A vast underwater theme park spanning 100,000 sq m off a Bahraini island city and featuring a sunken Boeing 747 will open in August. We speak to Dive Bahrain to know more about the project
Tell us how the idea started, how you got to submerging a Boeing 747 aircraft?
As you know, corals around the world are dying due to climate change, coral bleaching and human activities. So, we wanted to create an artificial reef in Bahrain in an area that was formerly abundant in marine life in order to restore its previous marine flora and fauna. Artificial reefs offer a habitat and therefore enhance biological productivity. In doing so, they can, with time, introduce a new ecosystem in otherwise biologically depleted areas.
At the same time, the team behind the project wanted to make a statement, not only would they create the world’s largest underwater theme park but, as its centrepiece, they would submerge the largest aircraft ever intentionally submerged for the purpose, a Boeing 747.
It is not the first time a plane has been sunk to be used as a dive site, but submerging a Boeing 747 aircraft sounds fascinating.
Indeed, never has an aircraft this large been intentionally submerged. The aircraft is 71m in length and has a wingspan of 64.4m.
Tell us something about the park, its size and other features?
bThe world’s largest underwater theme park will cover an area of over 100,000 sq m. The dive site will have a 71-metre long decommissioned Boeing 747 as its centrepiece, the largest aircraft ever to be submerged. The site will provide an exceptional dive experience. Phase 1 of the project includes submerging the aircraft, a replica of a pearl merchant’s house and sail structures. Future phases of the project are still being studied but could include reef balls, ships and sculptures.
After submerging the aircraft, how long does it take before you see an impact on the local ecosystem?
It is hard to tell exactly how long it would take before you see a lasting, positive impact on the local ecosystem. Footage of the aircraft two days after being submerged already shows marine life coming to investigate their new habitat. However, it would take a couple of years to see any drastic change in the ecosystem.
Will it be eco-friendly?
Considerable efforts have been expended to ensure delivery of the project in the most environmentally sound manner possible. All aircraft surfaces have been subjected to a high-pressure wash with bio-friendly detergents to ensure all post-production coatings, oil and grime are removed. Furthermore, a vast amount of time has been spent removing contaminants from the aircraft. This has included removing all wiring, all hydraulic, pneumatic and fuel systems, and all adhesives, insulation, plastics, rubbers, chemicals or other potentially toxic substances. Removal and disposal of these items were conducted under the strictest of regional and international waste management guidelines.
Does everyone need to be an expert diver to experience the park?
Certainly not. The aircraft lays in an area that is around 20 metres deep, which requires an Open Water diving certificate, and in order to access the aircraft, a wreck diving license is required. But novice divers could also enjoy the park as the aircraft’s hump will be around 13 metres below the sea level.
What are the challenges that you have faced?
Finding a Boeing 747 is easy, there are numerous aircraft graveyards around the world, but finding one for the right price and that was relatively close to Bahrain was a challenge. Transporting the aircraft was not an easy process either. Getting the aircraft from Fujairah to Bahrain was a challenge because it required lifting the aircraft over the airport fence, transporting it by road to a jetty, placing it on a barge and transporting it to Bahrain.
What are your expectations from this dive site?
Given the responses we have received so far, we expect the dive site to attract many tourists and to present a unique diving experience. In addition to attracting divers, the site will be available to school and university students as a ‘live lab’, allowing them the opportunity to conduct practical experiments. The site will also serve as a valuable tool in educating the public on the importance of environmental preservation.