5th of October was a ground breaking day in Denmark. The very first artificial reef is sunk in Denmark, outside the island of Fyn in the western Baltic.
Dive clubs and dive schools are welcoming the opportunity to train wreck diving and wreck penetration in a safe setting.
Naturturisme I/S ['Nature Tourism'] is an organisation jointly owned and run by four municipalities in the Southern part of the island of Fyn, Denmark - Faaborg-Midtfyn, Svendborg, Langeland og Ærø - with the purpose of developing tourism in the region.
It is managed by an independent board and own secretariat which resides in the town of Svendborg
The sinking is part of a bigger project, “Diving Denmark”, to develop Little Belt, Denmark as an attractive dive area, and the result of a partnership of both private and public actors. Four municipalities are involved, and the organization Naturturisme I / S. Each year they have invested quite a lot of money to support local business development along the coast. In 2013-14 alone close to 6.7 million dollar, so they must believe it will be worth it. A goal is attracting tourism out of season, and offering diving on the sunken vessel is a good way to do just that. It was essential for the project that the submerged vessel has a strong culture-relation to the area. The ship chosen, the M/F Ærøsund II, served as a ferry on the route Ærøskøbing-Svendborg in the archipelago south of Fyn, between 1960-1999, so one could say they succeded.
On my way to the sinking, we discuss the positive effects of creating a habitat in this area. The Baltic has seen many ships go down over centuries, each and everyone of them has helped the diversity of the u/w flora and fauna, by simply being there. The western Baltic provides a hostile and difficult environment for local marine life. The bottom is typically sand, sand and more sand, that moves around a lot with the water masses. The ever present currents that move between the islands makes it difficult for the marine life to exist. The wrecks becomes a stepping stone, a physical substrate on an otherwise big expanse of barren sand. With the sinking of a wreck a beginning of a network of biological pathways is created along which species can migrate and thrive.
The ship is processed beforehand, cleaned and stripped from any environmentally hazardous material. That can includes stripping it of lead based paint, and removing wires among other things.
As we arrived we were in good company. Hundreds of interested were making their way down to the shore line, and cars were parked along the roads for several kilometres/miles. We are approaching 2 pm, and the ship has just started it’s journey. It is a slow journey the first hour. Gives me plenty of time to walk around and make friends and try sausage fresh of the grill, made with meat from a happy pig, ecological of course, from a local farm.
At 3 pm, the ship sank enough for the force of nature to take over. As the last part of the deck goes under, we almost suspected that it was going to keel over, but last minute it straighten itself up. Another 8-10 minutes there no traces left of the wreck on the surface. Only a large red buoy marks the new dive site.
Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Another dive site is born, and a new u/w city ready to be inhabited by the marine life is slowly laying to rest on the south side of Fyn, Denmark, Western Baltic.