Turkish authorities have just sunk an Airbus A300 off the Aegean coast, with two aims in mind: To generate an artificial reef teeming with marine life, and to eventually attract more divers from abroad to the region in order to boost the country’s flailing tourism industry.
According to The Guardian, the 54-meter-long (177-foot-long) passenger plane, with a wingspan of 44 meters (144 feet), descended into the waters off the coast of Kuşadası in Aydin province. At 36 years of age, its best days were behind it, and Aydin municipality purchased it from a private aviation company for around $92,600.
“Our goal is to make Kuşadası a centre of diving tourism,” Aydin’s mayor, Özlem Çerçioğlu, said at the 2.5-hour sinking event, witnessed by hundreds of excited spectactors. “Our goal is to protect the underwater life. And with these goals in mind, we have witnessed one of the biggest wrecks in the world.”
An artificial reef building up around an underwater pipe. Richard Whitcombe/Shutterstock
The world’s coral reefs, one of the greatest drivers of biodiversity within the oceans, are getting hammered by rising sea temperatures, driven primarily by man-made climate change. As of this April, the famous Great Barrier Reef was 93 percent bleached, with 50 percent of it already either dying or dead.
With reefs disappearing all across the world, it’s always good to see environmentally-minded groups of people trying to reverse this distressing trend. Every now and then, various boats or superstructures are intentionally sunk into the depths of the oceans. These scuttled ships, planes, or even sculptures provide hard, elevated surfaces where algae and aquatic invertebrates – such as barnacles, oysters, and corals – attach themselves. This new reef then becomes a food source for nearby fish.
The U.S. Department of the Interior has overseen the Rigs-to-Reefs (RTR) program for some time, which involves the practice of converting decommissioned, offshore oil rings into artificial reefs. It’s a remarkably successful program with widespread support: As of 2012, 420 former oil platforms have been converted into permanent artificial reefs.
Artificial reef creation certainly won’t fix the global catastrophe of the corals, but every little helps, and the latest project in Turkey is as welcome as any other like it.