Concrete sculptures that will soon be submerged on the Great Barrier Reef have arrived in North Queensland as part of the award-winning Underwater Art Museum.
- The public dive site should be installed on Magnetic Island in the middle of the year
- The sculptures were modeled by leading marine scientists and conservationists
- The attraction is expected to attract thousands of new visitors to the reef
Eight statues, measuring 2.2 meters tall and weighing several tons, will be installed on the ocean floor off Magnetic Island in Townsville to create a public snorkeling attraction.
“This is the first time this has been done in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Museum of Underwater Art Board Director Paul Victory.
The Ocean Sentinels installation is the museum’s second underwater sculpture project, which established its “coral greenhouse” dive site on John Brewer Reef in 2019.
“The sculptures are designed to facilitate habitat, both coral and equine fish habitat,” Victory said.
“It’s quite surreal”
The statues were constructed by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor using concrete and stainless steel, before being painstakingly shipped to Townsville.
They were modeled by pioneering marine scientists and conservationists, whose bodies were transformed with marine life to create hybrid forms.
Among them is Professor Peter Harrison, who was a key member of the research team that discovered massive coral spawning on Magnetic Island in 1981.
“What I really hope is that once [they] are installed, my sculpture and all the other sculptures will begin to be covered in baby corals…and they will become a living part of Magnetic Island’s reef recovery stages.”
Molly Steer, a young environmentalist from Cairns who is campaigning to eradicate single-use plastic straws, was also chosen as the model for one of the statues.
Snorkeling site still undecided
The artwork will be on display at the Museum of Tropical Queensland for the next two months before being installed in their underwater home.
But Mr Victory said the location of the dive trail had not been decided.
“There has been an extensive consultation process with the community on potential sites.”
Some residents had raised environmental concerns about one of the proposed locations.
The final site will be determined by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, with the sculptures due to be installed in June.
Once operational, Victory said he expects the combination of attractions at the Museum of Underwater Art to attract between 8,000 and 12,000 visitors a year.
Another facility, planned for Palm Island, is still in the community consultation phase.