

Posted on 09/09/09 1 Comment

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When the CMAS-backed Thailand Diving Association came up with the idea last year to sink a bunch of aluminum airplanes and helicopters, the near universal non-TDA opinion was it was a pretty stupid idea. Not only would the corrents in Bang Tao Bay play havoc with the site, but metal itself would quickly deterioriate before coral for the artificial reef could take root.

Turns out they were right. The TDA now admits the “Coral Reef Squadron” is 90 percent destroyed by fishing trawlers and currents.

According to the Phuket Gazette,

Rainer Gottwald, head of the Thai Dive Association (TDA) technical committee, said TDA divers visited the site on Wednesday and were only able to find one of the 10 aircraft that formed the artificial reef.

Storms and heavy monsoon season currents were to blame, Mr Gottwald said.

Failure to follow instructions by some members of the team who chained the aircraft to large concrete blocks, and subsequent damage by trawlers,may also have played a role, he said.

The destruction of the site was ‘very upsetting’, given all the work and expense put into the project by the TDA and the numerous other agencies and organizations involved, he said.

coral-reef-1To the TDA, the Squadron was a bold idea to offer alternative diving that would have relieved some of the pressure on the region’s natural reefs. Gottwald told Phuket Wan that it was “working well.”

”We had reports of sharks and manta rays around it. The site was being used by divers every day and thousands of divers went to see it,” he told the newspaper.

Funny, though, he and the CMAS group are now talking about doing what was already done in Pattaya: Sinking stell-hull ships.

”The best material is steel,” Mr Gottwald said. ”The aluminium of the planes and the helicopters was quickly damaged by trawler nets, anchors and winches.”

Train carriages are another alternative, although globally, shipwrecks have been the most successful attractor of both fish and tourists.

The Coral Reef Squadron consisted of four Douglas C-47 Dakota Skytrain military transport aircraft and six Sikorsky S-58T helicopters. TDA divers were only able to find one Dakota during a dive in late August that followed a series of heavy storms.

Gottwald scoffed at the idea currents carried the planes away, saying they were probably just buried by sand.

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