(CNN) — The Persian Gulf country of Bahrain is hoping to attract divers from across the globe with a new “underwater theme park” — an expansive diving site spanning 100,000 square meters with some unusual features.
The centerpiece of this underwater extravaganza? A sunken Boeing 747.
It might be of dubious taste — but that’s not putting the project managers off the concept.
The 70-meter-long plane due to be lowered in the water is a decommissioned, specially prepared aircraft.
The subaquatic project is the product of a partnership between the Supreme Council for Environment, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), and the private sector.
Announced via the state-run Bahrain News Agency, the diving site will apparently also feature a replica Bahraini pearl merchant’s house, artificial coral reefs and art sculptures.
The site is intended to be ready for explorers by summer 2019, so plans are already in full swing.
The organizers say the new Bahrain attraction will be eco-friendly — promoting marine life growth.
But marine specialist Adriana Humanes, who has a PhD in Marine Ecology from James Cook University, Australia and is currently based at Newcastle University in the UK, says that artificial coral reefs are not always ecologically sound.
“As corals reefs in good health state become less abundant and divers become more skilled and experienced, artificial reefs have become popular alternatives used by governments and the tourism industry to attract visitors to certain areas of interest,” says Humanes.
“Wreck diving is one of the oldest methods used to construct artificial reefs by providing a structure to marine sessile organisms and fishes.”
Humanes says that wreck diving provides “unique, diverse and intriguing diving experiences” — but clarifies that there may be downsides.
“Their materials — copper, copper alloys, aluminum, lead and steel, petroleum hydrocarbons and other potential pollutant — can be subject to corrosion, [passing] heavy metals into the seawater and affecting the surrounding marine organisms.
Corrosion will also lead to the subsequent loss of structural integrity, potentially affecting marine life living in the area or becoming a safety threat to visitor divers.”
The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Agency said the aircraft will be specially prepared before it is lowered into the water.
“All aircraft surfaces will be subjected to a high-pressure wash with bio-friendly detergents to ensure all post-production coatings, oil and grime are removed,” a spokesperson tells CNN Travel.
“Furthermore, a vast amount of time has been spent removing contaminants from the aircraft. This has included removing all wiring, all hydraulic, pneumatic and fuel systems, and all adhesives, insulation, plastics, rubbers, chemicals or other potential toxic substances.”
Aircraft turned artificial reef
Bahrain’s proposition is not the first time an airplane’s been deliberately sunk to create a diving attraction.
Meanwhile at Mermet Springs in Illinois, a Boeing 727 that featured in the 1990s movie “U.S. Marshals” now lies below water and forms part of a popular diving site.
In Turkey, an Airbus was lowered into the waters off the Aegean coast a couple of years ago, intended to be an artificial reef.
The upcoming Bahrain underwater park is also part of a wider trend for underwater tourist attractions. From the Maldives’ underwater hotel — where you can enjoy the marine view without getting wet — to America’s underwater museum, located off the coast of Florida, where divers can explore striking statues and sculptures.