artificial reef

An Artificial Reef for Falmouth?

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Brief outline:

Since the sinking of the HMS Scylla artificial reef near Plymouth, it has attracted many divers. The ten year estimated income generated, was £63m for Plymouth. It almost killed off the Cornish diving industry. Since then, many Cornish diving related businesses have closed or failed. Falmouth does still support three recreational diving businesses, partly due to the university, partly to do with it’s location in relation to the sea and the Lizard Peninsula.

I have an idea for an artificial reef, to be built near Falmouth. I chose Falmouth, as it is the only area that could support the potential arrival of more divers, for both diving and non diving wise. It would be pointless putting it in Penzance, the closest place to get air for the divers, is our shop, Atlantic Scuba, in Mabe. Falmouth has the infrastructure, as well as existing diving businesses, to take on any initial increase in business.

The reef itself will not be a ship to sink, the idea is quite different from that. The idea is to construct something that resembles a ship, constructed under water from 2m or 3m cubed hollow concrete blocks. Laid in a set number of blocks, referred to as a ‘set’, whether that is 2, 3, 4, 8 or whatever can be laid in a single event. This will be on a regular basis, possibly monthly, in a continuing process until the design is completed. Each concrete block ‘set’ will be made up from different aggregates, cements, colours and recycled materials. Different materials for each block ‘set’ could include:

  • Standard aggregates like Granite and limestone.
  • Added materials like crushed glass (of different colours) or rubber beads.
  • Sand from different parts of the country.
  • Cement would be restricted to a sulphate resisting cement, due to the harsh environment.

Each block ‘set’ would then potentially attract different marine life. Some block ‘sets’ could have pipes, recesses etc. as habitats.

Cornwall College or Falmouth Uni, could design and experiment with the aggregates. Cornwall College have said they could actually make the blocks. Once made, someone like Fugro Seacore or Fal Divers could maybe place the blocks in situ. Keeping the costs to a minimum, wherever possible.

My idea is NOT to construct it in one go. It would be to construct it over several years, even decades. Always evolving, always generating interest. The base blocks could be solid, to help anchor the site, the rest would be hollow. The use of hollow blocks would allow cameras to be installed, away from souvenir collectors. The images could be relayed to land and available on-line, to be connected to any screen, anywhere in the world. Potentially, live underwater images in every premises in Falmouth, or anywhere. The blocks could be filled with various items to attract life, with letterbox viewers to see inside.

The block shape would need to be carefully designed, possibly tongue and grooved, with a pressure setting adhesive to keep them locked together.

The finished article would be ship shaped, somewhere between sixty and a hundred metres long, twenty metres wide and the top of the bridge, would be at around fifteen metres in depth. There would be a bridge and a large cargo hold. The bridge area could be populated with figures, similar to those at Museo Atlantico in Lanzarote. The cargo hold could be filled with cargo, sponsored by the manufacturer of it’s concrete replica. To help fund the project, potential sponsors could have their company name recessed, into the face on the block.

Maximum depth would be thirty metres at high water, so something for almost every level of scuba diver.

The suggested area is on a sandy sea bed, just north east of the Bizzies. The Bizzies is a large reef system, with two pinnacles in 5m of water. The suggested location is north east of this, where the rocky reef changes to sand. Offering some protection for the site, from any wave action, although at 15m, the wave effect underwater is minimal. The area is also away from shipping routes and being close to the reef, not in an area that will affect commercial fishermen.

The potential for studying wildlife would be endless, the life of the structure would be the potential length of the wildlife study.

So that’s the idea.