Fan Down! Or: How I learned to fix the sea fan

A step by step guide on how to repair a collapsed Gorgonian sea fan.

Fan Down!

It happened to the Beatles, to Fleetwood Mac and to Abba. They grew too big, and they collapsed. The same is true of sea fans. Sometimes they grow so large that the base they grew on is no longer able to support their weight in a strong current. Now no longer able to filter nutrients, they will eventually wither and die. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here is the story of how the ‘Phuket Marine National Park Operation Center 2 team joined us on our Similan Liveaboard; the MV Hallelujah, to fix a fallen sea fan.

Collapsed gorgonian sea fan at the similan islands
Last week we found our favorite sea fan on Similan Islands #9 lying on its side

Step 1: Who should you contact?

For Big Blue Diving Khao Lak’s owner & resident photographer, Takeshi Omura, this was a sad photo to take. When Takeshi got back on board he asked trip leader Ric Parker if there was anything we could do about it. The first instinct was to go down and try to fix it by ourselves. After a bit of second thought we realised we neither had the right equipment, nor permission from the authorities. Ric contacted a lady named Nok from the Phuket Marine National Park Operation Center 2. Nok requested to take her team onboard the MV Hallelujah so we could show her where the sea fan was located.

Similan national park officers planning sea fan restoration on the MV Hallelujah Similan Liveaboard
Nok and her team planning the sea fan recovery mission

Step 2: The Plan

On 29th October, Nok and 3 other team members came to meet us at Elephant head rock in the late morning. This gave us plenty of time to describe the fallen sea fan, go through some photos and formulate a plan. As we were not arriving to Island #9 until later in the afternoon, we even had the chance to take them on a fun dive at Elephant Head Rock. Then just after 2pm we arrived at the dive site; Three Trees. Nok, her team, trip leader Ric and several of our instructors set off in the dinghy.

Taking the dinghy to Three Trees on Similan Island 9
Taking the dinghy to Three Trees on Similan Island #9

Step 3: Positioning

After locating the sea fan, the first underwater task was to move it back into position. Sea fans grow so they face into the current. This allows them to filter nutrients from the passing flow of water. It was important to try and get the fan back into a similar position as before it fell.

Lifting the Seas fan into place at SImilan Island 9
Lifting and positioning the Gorgonian sea fan into place at Similan Island 9

Step 4: Epoxy, cable ties & poles

With the sea fan in place, the team got to work. They brought down several metal poles to build a frame around the base. They hammered several of the poles through the base and used cable ties to temporarily hold them in position.

Hammering a metal frame to fix a similan gorgonian sea fan into place
Phuket Marine National Park Operation Center 2 team and MV Hallelujah trip leader Ric Parker, working together to hammer the metal frame into place.

Once the frame was completed, it needed to be cemented in place. Epoxy resin comes in small tubular packages. When first opened, it is a soft and malleable putty. The putty was molded around all the joints of the metal frame. The epoxy resin quickly hardens into a very strong cement. Then that was it, job done!

metal frame to fix broken sea fan at similan island 9
The frame is deep enough in the sand to provide a strong enough base for the sea fan.

A job well done

Some of the fan’s branches had broken from the fall. However, it still looked relatively healthy. We will be passing by every week to see how it continues to grow. Thank you to Nok and the Phuket Marine National Park Operation Center 2 team. See you again in December 😉

Similan National Park rangers and Big Blue Diving instructors onboard MV Hallelujah
Similan National Park rangers and Big Blue Diving instructors onboard MV Hallelujah

A great Similan Liveaboard trip

Thank you to all of our guests that joined the MV Hallelujah this week. There were some really great highlights. The action on top of Tachai pinnacle for the sunset dive on day three was incredible. The big eyed trevally were as big as I have ever seen. Richelieu rock was as fishy as ever, and the final day double wreck dive didn’t disappoint. It was great to meet you all and we hope you had a great time.

Similan Liveaboard MV Hallelujah group photo
Similan Liveaboard MV Hallelujah group photo

How would you do it?

Please leave a comment below to let us know what you think of our efforts. How would you have done it differently?