Fish, divers swim through underwater Mexico museum

Tue Apr 6, 2010 3:28pm EDT
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By Mica Rosenberg

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters Life!) - Schools of glittering silver-white fish swoop past a statue of a man hunched over a workbench, the first seabed artwork in a new underwater museum in Mexico's Caribbean Sea.

The cement sculpture, called "The Collector," shows a figure who records bottled treasures in logbooks. It weighs four tons and is anchored 26 feet under the sea. Divers watch a yellowtail damselfish nibble on algae growing from the sculpture's pant leg, which its creators hope will eventually sprout colorful coral.

About 400 life-size casts will be submerged off the resort of Cancun by the end of 2010. It is hoped that the low-acidity cement figures, designed to be anti-corrosive and mimic rock, will be transformed over time into artificial reefs. Some will be in shallow waters for snorkelers to enjoy.

"I wanted to make an impressive landscape where you can swim through a sea of faces," said Jason de Caires Taylor, the British artist behind the "Subaquatic Museum".

The aim is to lure some of the 800,000 tourists who visit Cancun's vast marine park each year -- many during April's Easter week holiday -- away from natural coral reefs battered by hurricanes, pollution and global warming.

Amateur divers can do even more damage to delicate undersea structures made by tiny animals called coral polyps if they are careless with their flippers, kicking up sand or knocking off coral that grows just a few centimeters a year.

"The park managers were looking for an alternative to manage the tourists. The idea was to concentrate everyone in one place," said de Caires Taylor, who has also built an underwater sculpture park in Grenada, West Indies.

The 400 figures, weighing 180 tons in total and to be named "Silent Evolution", will be submerged in a barren, flat expanse of the park, which lies between Cancun and nearby islands.   Continued...

<p>A diver swims near British artist Jason de Caires Taylor's sculpture "The Flower of Hope" in this undated handout in the Mexican resort of Cancun. At the bottom of its turquoise waters and playing with the reflections of the sun at sea, a series of sculptures were immersed in the Mexican resort of Cancun in what aspires to be a huge underwater museum that harmonizes with the beauty of its coral reefs. REUTERS/Jason de Caires Taylor/Courtesy of Asociados Nauticos de Cancun/Handout</p>