Underwater sculpture garden helps save Cancun’s coral reefs

Cancun’s famous coral reefs have been hit hard lately by storms and pollution, and the Mexican government has come up with an interesting way to let the reefs heal while still attracting visitors. They’re creating an underwater sculpture garden that will bring back the tourists and encourage growth of new coral.

It’s the brainchild of the Mexican government and artist Jason de Caires Taylor, who specializes in the beautiful if rather rare art of underwater sculpture. Most of his figures are human forms cast from real people. They’re made of inert, PH-neutral concrete. This concrete doesn’t pollute the water and attracts sea life. The figures then become platforms for coral and various other marine life, making a strange mixture of the natural and man-made.

Mexican park officials hope the sculptures will draw snorkelers and scuba divers away from the coral reefs, allowing the reefs time to heal. Judging from the photos in this gallery, divers won’t want to miss it. The scenes Mr. de Caires Taylor creates are spooky yet strangely alluring, like the plaster casts of Pompeii victims.

It takes only a couple of weeks for green algae to form on the surface of the sculptures, and coral and other sea creatures will start growing within a couple of months. So not only will the original coral reefs be allowed to regrow, but a new one will also start growing to add to the biodiversity on the sea floor.

Like his previous works in Granada, Chepstow and Canterbury (UK), the sculpture garden in Cancun is located in clear, shallow waters to allow easy viewing, although scuba divers will have the best view because they’ll be able to swim around the art at leisure. The first figures have already been put into place off the shores of Cancun. Hundreds more are planned.