Cancun’s Underwater Museum

Cancun’s Underwater Museum is an amazing ecological project that is a continuous effort to recuperate and enhance the reef areas surrounding Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Three people got together in a bid to help this natural habitat. Over the years, hurricanes and human kind have caused damage to the great reefs in the area, so it was time to step in and help these beautiful gardens replenish and flourish once more. It’s now been 3 years since the Cancun Underwater Museum project first placed the initial figures on the seabed of Cancun’s waters. British artist Jason DeCaires Taylor is the main creator and artist of this amazing site and more information about his works can be found here.

Dr. Jaime Gonzalez Cano is the director of the National Park Costa Occidental Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc. He searched the internet for ideas and came across the work of Jason DeCaires Taylor, a British underwater artist. The first seed of an underwater sculpture project for Cancun was planted. The next step was to contact Roberto Diaz, president of the Nautical Association – as a ceramic artist and sculptor, he loved the idea.

Jason left his life in London and dedicated 2 long years in the creation of 403 life sized concrete sculptures. The sculptures are made from neutral clay and positioned on the ocean beds in order to promote marine life and the growth of coral reef.

There are now over 460 of Jason’s sculptures, plus other single sculptures by local artists, submerged in Cancun’s water and they are located in two areas. The first location is close to Manchones Reef area between the coasts of Isla Mujeres and Cancun. On the sand banks beside this reef you can see the Dream Collector, Man on Fire, The Banker, Anthropocene, Biomap, Tortuga and, of course, The Silent Evolution. The sculptures are placed at a depth of between six and nine meters.

A few of the sculptures

The Dream Collector: The Dream Collectir was one of the first of Jason’s sculptures to be submerged in 2009. The archive of lost dreams depicts an underwater archive guarded and protected by a registrar. The registrar has categorized the bottles shown in the sculpture as each bottle contains its own message of fear, hope, loss or belonging. The sculpture provides a haven for sea life to breed and inhabit.

The Man on Fire: This was also one of the original sculptures from 2009. The sculpture is a lone figure of a man with 75 holes cut into the statue. Fire coral, a fast growing coral, was placed in the holes. This coral was acquired from damaged fragments, tropical storms and a small portion was artificially grown. Once the coral continues to grow, the statue will have the appearance of being on fire, hence the name. If touched, fire coral can provoke a nasty stinging sensation. The statue is cast from a local fisherman called Joachim, and symbolizes our current environmental situation. The man is burning and unaware of this, just as we seem to be unaware of how our actions affect nature.

Anthropocene: Submerged in 2011, this sculpture is of course cast from a Volkswagen and the design allows for fish and marine life to enter the crevices of the car. The rounded shape of the beetle means it can sustain strong currents or tropical storms, ensuring a safe place for the critters that inhabit it. The sculpture weighs 8 tons and contains internal spaces for lobsters and other crustaceans.

The Banker: This sculpture is of a suited man with his head buried in the sand. The piece depicts the recent denial and lack of transparency defined by the current economical crisis. It symbolizes a resistance towards our looming ecological disaster and the poor accountability of our banking institutions. The design supports an internal living space for crustaceans and juvenile fish to breed. In August 2012, Jason submerged five new pieces to accompany the Banker. (See pictures in the Slideshow).

BioMap: These pieces were created by an artist from Merida named Rodrigo Quiñones. Local artists were invited to participate in the Cancun Underwater Museum project and there are now a few works submerged. The translation of the meaning of this sculpture is ‘making the world available to the fish.’ From above, the various sculpture shapes make up a map of five of the continents.

Bacab/Tortuga: This piece was made by Salvador Quiroz. Salvador’s blog can be found here Salvador created this piece based on Mayan Gods Itzamna and Ixchebelyax. The sculpture has a turtle shape and hollow inlets and spaces for juvenile fish to breed and inhabit. Salvador has some great video online which shows the piece being submerged.

Urban Reef: Jason’s newest sculptures to be submerged in August 2012 include ‘Urban Reef,’ which stays with the theme of the entire Cancun Underwater Museum. Three houses made out of ph neutral clay providea safe haven for marine life. These sturdy ‘buildings’ will also protect animals from tropical storms. The sculptures are placed as such in order to depict an urban street or suburban complex for the underwater critters that inhabit the area.

The Silent Evolution: This is a truly impressive part of the Cancun Underwater Museum and was completed in 2010. The collection consists of 450 life sized sculptures – 400 sculptures were submerged in 2010 and 50 new ones added in August 2012. The statues form the shape of an eye that helps disperse currents and tropical storms. The sculptures were all molded from real people, including a British TV presenter and locals from Puerto Morelos. As with all of Jason’s projects, the sculptures are made from PH neutral clay and promote the growth of coral and marine life. One of the greatest stories of this particular piece it that the angelfish have returned to the area after a sudden unexplained disappearance; over 100 were recently spotted surrounding the statues.

For more information about diving Cancun’s Underwater Museum, Contact AquaWorld.

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