Once a year, on Bangka Island, they Celebrate Coral Day! It’s a big event for young and old, but especially for the young. For the young children there are games, music, and dancing. For the older kids (18 till 100+) there is the deployment of a large artificial reef underwater, this shall be quite a challenge!
The festival is organized by Suara Pulau in order to increase awareness of the importance of coral reefs. Every year a new section of artificial reef is placed. This year the reef is the “The Domus Hippocampi,” it is designed by Teguh Ostenrik, a famous Indonesian artist. It is built by Yaysan Terumbu Rupa (YTR) with the help of donations from many sponsors. When we arrived on Banka Island, The Domus stands prominently on land, ready and waiting. A few days prior to Coral Day a team from YTR arrives to do the final preparations to deploy The Domus on Coral Day itself.
The YTR team consists of volunteers, who may or may not have experience with the installation of artificial reefs. This makes it very important to create a solid and effective plan to sink The Domus before we proceed. Because we also have broad experience and input, the meetings are conducted in three languages: Indonesian, English, and Sign Language. It is funny and interesting to see how all of the knowledge of the various volunteers is integrated and used. Ultimately a belay method is chosen to lower the reef onto the ocean floor. Belaying is the same technique climbers use to go up and down on a rope.
The Domus consists of 3 parts, and is 23 meters long. It will be anchored using 12 blocks made of concrete and stone. The blocks were specially made using ideas and methods we devised in order to make them a more attractive and hospitable habitat to new coral recruits. The blocks are placed on their locations before Coral Day, so that we get gain experience using the belay method. This is not as easy as it looks! The blocks are small, but rather heavy. The first blocks go down uncontrolled, luckily we are able to learn from our mistakes, and with some revised techniques the following blocks go down smoothly.
There are about 200 guests on Coral Day. The various sponsors are present, and so is the head of the district of North Minahasa, Vonny Panambunan. There are speeches and a ceremony where The Domus Hippocampi is blessed. This consists of a traditional dance and throwing coloured powders and water into the air. This is great fun, and all the children are splashed with colour and they look painted afterward.
When all the ceremonies are over, it is time to place the first of the 3 Domus sections into the water. First it is made to float with the aid of air-filled jerry cans, then it is towed to the location over the seabed with the unified strength of a team of divers. Finally it is slowly lowered into position. We have learned much from the lowering of the anchor blocks, and the first Domus section goes down in a graceful and controlled manner. We coordinate underwater operations and place the structure on exactly on the spot we chose. When the section is in place, it is time to add the coral to the artificial reef. Veran gave the volunteers a crash course in attaching corals to the structure, and assists Teguh in placing the first piece of coral. The other two sections of The Domus Hippocampi are placed on the next day.
It has been a beautiful day! We want to thank everyone who has contributed to making this day possible! Especially Ulva Takke, from Suara Pulau, for organizing the event. Mimpi Indah Resort for the accomondation and the great food. Also the entire team of the Yayasan Terumbu Rupa foundation (YTR) for the construction of the artificial reef and their great teamwork during the installation of the reef. All of the sponsors and of course Teguh Ostenrik for the design of The Domus Hippocampi. Thank you all so very much!
An impression of Coral Day made by Virginia Veronica Gerungan