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Australia's Museum of Underwater Art Off Townsville Just Scored an Impressive New Snorkel Trail

Located on the John Brewer Reef, 'Ocean Sentinels' features eight sculptures modelled after marine scientists and conservationists.
By Sarah Ward
June 08, 2023
By Sarah Ward
June 08, 2023

Back in 2019, the Great Barrier Reef gained a new addition, as well as a new way to enjoy its natural underwater delights. Long before Avatar: The Way of Water and The Little Mermaid were plunging viewers into the deep from the comfort of their cinema seats, the Museum of Underwater Art turned sculptures beneath the ocean's surface into a spectacular reason to go for a dip. It's the southern hemisphere's first attraction of its type, in fact, and it added more artworks in 2020.

Since then, divers and snorkellers have been able to enjoy two installations. The first, Ocean Siren, is located 30 metres offshore from The Strand jetty at Townsville and actually towers above the water; however, it interacts with live water temperature data from the Davies Reef weather station, then changes colour in response to variations as they happen.

Coral Greenhouse, the second, definitely lurks below the sea. Sitting 18 metres below the waterline on the John Brewer Reef off Townsville, it measures 12 metres in height, weighs around 58 tonnes, and is made out of stainless steel, neutral marine grade cement and zinc anodes. And, yes it does indeed look like a greenhouse. As filled with more than 20 sculptures, it's an underwater building.

Now, the Museum of Underwater Art boasts a just-opened third attraction: snorkel trail Ocean Sentinels. Also located on the John Brewer Reef, it features eight sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor, all modelled after leading marine scientists and conservationists — and mainly Australians, too. Made from high-grade, low-carbon and earth-friendly concrete, then reinforced with marine stainless steel, each piece measures 2.2 metres in height and weighs anywhere from 0.94–2.8 tonnes.

Ocean Sentinels was installed in May 2023, and sits adjacent to Coral Greenhouse, making hitting the water to look at art a two-for-one experience. Because they need to be fixed to the seabed, they've been placed on barren stretches of sand. If you're keen to take a look, tourism operators will start taking travellers for a viewing from this month.

"These eight pieces will be the third installation in a series of ocean-based artworks installed throughout the Townsville region. All eight models are renowned for their expertise in the field of marine science and marine conservation and their hybrid forms make reference to their contribution to their specific field of study," explains deCaires Taylor.

One of the artist's muses: Dr Katharina Fabricius, a coral ecologist, who describes the Museum of Underwater Art "a living piece of art that communicates to the people how important research is, how important coral reefs are, and how all these aspects — art, science, humanity — can come together to protect the reef."

Find the Museum of Underwater Art, including Ocean Sentinels, off the shore of Townsville, Queensland. For more information and to book a tour, visit the museum's website.

Images: Jason deCaires Taylor.

Published on June 08, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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