The largest ever plane to be submerged in the ocean was scuttled this week as the first phase of Dive Bahrain got under way.
Local and international divers and a fleet of tugboats are working to relocate the decommissioned Boeing 747 jumbo jet to its new home in the Arabian Gulf.
The 70-metre long plane was bought from a Dubai-based airline. It is expected to rest at a depth of around 24 metres and will be positioned nose up in the water to allow novice divers access to the aircraft at shallower depths.
The Boeing will be the centrepiece for Bahrain’s new underwater attraction which will be the largest underwater theme park in the world when complete.
In preparation for its submersion, the Dive Bahrain team worked for eight months to ensure the aircraft was environmentally friendly.
“We could have just sunk it the way it was when it was transported here, but that’s not our intention. Every hazardous material has been removed; all plastic material has been removed. Even the bolts and the screws were removed so that we could clean any oil residue, before putting them back on,” said Hamad Al Mahmeed, project manager at Dive Bahrain.
In addition to the aircraft, the dive site will be home to a 900 square metre replica pearl merchant house and sail structures that will point to the nearby Unesco-listed pearl beds.
“We are in the market for a few ships big enough to be sunk,” added Mahmeed.
The project is due to open to the public in August this year.
In addition to boosting Bahrain’s tourism, the project will also give researchers information and data on marine ecology in the region. When it is complete, it will cover an area of 100,000 square metres.
Mark Spiers, PADI Vice President of Training and Field Services for Europe, Middle East and Africa said: “We are pleased to be associated with this project from the Bahraini government and applaud their commitment to protecting the marine environment and promoting scuba diving to create a unique opportunity to explore the underwater world,”
As well as boosting the underwater marine life, the unique site will shine a spotlight on a part of Bahraini traditions. “Coral reefs are dying, this is an attempt to create an artificial reef to support the existing reef,” explained Mahmeed. “Bahrain has always been known for its diving history, our economy was established in pearl diving. Diving and the sea is really entrenched in everything we do. This is an attempt at reviving that part of culture or history.”
The underwater dive site is located about 30 kilometres to the north of Amwaj in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
While the sunken Boeing 747 in Bahrain is set to be part of the world's largest underwater theme park, it's not the only PADI affiliated site where you can dive in a unique setting.
In Queensland, Australia, wreck divers can explore the tank deck of the ex-HMAS Tobruk, a former Royal Australian Navy landing ship.
And in Italy, near Naples, you can dive to the sunken city of Baia, and swim down ancient Roman streets into Villa a Protiro, adorned with mosaic tiles and algae-covered sculptures.