The Malaysian artist and coral conservationist has spent the previous few months diving off the coast of Brunei, sketching the skeletons of sunken ships.

Final yr, Brunei-based Poni Divers employed Abdullah to immortalize the sultanate’s eerie assortment of greater than 30 shipwrecks.

From the 1942 Australian Wreck — a Dutch steamer sunk by a Japanese mine — to the 1945 American Wreck, a sufferer of World Conflict II, every offers a novel diving expertise.

“Southeast Asia is admittedly the diving capital of the world — (folks) fly everywhere in the world to dive within the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia,” Thye Sing Wong, founding father of Poni Divers, tells CNN.

“Most individuals do not even know there’s diving in Brunei. However a number of the world’s greatest websites are right here.”

An underwater mission

Starting from shallow-water skeletons to 230-foot-deep goliaths, the shipwrecks dotting Brunei’s ocean flooring chronicle the sultanate’s maritime historical past.

“Lots of them are pure wrecks, with quite a lot of historical past behind them from World Conflict II (when the Brunei Bay was invaded by US and Japanese ships),” says Wong. “We actually have a decommissioned oil rig wreck. It was sunk by a partnership between fishery departments right here and Brunei Shell Petroleum (the oil firm).”

The sketches, he says, assist to advertise Brunei as a diving vacation spot, and in addition act as maps, enabling his crew to correctly temporary divers on the underwater territory they face.

“Everytime you go to a extremely established dive vacation spot, they’ve maps of the dive websites on the wall,” says Wong.

“That manner you possibly can clarify the place you enter the water, the place you enter the wreck, and the way you get again up.”

That course of is particularly necessary for divers in Brunei, the place the visibility — the space divers can see underwater — could be restricted, resulting from brown water from silty inland rivers which flows into the Brunei Bay.

On a very good day, divers can count on as much as 66 toes of visibility in Brunei, whereas within the Philippines 150 toes is just not uncommon.

Artist at work

This is not the primary time the Brunei shipwrecks have been sketched. Again within the 1980s and 90s, a number of the extra widespread wrecks had been sketched by the Brunei Sub Aqua Dive Membership.

However almost 25 years later, Wong felt it was time to replace the art work.

Enter Abdullah. A Malaysia sketcher and the founding father of coral re-population program Ocean Quest Global, the veteran diver began sketching the wrecks earlier this yr.

Up to now, he has drawn roughly six shallow underwater hulls. Every work takes about two days, throughout which he dives, takes notes on a plastic slate, snaps underwater pictures for particulars, after which jots down an preliminary sketch.

“You possibly can solely see a small part at a time. You do not know if you’re on the entrance or the again, or in the course of the wreck, as a result of it is such an enormous construction.”

To orient himself, Abdullah finds an edge and traces it till he identifies a particular marker — an anchor, a propeller or a rudder.

“I’ve to estimate the scale. I can not be measuring it with measuring tape, as a result of it takes too lengthy. Because of time underwater, particularly in deep dives, time is restricted.”

From there, he begins with an overview and fills within the particulars on his subsequent dives.

“For instance, I will add within the ship frames — they appear like ribs. I’ve to rely what number of are seen, what number of will not be, so it is correct,” says Abdullah.

“If any person dives, they know there are eight ribs. The drawing is exact.”

On the planet of scuba diving, something under 98 toes is taken into account a “deep dive.”

This yr, Abdullah began mapping the deeper wrecks for the primary time — a few of which sit 230 toes under sea degree.

With these deeper dives, essentially the most time-consuming a part of the method is the gradual ascent required to be able to readjust to achieve equilibrium and remove gases within the physique.

“It isn’t onerous to be below water, however it’s onerous to floor,” explains Abdullah. “It takes three hours to get again to the floor from 230 toes (70 meters). It takes time for decompression, about 2 hours, and the journey up takes one other hour.”

Stunning tragedies

The wrecks are lovely, he says, pointing to the 302-foot-long Cement Wreck, which sunk within the 1980s.

Carrying a cargo of cement — which might have been used to construct the sultan’s Istana Nurul Iman palace within the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan — the ship wasn’t a sufferer of warfare, however somewhat a lethal sandbank.

With a number of decks, maze-like interiors and colourful marine life, this is likely one of the space’s most fascinating dives.

The Blue Water Wreck is one other favourite, due to comparatively good visibility in its locality. Situated roughly 22 miles offshore, the 262-foot-long ship sank in 1981, resulting from a fireplace on board.

At this time, it attracts barracuda, large batfish and, sometimes, white-tip sharks — a kind of small reef shark.

“I really like (the Blue Water Wreck) as a result of I can put collectively the complete historical past of the way it sank, the historical past of what it seemed like — it is essentially the most complete story I can get.”

It isn’t solely a dive underwater, however a step again in time.