Last week Blue Guru Conservation's Course Director did her eagerly awaited 1st Ocean Action Project survey dive on the new wreck, HTMS Prathong.
As reported in previous blogs, the ex US & Thai naval ship was purposefully sunk off the coast of Koh Phra Thong to create an artificial reef last month. The wreck lies between 12m-28m, making an exciting additional dive site for Open Water & Advanced Open Water divers.
After only 2 weeks on the sea bed, it wasn't expected that much marine life would have been attracted to the wreck yet. This will require long term study to monitor which species inhabit & visit the artificial reef.
For the purposes of Blue Guru's Ocean Action Project, which is this year sponsored by Project AWARE, the focus will remain on monitoring sightings of sharks, rays & fishing boats in the area. Fishing net debris is expected to be an issue on the wreck and some has already been removed.
This week both Blue Guru's owners attended a meeting involving local politicians, community leaders & representatives from Thailand Diving Association & Department of Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR). An attending marine biologist explained to the group that because the wreck is lying on her side, coral is unlikely to grow on this smooth surface. Coral would be more likely to grow on the deck's features if the deck was horizontal. Additional funds could therefore be deployed to upright her but this would not happen till much later this year, after the imminent monsoon season.
A positive note was the installation of good moorings. There is one large chain moored to the centre of the wreck and 4 government buoys moored around the wreck. These provide a central descent & ascent line for divers, enable dive boats to moor around the wreck without causing anchor damage and keep other boats away from the wreck to avoid collision damage.
Blue Guru will learn from these mooring installations to ensure our offshore moorings also withstand the elements, strong currents & high risk of theft. So far this season Blue Guru has trialled a new mooring system locally at Koh Phra Thong. Having learnt from this, Staff Instructor Daniel van Dongen has designed more sophisticated moorings for our offshore sites. The plan now is to implement these more robust mooring systems at the start of next season to avoid potential theft or damage during the upcoming monsoon.
In the meantime, we have our final Whale Shark Program trip of the season coming up next week - watch this space for more info later this month ...