Nova Scotia

Divers explore marine sanctuary two decades in the making

A fishing boat was intentionally sunk in 1998 to create a sanctuary for marine life and give divers a place to explore. On Saturday, a team of divers got to see what it looked like after two decades.

'What a great opportunity we have with it right here in our community'

Divers Matt Inkpen, Wayne Joy, Roland Morrison, Jim Walker and Arush Mitra get ready to explore the sunken ship Matthew Atlantic. (Submitted by Donna Hatt)

Twenty-one years ago, the fishing boat Matthew Atlantic was intentionally sunk off the coast of Port Mouton, N.S., to create a sanctuary for marine wildlife and a place for divers to explore.

On Saturday, a team of divers did just that.

Jim Walker, the creative director of the media production company Lobsters Gone Wild, as well as a dive team from Shearwater geared up and swam down to the site.

"It was bare bones then and, hopefully, we'll see where we are with marine life, how healthy the ecosystem here is on the shore," Walker said shortly before making the plunge.

"Hopefully, we'll see some cool stuff native to Nova Scotia and the water's warming up so hopefully we'll see some [tropical fish]."

Lobsters, crabs and a sea raven

After the dive, Walker said the visibility was lower than he'd hoped, but he saw lobsters, crabs and a sea raven around the boat. 

The sinking of the 37-metre boat was a partnership between the Artificial Reef Society, the community and the Region of Queens Municipality.

Donna Hatt was supposed to be on hand for the boat's sinking on Aug. 8, 1998, but at the time was expecting a baby, who arrived arrived on the day of the submersion, two weeks early.

"So I was otherwise occupied," said Hatt.

Now the marketer for nearby White Point Beach Resort, Hatt said she was excited to be aboard the ship the divers were diving from and to learn what the team found.

The divers found plenty of plant and animal life around the ship, Hatt said. 

'Like an oasis'

"The ocean floor there is sand and silt everywhere except around where the wreck is established, which is where all the marine life is located — they were discovering it's kind of like an oasis in the middle of the desert." 

Hatt said she hopes the site will become more of a tourist attraction for the area.

"It's an incredible resource, a piece of infrastructure that was put in place in hopes of helping folks learn about and appreciate the ocean through an artificial reef," she said. "And what a great opportunity we have with it right here in our community."