Vehicles Wrecked by Hurricane Irma Sunk as Artifical Reef

bvi willy t captain title

One of Captain Jack Sparrow's friends busy plotting the Willy T's next adventure (Photo: Beyond the Reef)

Beyond the Reef, a not-for-profit organisation in the British Virgin Islands, has sunk three disused light aircraft and a small barge as part of a project to create an artificial reef to drive both wildlife and tourism to the region.

The three aircraft and the famous Willy T floating bar were wrecked during hurricane Irma in 2017, which caused severe and extensive damage throughout the Caribbean. The British Virgin Islands, an archipelago of approximately 60 small islands and cays, were particularly badly hit, with many roads and buildings, homes and livelihoods destroyed.

bvi artificial reef willy t

The repurposed Willy T pirate ship just prior to sinking and (inset) the wreckage of the floating bar (Photo: Beyond the Reef)

bvi shark plane

The three light aircraft have been turned into a hammerhead, bull and blacktip reef shark (Photo: Beyond the Reef)

Rather than let the wrecked vehicles go to waste, the members of Beyond the Reef – which includes underwater engineers and a metal sculptor – spent several months carefully stripping the vehicles of hazardous waste materials, before transforming the three aircraft into shark sculptures, and the Willy T into a pirate ship. Large holes were cut into the bodies of the aircraft to allow for penetration by divers. 

It is hoped that the artistic artificial reef will have a positive impact on both locals and visitors by generating increased tourism in the area and creating revenue for the local community, who fully supported the project. Along with the increased revendive operators will ask visitors for a $5 donation which will be given to a charitable initiative teaching local children how to swim. Less than one-third of local children know how to swim, but Beyond the Reef 'hopes to have every child swimming within the next ten years.'

bvi willy t crew

The Willy T's crew are handy sailors but could use a bite to eat (Photo: Beyond the Reef)

'We believe that these artificial reefs, created from abandoned wreckages by an inspiring and passionate group of individuals will become a valuable tourism asset for the Territory and bring a fresh new look to our dive product,' said Rhodni A. Skelton, Deputy Director of Tourism in the BVI. 'I am ecstatic about the chosen charitable cause to which funds generated by the project will be directed, that of teaching BVI children to swim,' he said. 'This is not only an important skill for living in the British Virgin Islands but a foundational skill for any number of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities in the marine sector.'

The British Virgin Islands are renowned for their excellent sailing conditions as well as the local scuba diving. Beyond the Reef’s new artistic installation joins existing dives sites such as the Kodiak Queen – a World War Two Navy barge sunk as an artificial reef in 2017 – and the RMS Rhone, a British Royal Mail steamship that sank in 1867.

For more on the British Virgin Islands visit and To find out more about Beyond the Reef, visit their website at or follow them on the Beyond the Reef Facebook page.





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