Monday, April 15, 2024

Artificial Reef Advocate Joe Weatherby Has Died


Joe Weatherby, a passionate artificial reef advocate, passed away last week at the age of 62.

Weatherby made a name for himself through his work as a “shipwrecker,” transforming retired military ships into underwater ecosystems.

Sinking projects included the largest ship in the Florida Keys, the 523-foot/159m Vandenberg, US Coast Guard cutter and WWII ship Mohawk resting off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida, and the Annapolis, a 317-foot/97m destroyer laying in about 100 feet/30m off British Columbia.

Each of those created marine life habitats and world class recreational diving sites. But getting the vessel to the ocean floor was only the beginning. Weatherby continued to draw attention to the wrecks he sank, as well as other diving locations.

According to his obituary:

“He was very creative and understood the economic value of good marketing, bringing different groups together, and the importance of developing fun new projects.”

Weatherby also collaborated with veterans and adaptive diving organizations to host Formula H2O Racing, underwater scooter races using diver propulsion vehicles (DPV). These family orientated events held in the Florida Keys and around the state, helped those transitioning to changes in their lives bond through competition while enjoying a water environment.

Additionally, Weatherby successfully partnered with award-winning artist Andreas Franke to create a variety of underwater art exhibitions that were placed on ships and visited by divers. These installments allowed divers to swim through an art gallery and cultural enthusiasts to get a glimpse of the underwater world. After being “seasoned by the sea,” the images were brought up and put on display for land-lovers to enjoy.

Further, Weatherby promoted the DEMA Ships2Reefs projects and programs, and gave presentations on the benefits of artificial reefing, including at the History of Diving Museum. He believed using all these methods enhanced ocean conservation, saved marine ecosystems, and exposed people to the magic of the sea.

Weatherby died on Tuesday, February 13th. Per his wishes, his family “only asks for good vibes and sunshine as they navigate this monumental loss.” The Weatherby family will host a celebration of life, to be scheduled at a later date.

(Featured image credit: Dave Sirak)

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.