A short history

A short history of BWV as told by Jeffrey Low

The formation of the Blue Water Volunteers was the result of one-too-many drinks at a Christmas party in 2002. An innocent question from the head of the Reef Ecology Lab (as it was then known), on who would like to run coral reef survey expeditions to Cambodia, got a chorus of “Yes!” “Me!” from his assistants.

The direct result of this was the first Koh Kong Expedition (KK1), funded by the Singapore International Foundation. Subsequently, KK2 and KK3 were run, including Beyond Lands End (or BLE) 1, 2 and 3, Project Comeco in East Timor and Surin 1 and 2 in Thailand.

Long before the last expeditions were run, however, the question of what to do with the return volunteers arose. A lot of time and effort had been expended to train these volunteers in reef survey work. Researchers at NUS had spent countless hours refining the training materials into a slick presentation. The team leaders and scientific officers of these trips had accumulated tremendous knowledge on organizing expeditions and working with volunteers in field conditions. More importantly, the volunteers had returned with a zest to know more about the coral reefs, and, in particular, what was in our own back yard.

In March 2003 the first ReefFriends survey was conducted, with seed money from PADI Project AWARE. The survey brought together return volunteers from KK1, BLE1 and BLE2. Other surveys followed, at Sisters, Kusu and Pulau Jong – new faces, same questions, more reefs surveys.

While the ReefFriends programme was underway, similar questions were brewing at SIF, and the YEP Alumni was eventually formed. The co-ordinators for ReefFriends were asked to sit in the exco for the Alumni. Suddenly, from an ad-hoc working group, ReefFriends had greater legitimacy and status. Several more meetings and many email discussions later, the Blue Water Volunteers was formed, and launched on 14 Feb 2004, along with several other “sister” groups under the YEP Alumni banner.

BWV has since gone from strength to strength, due in large part to the enthusiasm of the volunteers. Three other programmes were developed, ReefWalk, ReefTalk and ReefExhibits, soon after its formation. Most recently, BWV teamed up with The Hantu Blog and Gill Divers to set up the Reef Xplore! programme.