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In July 2006 the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) provided 100 concrete blocks to create an Artificial Reef at Phi Phi Ley Island. The objective was to provide additional substrate to allow corals to form, creating a new habitat for marine animals with the hope that this would attract divers to visit and reduce the numbers of divers on the natural reef. Little did we know at the time that this site would become so popular and due to it’s strategic placement one of the most convenient of dive sites in the Phi Phi Island group.
As part of our coral conservation programs, The Adventure Club was commissioned by the DMCR to manage the location and placement of the Artificial Reef and we eagerly came onboard to ensure the project was managed correctly.
An area adjacent to the Coral Nursery was selected for a number of reasons.
Initial construction started slowly due to unfamiliarity and trying to rearrange the jigsaw puzzle of blocks. After the first few dives a map of the location of all the blocks was created so as to plan which blocks would be moved to which location.
Volunteers consisting of local divemasters and instructors assisted the construction of the Artificial Reef which was managed by the head of operations, Andrew Hewett. Each team member was assigned a specific job.
The two main criteria for each dive were:
Ropes were pre-tied with loops to avoid losing time needing to tie knots underwater. While one team would be attaching lift bags, the rope team would be locating the next block to move and attaching the ropes so it would be ready to receive the lift bag team.
This team’s job would be to attach safety strops to the block that was going to lifted to another block, whihc would prevent the block from floating up out of control.
A 500 liter lift bag was attached to the block and slowly inflated until the block was just slightly negative buoyant. The whole team would now be ready to ‘walk the block across the bottom and raise it into it’s position.
A safety officer was appointed purely to do nothing but watch the rest of the team and to ensure that no one was in a position of danger. Blocks could not be moved until the safety diver gave the all-clear. The safety officer would also monitor peoples air supply.
Construction started at assembling one block per day, but by the end of the construction we would be moving 10 blocks per day. The construction took around 3 months to complete. Each block measures 1.5 cubic meters and weighs in around 1000 kilos.
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