August 27th marks the four year anniversary of one of the Cayman Islands most infamous port calls.
That’s when the Carnival Magic cruise ship dropped anchor outside the designated anchorage zone, destroying 16,000 square feet of healthy coral reef in the process.
Staffers at Don Foster’s Dive Cayman captured video of the Carnival Magic’s chain and anchor destroying a coral reef in front of the shop.
“The anchor itself was massive, and you could see the scar where it had dug in and pulled right across the reef, it was really sad to see,” former dive instructor Nicola Williams told Cayman 27 in the days after the incident.
By the time the Carnival Magic steamed off to its next port of call, the coral reef a few hundred feet from shore in front of the dive shop were left in ruins.
Weeks later, volunteers had received the green light from Department of Environment officials to undertake a restoration effort that stretched on for two years.
Carnival Cruise Lines eventually coughed up a US $100,000 donation to partially finance the restoration, but without an admission of fault.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this isn’t going to be done in a day, or ten days, or twenty days, it’s going to be long term,” Cayman Magic Reef Recovery volunteer coordinator Lois Hatcher told Cayman 27 that September when the restoration effort began in earnest.
Four years later, the scar from the anchor impact is still evident, but many re-attached corals are now thriving in the restoration zone. In deeper areas of the site, algae has taken advantage of the absence of coral, attracting these territorial damselfish who nipped at Cayman 27 cameras (and their operator) on a dive at the site Monday.
The DOE, in its report on the Carnival Magic incident, called it an “unfortunate accident,” with responsibility shared by three parties: the Carnival Magic, the Port Authority, and Bodden Shipping, none of which were prosecuted or held financially responsible for the damage.
In the four years since the Carnival Magic incident, other ships have damaged Cayyman’s reefs in high profile cases – most notably, the Saga grounding at Eden Rock in late 2016, and the January 2016 incident involving billionaire Paul Allen’s 300-foot mega-yacht Tatoosh.