GEORGE TOWN –– To mark the fifth anniversary of the sinking of the USS Kittiwake, the wreck has been transformed into an underwater museum.
The exhibition, prepared by the Kittiwake Committee, includes laminated photos from when the Kittiwake was in service mounted on the wreck.
Since the sinking of the Kittiwake on January 5, 2011, it has become an attraction for divers and a habitat for marine species.
“Wrecks in some situations can serve as artificial reefs because they offer surfaces for corals to colonize,” Stacie Sybersma, project manager at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said in a press release. “Once coral and algae start to develop, there is a food source for the larger species such as fish and invertebrates, allowing an ecosystem to develop. The wreck also provides protection and hiding places making it an ideal home for many species.”
Divetech’s Joanna Mikutowicz said the Kittiwake has attracted fish, corals and other marine life that would not be in the area otherwise.
“It is nice to see that man-made dive sites can create an entire new reef,” Mikutowicz said in the press release. “It makes me feel excited and optimistic about our coral nursery program starting in Grand Cayman this spring.”
Over the past five years, 53,000 divers and 67,800 snorkelers have visited the Kittiwake wreck.
“The Kittiwake is definitely meeting and exceeding the expectations we all had for it,” Mikutowicz said. “Not only is it a popular spot to visit on our standard boat trips, but it has created extra boat trips full of customers that have specifically asked to go to the Kittiwake.”
According to Ash McKnight, owner of Go Pro Diving, numerous dive operators schedule daily trips to the wreck, and many residents have licenses for their personal boats.
“We are all very pleased that the Kittiwake has been embraced by the local community,” McKnight said. “It is also very rewarding to see the international recognition the Kittiwake Wreck has received from organizations such as Scuba Diving magazine and TripAdvisor.”
While everyone is encouraged to go to the Kittiwake and visit the underwater museum, CITA reminds that visits to the site must be made on a Kittiwake-licensed vessel.