Newest artificial reef helps marine life thrive in Gulf of Mexico

Go below surface on The Kraken

HOUSTON – Roughly 60 nautical miles east of Freeport, the bottom of the Gulf dips down below the 130-foot mark.

This is where The Kraken slumbers.

But she didn’t begin her life under the waves.

“You have this big boat and all of a sudden you show up to it and it says 'The Kraken' on the back of it. I said, ‘Man who named that boat?’” said James Tyler.

As dive master of Fling Charters, Tyler was there when the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife towed The Kraken from Brownsville to the spot it would call home.

“One of the head guys, a guy named Chris Ledford, he said, ‘JT, you’re going to love this,’” said Tyler.

“We have a ships-to-reef project, which is taking anything from small shrimping boats all the way up to The Kraken and the Texas Clipper and sinking those as artificial reefs,” said Chris Ledford.

Ledford is an artificial reef specialist with the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Finding, placing and sinking The Kraken are all a part of his mission.

“They opened up a couple (of) big 10-inch valves in the bottom and it’s kind of one of those 'pull the plug and run'-type situations,” said Ledford.

“The first 3 feet took about2 1/2 hours. The rest of it took about five minutes. It went down perfectly, sat right on the bottom.”

“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Tyler.

On Jan. 21, the ship became a part of the Gulf.

Now, KPRC’s Chip Brewster is a part of only the second-ever public dive on The Kraken.

As he descended, the blue and green waters wrapped around him like a winter’s blanket.

Then, emerging from the depths, Brewster and his photographer, David Weed, saw the sunken ship’s wheelhouse.

As the two explored, life was seen spreading throughout the man-made reef.

“There’s tons of fish out there -- mackerel ... all over the place. Tons of red snapper,” said Ledford. “About 20 to 25 different species were seen by our whole dive team.”

Just a few days after Brewster and Weed made their descent on The Kraken, Ledford and his team performed a dive to check in on the new reef’s progress.

“The whole thing is just completely covered in these little transparent clams because they haven’t been there long enough to actually have color on them yet and that was inside and out,” said Ledford.

“The more habitat, the more population, the more commercial fishing can keep going 'cause there’s more population. That’s the main thing is the commercial 'cause there’s a lot of seafoods in Texas. They have to eat red snapper,” said Tyler.

Of course, for Tyler, The Kraken also means a brand-new diving destination.

“It’s going to be a tourist attraction, I tell you that,” said Tyler.

With the right conditions and certifications, divers are able to explore the entire 371-foot stretch of this old shipping vessel.

Not to mention the wheelhouse, cargo hold and engine room, plus all of its new inhabitants.

“I can’t believe how diving can change a person’s attitude on the wildlife that they encounter out in the middle of the ocean.

They’re, they’re just creatures of love,” said Tyler. “People say about sharks: They’re going to eat you. No. Sharks are like little kittens. They want to come up and they want to play just like you do.”

"The diving is pretty, pretty awesome out there,” said Ledford.

“Fling Charters is right now the only vessel that goes out there. Hey, any dive shop, go to any dive shop if you’re a diver. Ask them, ‘I want to go dive The Kraken,’ and they will set you up,” said Tyler.

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