Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Guardian of the Reef sculpture sinking in Grand Cayman as reported in UK Sport Diver magazine

As seen in the 17.04.14on-line version of UK Sport Diver Magazine..

Safeguarding the reef

Grand Cayman’s newest underwater attraction is a statue that symbolises the island’s commitment to marine conservation. Patricia Wuest was there to see it go down...

I’m waiting at 18m with about 30 divers and a handful of professional photographers and videographers while an 1,100lb bronze statue called Guardian of the Reef dangles above us. Divetech owner Jay Easterbrook and his crew grapple at the surface with the statue, trying to get it in position so it can be dropped down atop its concrete pedestal. I’ve come to witness the end of the Guardian’s journey to its new location about 200 yards off Grand Cayman’s Lighthouse Point Dive Resort’s dock. The statue is floating horizontally, attached to two heavy-duty lift bags, and the team is focused on getting it vertical. It looks a bit like helping a stumbling, drunken mate up off the floor.

“I first started working on The Guardian ten years ago,” says Canadian artist Simon Morris. “And it’s now travelled 4,552 miles from British Columbia to Grand Cayman.” Transporting the statue was no small feat. Earlier in the day - 12 April 12 - Simon and I watched as Jay and the Divetech crew secured the Guardian with heavy-duty webbing straps and
a crane operator slowly loaded the statue - swinging but secure - onto a truck Then we hopped into Jay’s pick-up to follow behind it to George Town Harbour. At the harbour, the Guardian was again attached to the crane and two lift bags were affixed to it. Once more, the Guardian wobbled in the air as it was lifted from the truckbed down to the water, where it slipped just below the surface, held up off the bottom by the lift bags. It was then secured to a boat equipped with a crane. I think I heard Simon exhale. I know I did. After one of the boat operators dived in and checked the statue, the boat pulled away - headed back to Lighthouse Point. To say it was nerve-wracking - and emotional - is an understatement.
“It’s intense - when he was in the air, time slowed down for me a bit,” Simon admits. “But this went well,” he says as we linger to watch the statue being towed from the harbour. 

The statue is a mythological creature - half ancient warrior and half seahorse. The top half of the sculpture is a guardsman wearing Greco-Roman armour and carrying a circular shield and a staff and sphere. His helmet is a stylised seahorse head, and a dorsal fin protrudes from the back of his breastplate. At the waist, the creature morphs into a seahorse with a tail coiled around a bronze ring mounted on a one-and-a-half metre bronze column. The Guardian was placed on a tiered concrete pedestal that weighs a whopping 14,000lb. 

The night before, at the pre-sinking party celebrating the event, Nancy Easterbrook explained the impetus behind sinking the Guardian - dive site No. 240 in Grand Cayman’s Dive 365 programme. “This year Divetech is 20 years old,” she says. “I thought we should do something more permanent
to celebrate the anniversary - something we could dedicate to ocean conservation and the island’s local youth. The Guardian has travelled over 4,500 miles, and now he will be looking over our reefs and symbolise our need to safeguard our reefs. And for every dive made on the Guardian, we will donate a dollar to our conservation programme for youths.” Divetech’s goal is to raise $20,000 the first year (donations are accepted).

“To quote Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, ‘what a long strange trip it’s been’,” Simon said during the party. “He just has 200 more yards to get where he needs to go tomorrow. And then he will be elevating people’s understanding of ocean conservation.”
And now Simon and I are patiently waiting on the bottom as the statue is slowly guided to its base on a sandflat about eight metres below the adjacent low-profile reef. Finally, Guardian is in place and the team works to secure the bolts. There is underwater clapping and high fives exchanged, and Nancy Easterbrook circles the base, shaking hands with her husband and the rest of the team. Camera strobes fire, one after the other, recording another moment in the island’s proud legacy as a leading beacon for marine conservation.

“The Guardian is one of four, and this one will be the only one in the Caribbean,” Simon had told me earlier.

Simon Morris also created Amphitrite, which is in Grand Cayman on Sunset Reef off Sunset House Resort, and the Emerald Princess, which is in Powell River, British Columbia.

Photographs by Ryan Canon Story by Patricia Wuest

Thanks to Ryan and Patricia for photos and article, and to UK Sport Diver for posting the article on line.