Great Barrier Reef underwater museum ready to open

British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor has created an underwater greenhouse on the seabed off the coast of Australia as a habitat for marine life. It’s ready for visitors – as soon as guidance allows.

Created as part of the Museum of Underwater Art, the Coral Greenhouse sits in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on the John Brewer Reef. It is located 50 miles from Townsville, a coastal city in the Australian state of Queensland.

Positioned in an inlet of the natural reef, the concrete and steel Coral Greenhouse is full of sculptures of trees and people.

Instead of glass, water fills the space between the ribs of the underwater building. Spire-shaped elements attached with zinc anodes to the apex of the roof oscillate in the waves, according to DeZeen.

DeCaires Taylor created sculptures of workbenches filled with gardening tools inside the sunken pavilion, which are each designed to be a refuge for different species of wildlife.

Small fish can escape predators by hiding in the gaps of gridded elements, and there are niches for octopuses and sea urchins to hide in.

Above, the beams of the Coral Greenhouse are designed to be a convenient place for fish to feed or congregate about in shoals.

Weighing 165 tonnes, the skeletal structure is anchored to the sandy bottom by its heavy base and has integrated cyclone tethers to protect it during storms. Its triangular structure is designed to give it a low centre of gravity.

“As the Coral Greenhouse is slowly colonised and built upon by the reef, it will be gradually absorbed into its surroundings,” says deCaires Taylor.

Divers and snorkelers can access the sculpture garden easily by swimming down and using the three entrance points to the sunken pavilion. There are two-metre-wide gaps either end and an arched doorway at the centre.

DeCaires Taylor modelled the trees on local Australian plants, such as eucalyptus and umbrella palm. The sculptures of children engaged in science and conversation work were modelled on real children from schools around the world.

“We hope to advance education and offer opportunities for scientists, marine students and tourists to engage in action-based learning and conduct globally important research on coral reef restoration and new technology,” says deCaires Taylor.

In conjunction with the Coral Greenhouse, a four-metre-high illuminated sculpture of a girl holding a shell aloft has been installed on the waterfront of Townsville.

Called Ocean Siren, deCaires Taylor modelled her on Takoda Johnson, a girl from Australia’s indigenous Wulgurukaba tribe.

Using data collected from the Davies Reef weather station, the LED display covering half of the sculpture changes colour according to the sea temperature around the reef.

Powered by solar panels, Ocean Siren’s lights act as a warning for the environmental threat of warming waters stressing the nearby reefs.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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