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Australia Is Now Home to the Southern Hemisphere's First Museum of Underwater Art

The first two artworks have just been installed off Townsville, with four locations planned across the Great Barrier Reef.
By Sarah Ward
December 22, 2019
By Sarah Ward
December 22, 2019

If you're keen to soak in the Great Barrier Reef's natural underwater delights, 2019 has served up plenty of new ways to do just that. This is the year that Uber launched a submarine, albeit temporarily. A few months back, an underwater art trail also opened in The Whitsundays. And, just this month, Australia's first underwater hotel started sailing through the waters off Airlie Beach.

Now, add the Museum of Underwater Art to the list. Created by marine sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, the new attraction just just installed its first two artworks. Four pieces are planned in total — located off the shore from Townsville, and at Palm Island and Magnetic Island — with the project aiming to highlight reef conservation, restoration and education.

The first artwork, Ocean Siren, can be found 30 metres offshore from The Strand jetty at Townsville — and while it actually towers above the water, it interacts with live water temperature data. Designed to resemble Takoda Johnson, one of the area's Wulgurukaba traditional owners, it receives information from the Davies Reef weather station on the Great Barrier Reef, then changes colour in response to variations as they happen.

"She is a visual representation of current conditions underwater and a warning of potential stresses to the marine ecosystem," deCaires Taylor explained in a statement.

As for the second just-unveiled artwork, Coral Greenhouse, it sits well beneath the ocean's surface on the John Brewer Reef off Townsville — 18 metres below the waterline, to be specific. Measuring 12 metres high, weighing around 58 tonnes, and made out of stainless steel, neutral marine grade cement and zinc anodes, it does indeed look like a greenhouse. In fact, it's an underwater building.

It's also filled with more than 20 sculptures, many resembling local school children — and has been made to both stand up to wave pressures and cyclones, and remain visible to divers and snorkellers. Most importantly, it isn't just a greenhouse in name, with the piece featuring coral garden beds.

With that in mind, Coral Greenhouse is also designed to "offer opportunities for scientists, marine students and tourists to engage in action-based learning and to conduct globally important research on coral reef restoration and new technology," deCaires Taylor noted.

Marking the southern hemisphere's first underwater museum — and Australia's — the project has taken more than three years to come to fruition. Once it is fully operational, it is expected to attract 50,000 visitors each year.

Palm Island's forthcoming installation will connect the spot's the cultural story to the land and sea, according to the MOUA's website, and is expected to be in place by the end of 2020. And no timeline has been set for Magnetic Island as yet, with funding currently being sought.

Find the Museum of Underwater Art off the shore of Townsville, Queensland. For more information, visit the museum's website.

Image: Museum of Underwater Art.

Published on December 22, 2019 by Sarah Ward
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