On Monday 26th August I had the opportunity to join other journalists from around Europe and the world as The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) scuttled a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar to create a new artificial reef in the waters of the Red Sea.
The day started with an 8.30am pick up from the hotel in Aqaba for a short drive to the marina. We would then board a boat which took us to the scuttling event a short 15 minute boat journey away. Here we got our first glimpse of the large aircraft gleaming white under the morning sun. While there was a ceremony and crowds on the nearby pier we had the opportunity to witness the scuttling from the comfort of the boat with the added bonus of refreshments onboard.
The Tristar was scuttled next to the King Abdullah Reef dive site, adjacent to the Aqaba Container Terminal. Initially the whole process started slowly as care was taken to ensure it would sink evenly before it’s final destination on the sea floor. The proposed site is a sloping sandy bottom where the plan was for the nose of the plane to sit in water around 15 metres deep while the tail end sloped down to around 28 metres.
As the floats were slowly removed from underneath the plane there was a slight concern from a few of us onboard when the left wing descended first. The right wing raised above the water line, seemingly in a desperate bid to cling to life on land a little longer.
I’m sure this was just an onlooker’s concern and the people involved in the scuttling were more than comfortable with the way things were going. Sure enough, after a slow start to proceedings and 2 hours or so since we first arrived at the site, the sinking process took a rapid turn and soon enough the whole of the Tristar was disappearing under the surface.
As the tip of the tail fin of this huge Lockheed Tristar plane disappeared. We were treated to the full repertoire of the boat symphony of the onlooking boats. The bellowing of the horns and sirens through the air changed what was up until that point a strangely calm event. Cannons of water sprayed from the safety tug boats as the celebration was in full swing.
I was already looking forward to getting chance to dive this new unique dive site and see what adventures await divers looking for a new experience in the Red Sea.
Visit www.aqaba.jo for more information.