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Old 11-23-2004, 08:50 PM
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A scale model of the Rapa Nui Reef

There is a new artificial reef to be sunk off Deerfield Beach, FL in early June. It is an artificial reef which is actually an artwork inspired by the Moai or carved stone statues of Easter Island. The island is also known as Rapa Nui, hence the name of "Rapa Nui Reef" and has been created in the spirit of similar artworks placed underwater off Cancun, Mexico. The project consists of the casting of 15 Moai anchored through concrete platform with nooks and crannies into the deck of a 150' long steel barge. The barge and Moai are to be sunk and placed on the sand between the reefs off Deerfield Beach in early June 2015. There are a lot of festivities leading up to the sinking, more about that below.

Margaret Blume and Dennis McDonald stand by the artificial reef under construction on the barge.

The concept and funding came from the same remarkable woman and philanthropist, Margaret Blume. Ms. Blume is an artist painter and benefactor of art, particularly art in public places. The Rapa Nui Reef project has an in-depth and well executed website: and active Facebook page: and even a "sinking page" for the reef, , detailing related events leading up to the placement of the reef off Deerfield Beach.

Moai on the Rapa Nui or Easter Island facing inland and 4160 miles away Deerfield Beach in the Pacific Ocean.

I recently interviewed a key party in the project, Arilton Pavan, owner of "Dixie Divers" about the origin and evolution of the project. First, some background on Pavan, as he likes to be called. He started diving at 16 in Brazil. He moved to United States 1989 and obtained his diving instructor certification in Rhode Island while attending college. In addition to doing a lot of challenging wreck and shore diving in New England, he used to bring drivers down from Massachusetts to Florida for scuba excursions. During those trips he fell in love with the Deerfield Beach and the ocean off its shores. He later purchased the Dixie Divers shop when it was a small operation in the Cove Shopping Center.

Dixie Divers on Federal Highway just south of Hillsboro Blvd. in Deerfield Beach, FL.

Today, the shop is quite large, is a Five Star PADI Training Center and provides diver certification from resort to instructor training. Pavan indicated that the store was recently rated among the top 10 dive shops in United States states by the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association or DEMA. His goal is to establish a dive business to successfully compete with a large franchises and to excel at customer service. Further he wants to help brand deerfield beach as a diving destination, a personal passion. He plans more projects off the city such as this artificial reef. Paven works with his wife as a partner in the business and has three daughters of whom he is justifiably proud. One of his girls is in Premed, one is entering the USCG Academy with the youngest an active diver, surfer and in high school.

Pavan with one of his daughters on the Rapa Nui Reef under construction.

Ms. Blume didn't want to mimic nature in this project such as placing dolphins or other recreations of the environment but wanted to create a unique artwork in and of itself. She was inspired by imagery of Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater life-sized sculpture placed off Cancun, Mexico in a magazine article. More at

The Underwater Museum in Cancun

Pavan had taught her son how to scuba dive and he in turn introduced Pavan to his mother. The project website says the following about Pavan: "Margaret’s first step was meeting with Arilton Pavan who she describes as an extraordinary entrepreneur and lover of all things scuba, with a strong commitment to conservation and community. During the summer of 2013, she showed him the magazine photos. She said, “I want to do this in Florida. Will you help me?” Without hesitation he replied “Yes! We will do this!” And so they became partners." Ms. Blume as both founder and project director, donated $500,000. to the project through the Deerfield Beach Womens Club (DBWC) and has worked hard with the team also including former Fire Chief, author and diver Jim "Chiefy" Mathie to make the reef a reality.

Chiefy Mathie cutting one of the numerous diver access ways into the hull of the barge.

They started to talk about the project in 2013 and set forth on the difficult process of trying to find an artist to fabricate the project. Remarkably, they eventually found artist with extensive experience in outdoor art of reinforced concrete construction throughout the nation right next door in Pompano Beach. Dennis McDonald of Zibitz Studioz brings 25 years of experience from diverse projects ranging from Universal Studios to the USS Monitor Museum to Islands of Adventure and a good deal more. Pavan said it was a magical how things came together for the project in so many ways. The regulatory permitting for the project was quite complex and took over two years.

Shortly before the Miracle of Life was sunk on June 5, 2009 or what may be almost six years to the day before the Rapa Nui Reef is sunk.

Pavan is no stranger to artificial reefs having coordinated the project to sink the vessel, "Miracle of Life" in 2009 after a long hard process. Formerly, the Miss Lourdies, the vessel was seized by authorities as a "Narco Barco" and eventually became a new reef off Deerfield after considerable time and work. He started the Angels Reef Foundation during this project with the intent of "making new artifical reefs by sinking retired vessels to create new ecosystems and relieve the pressure on natural reefs." Pavan is passionate about artificial reefs because they both serve to attract marine life and in turn people while reducing pressure on natural reefs. More about that project at I free dove the wreck within hours of the sinking in poor 30 ft. brown water visibility. Fortunately, when I returned visibility was exceptional resulting in the video clip at Pavon noted that just bringing the project about is teaching new words and concepts to people, Rapa Nui and still more.

Pavan did a good deal of illustrating for his online dive site guide and has talent as an artist in his own right. Here is his nice depiction of the Hydro Atlantic, an accidental wreck lost off here in 172 ft. of water. I did a dive into the engine room during my trimix course in 1991. More at:

Pumping concrete into a Moai form on the barge.

The project consists of the casting of 15 Moai anchored through pedestals into the deck of a 150' x 45' x 9' deep steel barge. The cast-in-place, reinforced concrete statues are to be 8 to 22 feet above the level of the deck. The barge originally had a concrete deck wearing surface which was broken up and made into an interlinked pedestal for the Moai. Reinforcing steel or rebar cages were was constructed of number 16 rebar and recycled pipe for the Moai heads before placement of concrete. . The artist welded the rebar to the deck before placing the interlinked concrete pedestals and erecting the Moai casting forms. The barge is to be secured by two 1500 pound anchors run out on 300 feet of ships chain on each. The barge is to be sunk in 75 feet of water on sand between the Second and Third reefs east of the Deerfield Beach pier. The barge is to be sunk aligned north to south with the Moai facing west towards the land as in the case of some of the statues on Rapa Nui. This will place the top of the tallest statue within approximately 42 ft. of the surface.

The approximate location of the Rapa Nui Reef offshore from the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier.

I asked Pavan about the symbolism behind the Rapa Nui project. He indicated that it is a metaphor for some of the problems we face in the world today. The island was so isolated the occupants thought it comprised the entire earth. Rapa Nui is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The nearest inhabited land mass is Pitcairn Island 1,289 miles to the west. The nearest substantial land mass is Chile 2,182 miles to the east. Easter Island is a special territory of that country annexed in 1888. The islanders over-utilized the island, over-populated it, destroyed the trees and related ecology with ample help from invasive Polynesian rats.

An 1872 reflection on life with the Rapa Nui, among the Moai and the departed, but not too distantly departed?

All this for quarrying, movement and erection of the building of almost 900 Moai or stone statues around the island over hundreds of years. A vessel from the Netherlands landed on the island on Easter in 1722 and coined the name Easter Island or Paaseiland in Dutch. Per Wikipedia: "By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population had dropped to 2,000–3,000 from an estimated high of approximately 15,000 just a century earlier. European diseases and Peruvian slave raiding in the 1860s further reduced the Rapa Nui population, to a low of only 111 inhabitants in 1877." An in-depth look at the ecological problems and origins on Easter Island at:
There is a particularly well illustrated contemporary work on Easter Island and the culture of its inhabitants at:
You can even see a Hollywood version of life back in the day on the island, moving massive Moai, social and ecological conflicts in "Rapa Nui" (1994), trailer at

This is what Wikipedia has to say about the Moai of Rapa Nui: "Moai are monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500 CE.[1] Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the island's perimeter. Almost all moai have overly large heads three-eighths the size of the whole statue. The moai are chiefly the living faces (aringa ora) of deified ancestors (aringa ora ata tepuna).[2] The statues still gazed inland across their clan lands when Europeans first visited the island, but most were cast down during later conflicts between clans."

Moving back to the project, inversion of the barge during sinking is a possibility and a frequent tendency for barges that go down unfortunately. They've under taken steps to attempt to minimize the risk of this from happening. One step includes the placement of supplemental ballast concrete in the bilge to trim the vessel in consideration of the deck loading with the concrete pedestal and Moai. There are four separate baffled compartments below decks. They will cut flooding portals through the barge hull which will be temporarily closed with inner and outer steel plates interconnected by bolts and sealed against the hull with gaskets. The idea is to gradually flood the barge and allow it to slowly sink on even keel. This will continue until it gradually slips beneath the water without rotation during descent to the bottom.

A look at some of the engineering for the foundations of the original Moai.

I asked what particular challenges have occurred in the course of this project. Understandably obtaining the many required permits from government authorities was daunting and frustrating long term effort. Pavan also indicated taking special pains to make sure that project funds were well spent. He said that Ms. Blume stayed the course through resistance and delays for years and indicated that most people would have given up. Pavan said she is a special person for that and in still other ways.

I asked if anyone was going to study recruitment and other scientific aspects of the new artificial reef. He indicated that the Nova Ocean Sciences Center, the Guy Harvey Foundation and NOAA have all expressed interest in related studies. Pavan also said they plan explore transplanting hard corals to the artificial reef.

I asked what sort of help they could use. Help is welcomed for the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier underwater cleanup which is an event leading up to the sinking of the reef. Also, you can show your support with the purchase Rapa Nui Reef T-shirts through the women's club of Deerfield Beach. the funding in a date for the project. These monies will be directed towards the Art In Public Places program.

You can participate in the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier cleanup dive, then that evening head over to Two Georges at the Cove for a party and the newly created "Maoi" drink on Saturday. You can stop by for an early look on Friday during happy hour at Two Georges by the way. On Sunday, they plan to open the pier to the public access at no charge along with free parking in some areas with an open invitation to all to come down to see the sinking. It should be a remarkable weekend, plan on coming down and joining in on the fun. Be sure to visit the "Sinking" page for more details about the festivities at .

All success with the project, it is an exciting undertaking. I am anxious to free dive on and photograph the reef once it is in place.

FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

Last edited by ricki; 05-21-2015 at 10:18 PM.
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