A Must See: Museum of Underwater Art

by Meri Gasem

The Great Barrier Reef is one of Queensland and Australia’s greatest natural treasures, home to extensive sea life and captivating colourful coral; what can make it more spectacular? An art piece of epic proportions, known as the Museum of Underwater Art. It’s precisely what the name tells you, art installations underwater in the Great Barrier Reef. This work of art is located right off the shore in Townsville and belongs to Jason deCaires Taylor. The official opening happened less than a year ago and here’s what you need to know.

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About the Sculptor

Jason deCaires Taylor is a British sculptor, marine conservationist, underwater photographer and scuba diving instructor. His rich experience helped him climb the ladder and become a world-famous underwater sculptor. His portfolio includes thriving underwater museums in Cancun, Lanzarote and the Bahamas, as well as several smaller ones in London, Maldives and Indonesia. Taylor is the first contemporary artist who uses art to point out the importance of marine life conservation. Collaborating with marine biologists, he learned about the materials and types of sculptures required to help preserve marine life. He uses resilient, stable and environmentally safe materials, coral promoting neutral pH cement. Broken coral fragments are propagated and planted into the sculptures.

He’s currently developing a new project in Cannes, France.




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The Importance of The Museum of Underwater Art

The Museum of Underwater Art is a two parts installation; the ‘Coral Greenhouse’ and the ‘Ocean Siren’. The main goal of the installations is reef conservation and restoration. The Great Barrier Reef is under more and more significant threats every year, and while there are several protection programs, global climate change has an enormous impact.

Submerging shipwrecks are an age-old practice used for creating amazing diving spots as well as new marine life habitats. But it’s not a sustainable method due to the materials used in ship construction. After all, their purpose is far from being coral and turtles’ habitat.

The MOUA is not only a stunning art installation meant to draw in tourists, but also a new habitat for endangered species unique to the Great Barrier Reef. Underwater equipment follows the coral development as well as marine inhabitation inside the sculptures. The museum’s idea focuses on improving education opportunities for scientists, marine students and tourists. Besides educating the masses, they expect to raise awareness and provoke action.





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How to Visit The Museum of Underwater Art

MOUA, the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, is made of two parts. The first one, Ocean Siren, is viewable from land at The Strand, Townsville beach foreshore.

The Ocean Siren is partially submerged, with its largest part standing tall in the ocean. The 5-metre tall sculpture is modelled after Wulgurukaba Traditional Owner Takoda Johnson. It reacts to water temperature changes and switches its colour according to the current temperature. The sculpture receives data from the Davies Reef weather station on the Great Barrier Reef. At night, however, the Ocean Siren is genuinely a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring spectacle.

Next, we have the Coral Greenhouse, located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef at John Brewer Reef. It’s approximately 80km from Townsville or a 2-hour boat ride, weighs more than 58 tonnes and includes 20 reef guardians propagating coral. It expresses the story of the First Nations people, particularly the Manbarra and Wulgurukaba people, the Traditional Owners of this region of land and sea. You must book a dive or snorkel tour with one of the approved tourism operators to see the installation. The visibility ranges from 10 to 15 metres and depends on the weather conditions.

Here are the operators, their departing places and days:

  • Adrenalin Snorkel & Dive – Townsville and Magnetic Island, every Thursday and Sunday
  • Yongala Dive – Townsville and Magnetic Island, every Friday and Saturday
  • Pro Dive Magnetic Island – commencing mid-2021
  • Orpheus Island – Orpheus Island, on request

You can also book the mooring and visit the Coral Greenhouse with your own vessel. All you have to do is contact the museum as well as download the mooring information from their site.





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Installations in Progress at the Museum of Underwater Art

The fascinating and innovative combination of art, science, culture and conservation doesn’t stop here. Besides the two installations already opened to the public, two more are on their way by the end of 2021.

Palm Island is the largest island of the Great Palm Group, located 65km northwest of Townsville. It’s home to the third sculpture, which will showcase the connection between the Indigenous culture and the reef. The concept revolves around the Palm Island community, the Traditional Owners and their cultural approach to the land and sea.

Magnetic Island is the final division of the underwater museum, and you can expect more information soon.





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Support The Museum of Underwater Art

There are several ways you can help to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Lower your carbon footprint, recycle, use coral-safe SPF and lead a more sustainable life. The MOUA offers you the chance to participate in its mission directly. Make a direct impact by choosing some of the activities the museum offers.

Adopt a coral

You can help expand the coral garden at the second installation of the MOUA by adopting a coral. Often, small pieces of the reef will break off and fall on the bottom of the lagoon. The sandy bottom is not suitable for them, in addition, they will die if nobody replants them. The museum picks up the broken pieces and replants them into the sculptures. If you choose to adopt a coral, the museum will plant it at the Coral Greenhouse; you’ll receive a certificate of completion of your adoption and a photo.

The minimum donation is $500.

Join a coral gardening expedition

How about planting a coral yourself? If you’re an avid, certified diver, for example, you can join a planting expedition. You’ll get to plant your own corals and see the entire process first-hand. This program will be available soon.

Share your experience on the Internet

If you already visited the MOUA or plan on visiting, make sure to share your experience online. Whether via a blog post, TripAdvisor review, or your personal social media account, the museum’s mission is noble and worth sharing. And your non-diving friends will appreciate some photos for sure! After all, good words are free!

Corporate Partnership

Are you a local business owner? The MOUA now offers corporate partnerships. Local businesses get to experience the beauty of the Museum of Underwater Art and help with the costs for maintenance.
With corporate sponsorships, companies get an allocation of tickets for the Coral Greenhouse. Donations start at $15,000 and help create more coral gardening missions as well as student science programs. A portion is dedicated to indigenous tourism training and reef monitoring fees.




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