Gypsy Queen goes aground on the reef
|The "Gypsy Queen" on the reef|
(Photo by Paul Stevens, M.D.)
On Wednesday, November 5, 1997, the Gypsy Queen, a catamaran owned
by Philippe and Nadia Berthome of Mata Chica Beach Resort, was,
according to her owners, totally destroyed when she went aground on the
reef in Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The accident is under investigation by
the Departments of Fisheries and the Environment.
In a letter from the Berthomes to San Pedro Mayor Alberto Nuñez the
incident is explained:
Through this medium, I take this opportunity to express my sincere
apology for the lamentable accident that occurred on Wednesday, November
5, 1997 that ended with total destruction of our catamaran by the name
of Gypsy Queen and the possibility of damage to our Great Barrier Reef.
It is of great concern to me the extent of damage that was done and as a
foreign investor in the Tourism Industry, I know and realize the pride
Belizeans have in their natural heritage and somehow I also have this
genuine pride and concern since this country is also a part of me.
The events occurred as follows:
1. On Wednesday November 5, 1997, the catamaran by the name of Gypsy
Queen was sailing en route to Mata Chica Resort, when suddenly the winds
died. Immediately, the engine was started, but to our misfortune both
engines did not start. The second action was to throw the anchor, but
before it got to the ground the vessel was already in the Reef.
2. Steps taken were very careful in not damaging the Reef. I admire
the interest and worry everyone had in that the main concern was the
Reef. The vessel was finally anchored so as to prevent any damage.
Flotation was done inside with drums, tubes and float bags so as to
stabilize the boat and also a path of buoys was established so no
further damage could be done. The fuel tank was also covered for the
safety of no fuel spill. Local assistance and knowledge of the reef was
employed along with local boats. When pulling out the boat a Polly Pro
rope was used so as to prevent any further damage. Once boat was removed
after 5 days of hard work since to my astonishment there was no one in
Belize properly equipped for these kinds of accidents, the area was
cleaned of any debris.
3. Finally, the boat was taken to a safe place and attempts are
going to be made for the boat to be taken to Belize City and have it out
of the water.
As you can imagine, this nightmare was something unexpected, my loss
cannot be compared to the possibility of damage done to The Great
Barrier Reef. I would like once again to extend my sincere apologies to
your government and the people of Belize.
I remain at your consideration for anything further.
/s/ Nadia and Philippe Berthome"
During the days that the boat was on the reef, Hol Chan rangers,
officers from Fisheries and DOE (Department of the Environment)
officials viewed the wreckage. Alberto Pat, biologist at Hol Chan Marine
Reserve prepared a damage assessment of the reef. Pat says approximately
9,600 square feet of pristine corals were damaged. Pat says that the Hol
Chan staff will attempt the costly and time consuming process of
cementing the damaged corals back into place.
James Azueta, of Fisheries commented that boats going on the reef is
a common occurrence, that accidents at sea happen. "Unfortunately," said
Azueta, "this accident was in the Hol Chan Reserve." Azueta also
commented that the owners of the Gypsy Queen made efforts to minimize
the damage - the boat was pulled out the same way it went in.
Biologist Pat's report and Azueta's report of the accident have been
forwarded to Chief Environmental Officer Ismael Fabro. It is expected
the DOE will complete its investigation by month's end.
During the Belize City TV coverage of the event, it appeared that
one reporter was reporting while in the water - standing on a coral
head. We hope he was reporting from the beach.
Gypsy Queen goes aground on the reef
Copyright 1997, San Pedro Sun. Design by Casado Internet Group