It’s a special milestone for the iconic Underwater Observatory (UWO) at the end of the Busselton Jetty on Friday Dec 14, when it turns 15!
The UWO, one of only five natural aquariums in the world, has put Busselton on the international map. When the UWO opened, the Jetty attracted 200,000 visitors annually, it now attracts over 500,000!
The concept for the UWO was developed after the Jetty was twice threatened with demolition after it ceased operating as a port in 1973 and was destroyed by Cyclone Alby in 1978. A group of passionate community members formed a group, now known as BJI, to save the Jetty.
The restoration of the Jetty, development of the Interpretive Centre and the creation of the UWO was driven by this active community group and led by the late President Allie Scott, who devoted many years of his life to restoring the Jetty.
Allie’s vision for the UWO created a new world-class eco-tourism opportunity and significant flow on benefits from increased tourist numbers for Busselton and the region.
Construction of the UWO commenced in 2002 by Doric Construction – it was quite a challenge designing a building that could sit on the seafloor, withstand the brunt of winter storms and allow people uninterrupted views of marine life.
Made of concrete and steel, the UWO is shaped like a large water tank, is 13m deep and 8.5m wide, weighing 550 tonnes with 11 viewing windows. The sheer engineering feat of the build and the transport is very impressive – the structure was built in Fremantle, floated down to Busselton, put into place and held down using 12 anchors driven 18m into the sand.
The UWO opened to the public in December 2003 with more than 60,000 people visiting in the first six months.