Greeting a new year undersea
By Dharshana Jayawardena.

Press Release: Greeting 2004 Under Sea! Divers from Scuba Sri Lanka make history by conducting the first ever 31st night SCUBA dive to highlight destruction of coral reefs.

The Midnight Divers!

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At 11.00 PM on the night of December 31st 2003, about ten SCUBA divers gathered at the Scuba Sri Lanka (SSL) dive center in Bentota. Their mission was to conduct the first ever new years eve celebration to greet the year 2004 under sea and to help create public awareness about coral reef destruction by beach goers.

After a pre-dive briefing by Master Scuba Dive Trainer Eric Fernando, the divers assembled their gear and left the shores of Bentota approximately at 11.30 PM. With a cool breeze and a calm sea bathed with moon light the surface conditions were ideal for this excursion. The team headed to the sea in a speed boat and at approximately 11:55 PM descend to 12 meters of depth alongside a rocky reef known to the locals as Hundirangala. Positioning themselves in a circular formation, they held the their torches towards the surface and awaited the dawn of a new year with great anticipation.

Precisely at 00:00 AM January 1st they uncorked an empty champagne bottle in symbolic celebration and shook hands and greeted each other. For the next half an hour they explored the rock formation and observed the nocturnal marine life of the rocky reef.The spirit of this excursion was to help increase public awareness about the threat to our fragile reefs and emphasize the "Leave nothing and take nothing" ethic when dealing with our ocean environment.

· Pollution by tourists.
Beach goers dumping garbage in the ocean. Project A.W.A.R.E cleanup operation by SSL around Pigeon Island in Trincomalee last year hauled up beer cans, shoes, T-shirts and non-bio degradable polythene bags. These types of refuse products suffocate and kill the growth of coral. Please don't leave anything back when you go to the beach (Leave Nothing!)

· Breaking and stealing coral.
It's a known fact that beach goers in Sri Lanka break pieces of coral to take home. Branching coral may grow between 20 to 30 centimeters per year, while massive boulder-shaped coral may grow only a few millimeters per year. Thus even a small piece of coral takes years to form. Please take care not to step on coral and break pieces as souvenirs. (Take Nothing!). This is a punishable offense with fines up to RS. 25,000.

This dive was organized by Dharshana Jayawardena ( and Eric Fernando (Scuba Sri Lanka and also the sponsor). As a follow up step the divers organized a clean up operation in Beruwala/Bentota region with the objective of extracting yards of broken fishnets that entrap marine life and suffocate coral growth.