The Great Barrier Reef’s first-ever underwater museum is breathtaking

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Aliya Ladhabhoy

The recently opened Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) located off the shore of Townsville, North Queensland, Australia is not only a significant tourism project but also doubles up as an inspiration for reef and ocean conservation.

It has the first underwater museum in the Southern Hemisphere, which is helmed by famed British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor who has previously worked on underwater museums in Grenada, Mexico, The Bahamas, Spain and the Maldives.

Instead of one location, The MOUA is spread out across four sites in the Great Barrier Reef. Two out of the four projects were completed in December 2019. The other two are still in the process of being finalized.

deCaires Taylor creates thought-provoking art that aims to bring a positive environmental change. His art not only draws attention to the beauty of life underwater and the relationship between humans and the environment but also the effects of global warming on the ocean.

MOUA’s inaugural sculpture, the ‘Ocean Siren’ is installed alongside North Queensland’s iconic Strand Jetty in Townsville, a 1.5-mile waterfront popular for its cafes, ice cream parlours and the Strand Water Park. Modelled on one of the two local Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners Takoda Johnson, the sculpture reacts to water temperature data from the Davies Reef weather station on the Great Barrier Reef and changes colour in response to live variations in water temperature.

The second installation, the Coral Green House at the John Brewer Reef is filled with 20 reef guardians who are propagating coral spreading and the message of reef conservation, 60 feet under the sea. The Green House will not only generate a new eco-system and take the pressure off existing ones that are still recovering but will also offer scientists and students an opportunity to learn about coral reef restoration and new technology.

Currently, public access and safety measures are still being finalized. It will soon be open to scuba divers.

The other two art projects on Palm Island and Magnetic Island are still in the works and are scheduled to be completed in 2021. MOUA is forecast to generate over $42m in regional economic activity annually.

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