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Riding the BVEye – Caribbean Undersea Adventures

A new and exciting water-borne attraction opened for business in 2006 and is receiving a lot of attention around the docks at Nanny Cay and beyond. The business is the brainchild of partners Andy Cowan and Chris Charlton, both experienced commercial divers.

The unique attraction involves an ROV, remotely operated vehicle, and a mother ship from where the vehicle is launched and controlled and where guests can sit and enjoy a special underwater experience from the comfort of an air conditioned cabin. The ROV is attached to the surface vessel by a 300 meter umbilical cord that sends images back to the surface vessel’s 50” plasma monitor. The camera can zoom in a hundred feet and still maintain good clarity with a 3.8mm aspherical lens. High resolution colour images can be shot with fantastic versatility supplied by a 180 degree tilt platform. To complement this, and at depths where diminishing light might be a problem, the ROV is equipped with 2 x 75 watt tungsten spotlights that can be controlled remotely, both in direction and brilliance. For a long, deep look there’s nothing to beat it.

Tourism entities island-wide are promoting the attraction with enthusiasm. Cruise ships see it as being a viable option for visitors who want to experience the underwater world without getting wet – and we’re talking about considerable depths here, not just glass bottom boat vistas.

The surface vessel is a brand new go-fast, wave-piercing power cat invented by the U.S. Virgin Islands’ own motor cat specialists, Gold Coast Marine. Powered by two 225 horse power Yamaha outboards, the vessel can easily visit several locations in one outing. “Visitors have been delighted with the experience,” says co-owner Andy. “With our camera zoom capabilities observers get a longer, closer look than a Scuba diver – and with no complications like mask fogging or compression problems.” The other advantage is that marine life seems to be less threatened by the intrusion of a machine than by human presence.

The ROV is a Seaeye Falcon, a leader in underwater remotely operated vehicles, and its capabilities have caught the eye of several BVI businesses and community endeavors. A local marine surveyor, hired by an insurance company, contacted the B.V. eye to try and locate some containers and various other cargo from a coaster that had capsized in a major channel off Tortola’s southern shore. They came up trumps, when all other methods failed, and found two containers.

Another interesting endeavor that recently materialized involved a dive at the drop-off, close by Anegada’s north shore to witness the presence of game fish. Both Chris and Andy are convinced that their unique enterprise will attract many customers in the tourism market but they have come to realize that their high tech equipment can serve many needs. Both partners are highly experienced commercial divers having worked in the Middle East and the North Sea. They are both CSWIP Inspectors and have logged over a thousand hours each as ROV pilots, the term given to operators of remotely operated undersea vehicles.

The vehicle was originally designed for observation, inspection and surveying in the oil industry, but since its inception many other uses have materialized,        “We believe our operation is ideally suited, not only for commercial undersea surveys and inspections, but also hydrographic work, criminal investigation, terrorism prevention activity for homeland security, underwater filming for the entertainment industry and search and rescue,” explained Chris.

The ROV is a very versatile machine. It can accommodate a variety of intricate tools that can perform various tasks. One tool can measure the thickness of non degraded steel plate, various cutters can be attached, a laser measurement tool can be accommodated, a five function manipulator can be utilized. Also sonar, navigation and tracking systems can be employed; all this at depths of 1000 feet.

In the BVI there is one obvious use for this equipment and that’s the exploration of the reefs of Anegada, commonly known as the graveyard of ships. There are almost four hundred recorded wrecks and probably many more on the outer banks of the Horseshoe Reef. With the B.V. eye’s camera, a video tape record can be supplied, supplemented with GPS accuracy.

Recently in Aruba an ROV was employed to try and find underwater clues for a girl missing under suspicious circumstances. In another criminal situation the ROV could be utilized in case of a terrorism threat. “We can scan the underwater area of a 300-ft hull in a few hours. Homeland Security in the USA has advised the cruise ship industry to be vigilant. Cruise ships are a perfect target.”

Caribbean Undersea Adventures and B.V. eye are the only operators of a Seaeye Falcon in the Caribbean. The new company is willing to undertake operations Caribbean-wide. They can be contacted at: info@cua-bvi.com or Phone: 284 443 7336

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