It’s nothing short of surreal…
A man “on fire” with fire coral flaring out of his eyes, nose and ears…
A small smiling girl looks up to the surface…
A group of business men with their heads in the sand, oblivious to the world around them…
No, these are not real people, but just a few of the 500 magnificent life-sized underwater sculptures created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor and submerged 30 feet below the ocean surface in the Museo Subacuático de Arte, or MUSA, off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.
The collection, entitled “The Silent Evolution” was generated as an alternate dive site focused on the creation of a new artificial reef. With more than 750,000 tourists visiting the reefs around Cancun every year, the fragile marine system, particularly the deteriorating Manchones Reef, were being overrun and destroyed, albeit unintentionally, by tourists. Mexican tourism developed the idea of creating something new and unique which would spur interest and draw tourist away from the ailing reefs, while at the same time piquing their interests with a different kind of underwater experience.
Bravo! The effect is a win/win/win/win scenario for Mexico, tourists, conservation, and Taylor.
It took Taylor and five other artists 18 months – from 2009 to the end of 2013 – to complete the MUSA, using 120 tons of a special kind of cement that welcomes microscopic organisms. He painstakingly sculpted each piece with its own expression, personality, unique human features, clothing, props and even pets. The statues do not contain harmful materials that could potentially harm the underwater environment.
According to Taylor, who is also a master diver, “The Silent Evolution forms a vast gathering of people aiming to define a new era of living in a symbiotic relationship with nature.” Some of the statues are seen as positive – embracing conserving the environment, while others appear in a more negative light as being oblivious of their actions.
The conservation effort has two parts to it:
- The sculptures themselves were designed to draw divers and snorkelers away from the endangered reef system so it would have a chance to regenerate.
- An opportunity to observe what the marine environment will do to the sculptures, the goal being new coral growth and eventual establishment of a new reef.
I am a frequent visitor to Mexico – this gringa is in love with that country! I’m also a certified scuba diver, and I can tell you, unequivocally, I’ve never been to a dive site like this. In addition to the already phenomenal, otherworldly feel that I get whenever I dive, there were the hundreds of sculptures to explore up close and personal.
And not only “people.” Other sculptures include a small house, bomb-styled anchors, and a life-sized Volkswagen Bug that looked so much like my first wheels I was tempted to try and adjust my buoyancy so I could climb in and sit behind the wheel for the world’s best photo op. No worries, I didn’t follow through on that impulse.
The MUSA sculptures have been submerged at different depths, up to 30 feet, so they can be enjoyed not just by divers, but snorkelers, and even those who prefer to stay dry in glass-bottomed boats.
Because of the algae and other marine life clinging to the sculptures, the museum will be a constantly-changing adventure that tourist will want to return to experience again and again.