Snorkel through modern history in first underwater museum
By: Ashley Gustafson
Imagine being able to combine the exhilarating act of snorkeling some of the most beautiful waters in the world with the ability to navigate and explore some of the most extraordinary sculptures of modern time. Sounds too good to be true, but thanks to the Museo Atlantico just off the west coast of Africa, this once figment of the imagination can now be a reality. With beautiful white sand beaches and thriving Spanish culture, the fist underwater museum just became a new hot spot for snorkelers, divers, and art buffs alike.
Inside Museo Atlantico
For this adventure, you will have to travel to the most eastern region of the Spanish Canary Islands. This region is called Lanzarote and while it is beautiful at the surface, its true claim to fame is about to be beneath the surface. For those who want to combine their love of snorkeling or diving with a passion for art and history, beneath the ocean surface you will come face-to-face with over 400 sculptures, statues, and fixtures resting in the sea bed as if they were made to be there while in fact each statue was moved and placed individually with absolute precision before the exhibit’s debut. This is Museo Atlantico, and the collection of statues is a new art installation that has become the first underwater museum in Europe and also the Atlantic Ocean.
The man behind the exhibit
The artist is British visionary Jason DeCaires Taylor. He imagined the exhibition submerged allowing snorkelers and scuba divers the ability to explore all its beauty just 14 meters under the ocean’s surface. To make this vision a reality, DeCaires Taylor used a pH-neutral marine cement as his material of choice. By using Eco-friendly materials he hopes that with time marine life will find his art and eventually give rise to a thriving artificial coral reef ecosystem. This impressive and innovative vision is not his first; he has also had success with similar underwater exhibits in Mexico. In along with striving to promote marine life and ecosystems, DeCaires Taylor also intends to use his art to start conversation. He wants to link the tie between man and the environment in a contemporary world with large, growing issues like climate change. One of his pieces, The Rubicon, shows 35 people standing frozen in mid-stride. The eerie group is obviously modern wearing hoodies and other current fashion trends. According to DeCaires, this is a metaphor for the point of no return in a world of unchecked global warming where mankind does nothing to stop unnatural climate change and pollution.
For his art, DeCaires Taylor used actual human beings as models and used them to create casts for his statues. He worked diligently in his art studio near the island’s Rubicon Harbor. His passion to change human awareness of climate change issues and global warming is inspiring and his attitude about conservation is contagious. He wanted this exhibit to hit home with the people who visit it. The art is modern and is meant to be people of this time. In fact, one of the statues is even taking a selfie. His quote in The Guardian is spot on; he said, “Humans only have empathy when they see something themselves. I intentionally made [the figures] very every day; they all have clothes on- it’s us.”
The Museo Atlantico opened to the general public this February (2016). They are still working to train underwater guides in Lanzarote to navigate the first underwater museum in the Atlantic Ocean. Guests are given the option to snorkel or scuba dive the exhibit to explore the many beautiful statues and sculptures created by Jason DeCaires Taylor. For more information on how to visit, check out the Museo Atlantico’s Facebook page here!