Last Monday (May 15, 2006), Sipadan Island came under intense public scrutiny by the diving community when news broke of a barge that beached onto the island. The barge left in its wake a desolate graveyard strip which had once teemed with stunning coral reefs which made Sipadan a world-class diving destination. These two news items – excerpted below – were picked up from online DIVE Magazine and FiNS Magazine, which were circulated on the MNS Marine e-group before reaching the ears of the local media. For photos of the irreparable damage, please surf to the sources’ website.
Dive Magazine: Massive steel barge crashes into Sipadan reef
A steel barge carrying thousands of tons of building material has crashed into popular diving site off the Malaysian island of Sipadan. DIVE contributor Alex Mustard, who witnessed the crash at the weekend, said the reef suffered extensive damage as a result.
‘The grounding literally sheared off the top of the reef – leaving a flat white limestone surface – rather like a motorway across the top of the reef,’ Mustard told DIVE. ‘The area of damage was at least the size of a couple of tennis courts.’
The steel barge was forced on to the reef following a gale. Malaysian dive guide author Andrea Ferrari criticised the island’s authorities for allowing the steel barge to anchor on Sipadan Island.
‘It is incredible that the barge was allowed to anchor right in front of Sipadan’s legendary drop-off,’ Ferrari said. ‘It was brutally pushed by a nightly gale against the reefs, ending up beached on the island like some monstrous whale after having scraped clean all nature’s delicate work of a thousand years between the old pier and Barracuda Point. The barge’s flat steel hull has wiped corals away like a titanic knife edge spreading butter on toast.’