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Ocean Sentinels form new GBR dive trail

One of the new Ocean Sentinels on the GBR (Jason deCaires Taylor)
One of the new Ocean Sentinels on the GBR (Jason deCaires Taylor)

A new series of eight large-scale sculptures by British underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor has been installed in the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) he has created on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, set to be officially unveiled on World Ocean Day (8 June).

Most of these “Ocean Sentinels” represent scientists whose studies in the field of marine science and conservation have influenced understanding of reef ecology, says Taylor. His “hybrid-form” Sentinels synthesise the human figures with natural marine elements that reflect each individual’s area of expertise – previewing the way in which marine life colonises all his underwater installations over time.  

Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel based on Molly Steer (Jason deCaires Taylor)

This third addition to MOUA is designed to reflect the GBR’s history, connections with marine-science institutions and links to indigenous cultures and traditions, says the sculptor. The Ocean Sentinels are made from a new pH-neutral, low-carbon “Earth-friendly” green concrete reinforced with marine stainless steel, with surfaces textured to encourage marine-life colonisation. 

“It is hoped that in years to come a variety of endemic species such as corals, sponges and hydroids will change the sculptures’ appearance in vibrant and unpredictable ways,” says Taylor, who believes that much of the appeal of his work comes from capturing its ever-changing appearance through photography – that of visiting divers and his own.

The 8 inspirations

The sculptor (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Sculptor and photographer (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Lowering one of the Sentinels (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Lowering one of the Sentinels (Jason deCaires Taylor)

The new Ocean Siren figures are dedicated to Jayme Marshall, representing the next generation of Australia’s indigenous leaders; Prof Peter Harrison, who was first to record mass coral-spawning in 1981 and pioneer of “coral IVF”; coral ecologist Dr Katharina Fabricius; marine zoologist Sir Maurice Yonge, who led a 13-month GBR expedition in the 1920s; “Godfather of Coral” Prof Charlie Veron; giant clam specialist Dr Richard Braley; Dr David Vaughan, who works to square aquaculture with marine-ecosystem health; and Molly Steer, who started an effective campaign to eradicate single-use plastic straws when she was only nine.

The original Ocean Siren is a 4m-high illuminated sculpture modelled on Takoda Johnson, a young indigenous girl. It stands 6m above water level, its changing surface colour visually reflecting daily average water-temperature data at Davies Reef

The original surface Ocean Siren (Jason deCaires Taylor)
The original surface Ocean Siren (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Ocean Sentinel (Jason deCaires Taylor)

Although parts of the northern GBR have been badly affected by coral bleaching over the past 10 years, those surrounding the Ocean Sentinels in the Townsville region remain some of the world’s most spectacular and biodiverse, according to Taylor. 

His “Coral Greenhouse” was installed there in 2019 and has evolved into a flourishing underwater garden with new marine life being attracted and scientifically documented, he says. “As benthic organisms begin to colonise, fish surveys indicated significant increases of diversity and abundance, recording a 400% increase since its initial install.”

Colonisation taking place at the Coral Greenhouse (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Colonisation taking place at the Coral Greenhouse (Jason deCaires Taylor)

Of 131 corals transplanted in the Greenhouse in March 2020, he says that survival rates have exceeded 92%, with densities of 8.35 hard corals and 10.9 soft corals per square metre recruited to the structure.

A new range of Jason deCaires Taylor posters, prints, T-shirts and sculptures is now available online, with all proceeds to be reinvested into further reef-restoration projects. Using the code SaltWater10 provides a 10% discount.

A guide is available to those operators offering diving at the MOUA sites.

Also on Divernet: The diver who likes to leave his mark, Underwater Museum unmasked, Divers roam new forest in Cyprus, deCaires Taylor figures destroyed in Maldives

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