A group of artists working under the name Secret Samurai Productions have installed a massive mesh octopus on top of a defunct Pearl Harbor ship only to push the large barge into the deep ocean waters of British Virgin Islands – all in the name of coral reef research. Now at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Virgin Gorda, Project YOKO is the world’s largest underwater art installation and marine life habitat, and it will raise funds for research into the ongoing destruction of the area’s coral reefs.
The hollow rebar and mesh sea monster with 80-foot tentacles holding court at the bow of the Kodiak Queen was actually the last step of the ship’s reformation. The team of artists spent months cleaning the boat and transforming its chambers into an interactive art installation that will be explored by divers from around the world.
In addition to the artists’ efforts, the project counted on support from various members of Maverick1000, a group of entrepreneurs who meet annually on Sir Richard Branson’s famed Necker Island. At the 2016 meeting, the founding manager for the nonprofit Unite BVI, Lauren Keil, gave a presentation on the challenges of the BVI community, focusing mainly on the problems caused by global warming and overfishing and their undeniable impact on the health of the area’s beloved coral reefs.
During the presentation, Keil also mentioned the Kodiak Queen, a WWII fuel barge that had been discovered in a local junkyard. After Keil’s speech, Aydika James, art director of Secret Samurai Productions had the idea to use the historic ship as a way to bring attention to the growing issues facing the BVI waters. With collaboration from fellow members and Branson himself, the idea for the YOKO BVI Art Reef was born.
Thanks to funding from local supporters, the ship was soon being transformed into an artificial dive site that would serve as beacon of hope for the region’s disappearing coral reef populations. The artists and dive specialists worked together to create an interactive diving experience,taking divers through the ship’s many chambers.
To convert the installation into a research center as well as diving site, the nonprofit organization, Beneath the Waves, was called in to install an emerging technology called environmental DNA that will be used to collect data on the entire marine ecosystem surrounding the sunken ship. And the giant octopus? Well, it’s more than just a fun sculpture; it actually plays a vital role in the project. Its body and tentacles were designed to form a protected habitat for the repopulation of grouper. The dwindling grouper population is a major cause of coral damage considering the large fish help form an ecosystem in BVI waters, which is essential to the health of the coral reefs.
After a long process of fund raising and transforming the boat, Project YOKO is slated to open to divers at a cost of $10 donation. All funds will go towards research into local marine health as well as a program promoting swim education for children.
Via Fast Company