Behind an array of coral and colourful fish, dive instructor Matt Anderson readies his underwater camera system. The two arms snaking out of his camera housing are remote-operated strobe lights. Without lights, colours in underwater photographs become bluer as more water separates them from sunlight. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

On the morning of June 16, five scuba divers rolled off a boat near Jost Van Dyke and disappeared into the ocean. It was the first day of Wreck Week, and Hart Roth of JVD Scuba was leading the way to an undersea site known as Twin Towers.

The group — which included this reporter, co-guide Emily Mingaye, and two professional dive photographers hired to generate publicity for the seven days of activities organised by the BVI Scuba Organisation — sank slowly into the blue and swam southeast until two massive boulders appeared out of the haze. Then they slipped between the boulders and out into open ocean.

All told, the divers spent nearly an hour exploring coral, watching colourful fish, and following a large eagle ray that swam by. What they didn’t find was another diver.

Such isolation is part of what makes the Virgin Islands such a high-quality dive destination, according to Wreck Week organiser and BVI Scuba Organisation President Kim Huish.

“How many places in the world can you go in the water and be more or less the only people there?” she said, adding, “That’s something that we’re proud of and happy for.”

Since the June 16 excursion, Wreck Week has continued with daily dives along with land-based activities including a beach clean-up on June 17 at Cane Garden Bay, a party the 18th at Trellis Bay, and a movie night the 19th at Bitter End Yacht Club.

More activities will continue through June 22, starting with a wreath-laying ceremony this morning on Salt Island memorialising the 1867 wreck of the RMS Rhone before divers descend over 70 feet to the sunken ship.

Wreck Week

The first Wreck Week was launched five years ago to bring publicity to the sport of diving in the wake of the 2017 hurricanes, according to Ms. Huish.

“It started as a response, basically, to Hurricane Irma, to try and tell the outside world that the BVI was here and back and, you know, still a wonderful place to visit,” Ms. Huish said.

Now in its third year — following cancellations during the Covid-19 pandemic — the organisation aims to further integrate local culture throughout the week.

“Very soon after realising that the outside world needed to know about the BVI as a dive destination, it became apparent that the [Wreck Week] should be almost more inward facing than outward facing,” Ms. Huish said.

That goal meant holding more activities like the beach clean-up that got under way at roughly 9:30 a.m. Monday in Cane Garden Bay.

Cleaning Cane Garden

There, two of the divers from the June 16 trip — Tortola dive instructor Matt Anderson and St. Thomas-based coral biologist Dan Mele — joined Ms. Huish and more than two dozen primary school students.

“[Messrs. Mele and Anderson] had a little intro to try and explain that diving could be a career for [the students] when they got older,” Ms. Huish said.

“These kids are about 10 years old, for the most part, so they were excited. One of them, her eyes lit up like saucers, because, of course, Dan being the marine biologist, coral biologist. She was absolutely beside herself.”

‘Lots of garbage’

Afterwards, the students spread out to search for trash.

“They went off in groups of about eight, and they did the beach and they did the road, and it was really cool: lots of garbage,” Ms. Huish said.

After today, all the scheduled dives for Wreck Week will have been completed, but the activities won’t end there.

Tomorrow, participating divers and others will join the non-profit organisation Beyond the Reef for a trash clean-up on Anegada.

Culture at Nanny Cay

And on June 22, Nanny Cay will host end-of-week festivities throughout the day with various performers taking the stage in front of local vendors at the beach area.

The event will start at around 9 a.m. with a performance from Firebird dance troupe, and the Heritage Dancers will take the stage later in the day, according to Ms. Huish.

A Tortola sloop will be on display as well.

The activities will continue into the evening, and the BVI Humane Society’s “Bowties and Diamonds” casino night will be held from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Nanny Cay Beach Bar.