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The good ship Carthaginian went down without a fight, but
clients can still see the 97-foot steel-hulled vessel in her new
home under the sea.
Filled with water and sunk by Atlantis Adventures on Dec. 13,
the former floating tourist attraction is adopting a new role as an
artificial reef, providing a novel sight for passengers aboard
Atlantis Submarines Maui as well as independent scuba divers.
Originally a German freight carrier, the Carthaginian was
converted into a replica of a whaling supply vessel and put on
display in Lahaina Harbor in 1973. Owned by the Lahaina Restoration
Foundation, she attracted thousands of visitors who toured and
photographed the West Maui landmark over the years. After a study
determined that a refurbishment of the beloved ship was
costprohibitive, the foundation approached Atlantis in 2003 about
buying it for use as an artificial reef.
Atlantis Submarines Maui general manager Jim Walsh said his
company incorporated community input and took all the needed
precautions during its two years of planning, making sure the
artificial reef provides lasting benefits to marine life.
“As stewards of the environment that Atlantis works in, we’ve
been committed to doing this project the right way,” Walsh said.
“The artificial reef will have a very positive impact on Lahaina’s
Before the sinking, I joined an Atlantis submarine tour off
Maui’s western shores, whose clear waters provide excellent viewing
of dozens of types of sea creatures. After shuttling our group 10
minutes from Lahaina Harbor on the open-air vessel Holokai, pilot
Brian Ott helped us aboard the Atlantis IV, a 65-foot 48-passenger
air-conditioned sub with 38,000 dives to its credit.
During the tour, my fellow passengers and I were regaled with
lively patter about the denizens of the deep swimming by. As
long-nosed butterflyfish and Moorish idols made appearances, an
Atlantis copilot shared information and answered questions,
occasionally spicing up the presentation with music.
Visions of moray eels, parrotfish and unusual shapes of coral
had clients eagerly leaning forward to peer through the sub’s
windows. Six lights on either side of the vessel made it easy to
ogle the undersea splendors.
“Sometimes we see manta rays and dolphins,” Ott said. “The
marine life down here isn’t afraid of the sub at all. As a matter
of fact, they’re curious about us. We’ve even had humpback whales
swim right up and rub against us.”
The trip was so entertaining, I wondered why Atlantis felt the
need to add the sunken Carthaginian to its itinerary.
“There are two things people always want to see during our tours
shipwrecks and sharks,” said Ott. “At least we have control over
shipwrecks. Also, turtles gravitate to shipwrecks, so we hope
they’ll be attracted to the Carthaginian.”
Ott talked about the Carthaginian’s new home, a sandy-bottomed
site a half-mile offshore between Puamana Park and Launiapoko
“The ship is anchored 95 feet under the surface, which is a
better depth for scuba divers than our current, deeper site,” he
The location, which does not impact swimming and surfing, helps
alleviate overuse of natural reefs along the Lahaina coastline, Ott
In an area currently devoid of coral reef, the sunken
Carthaginian will develop into a self-sustaining habitat that
increases the numbers of fish, coral and other marine life in the
“Atlantis staff and local marine biologists will be keeping
watch over the shipwreck to track the benefits of the artificial
reef and the types of creatures that it attracts,” he said, noting
that Hawaii’s Land and Natural Resources department approved the
project based on a detailed environmental impact statement.
Atlantis Adventures has already successfully created artificial
reefs off Waikiki using a Navy tanker, former fishing vessel and
large sections from two airplanes.
“Before the Waikiki artificial reefs, there was very limited
fish and marine activity in that area,” said Atlantis Adventures
president Ronald Williams. “Today, we see a vibrant ecosystem at
work supporting all types of indigenous fish, coral, sea turtles
and other marine life.”
Along with Maui and Oahu, Atlantis offers submarine tours off
Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Tours depart Lahaina Harbor’s Slip 18 daily at
9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.
For the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. tours only, shuttle transportation is
available from west Maui resorts for an additional $23 per person;
the shuttle from South Maui costs $38.
Atlantis also sells packages pairing a submarine ride with
another Maui activity, such as a luau, helicopter tour or whale
watch. Groups can
charter the 48-seat submarine for $3,300 per hour.
Atlantis Submarines Maui
658 Front St., Suite 175
Lahaina, HI 96761
Commission: 15 percent