The Rannamaari Dredger in 1999
Rannamari Wreck is a sand dredger that was brought to Maldives from Singapore for the Male‟ Reclamation Project‟ in 1982. It had been the third dredger brought into the country and was used in several projects in the capital Male and Thilafushi island (manmade island west of Male‟) and was in working condition until 1999.
In the beginning of 1999 when Angsana Ihuru management decided to create deliberate wreck diving, they began a daunting task in search of an appropriate vessel for salvage. When the search began, people soon found out about this and the prices of old and disposable vessel prices skyrocketed up to US$ 100,000. In high hope they were still searching, until one day from Ministry of Labour and Construction they got the news that there was a dredger up for sale in Thilafushi.
Following the decision to sink the dredger on a patch of white sand off the house reef of Ihuru, “Rannamaari” was towed from Thilafushi Island to its final resting place, Ihuru Tourist Resort on 25th April 1999, and was anchored at the designated location.“Rannamaari” had been well prepared for the burial at sea. Its engine and batteries, fuel and other toxic materials had been removed to ensure its environmental friendliness. Arrangements were made to sink the dredger on 27th April 1999. All involved in the cleaning operation left the dredger at 19:15pm. Guests at Ihuru had a clear view of the vessel that was to be sunk in the next 48 hours.
On the night of 25th April 1999, all guests on Ihuru were at dinner on the beach. No one noticed that “Rannamaari” was slowly but surely sinking until the final moment when air bubbles and foam gushed out noisily from the submerging dredger. “Rannamaari” had not waited for the arranged date for its sinking. It sank on its own to the final resting-place, like a true wreck on 25 April 1999, at 20:40. Permission has to be obtained from Ihuru Tourist Resort before diving on the wreck.
One year after coming to rest, the Rannamaari wreck had acquired a thick living skin. Diatoms formed the first skin over the metal and paint and so making the surface more attractive for the next wave of colonist from the plankton. Among these tiny aliens from inner space there are many species that spent all their lives adrift. For others the open ocean is a nursery from which they will graduate when the time comes to find a safe place to settle down. For them the bare metal plates of the Rannamaari wreck could have been the sought after “promised land”.
Barnacles were the first arrivals (barnacles would adhere only if the surfaces are non toxic and the ocean current is just right), closely followed by other filter bacteria started to grow. As food and hiding places increase, so the diversity of the life abroad increases too. The bridge and engine room offers all the protection of the sea cave for breeding of fish. Breeding of these fishes are food for the other sea creatures.