Fish and algae find a home in Cancun’s underwater museum’s exhibit, The Silent Evolution. // © 2011 Jason deCaires Taylor
Since submerging 400 statues in 2010, the Cancun underwater museum’s installation — titled the Silent Evolution — has continued to evolve. Located in Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Punta Nizuc, Mexico, the project was started as an effort to divert tourists to dive spots away from natural habitats and natural coral reefs in order to preserve sea life without losing visitors.
Although it has been nearly two years since the initial phase and almost one year after the second phase, it is only now that the statues have developed local marine life within these life-size concrete sculptures. On my snorkel adventure with tour operator Aquaworld, I was able to see the sculpture garden up-close. Prior to our boat ride to Isla Mujeres, Roberto Diaz of The Cancun Nautical Association gave our group a short presentation on the progress and stages the underwater museum has undergone thus far. From Diaz, I learned about the time and detail that goes into creating the statues — from developing an idea, finding a model, molding the sculptures to planning out the placement of each statue and sculpture in the ocean. Even hurricane patterns across the ocean are considered during the submergence of the sculptures. After the presentation, we embarked on our boat ride and geared up for the snorkel.
Jumping into the middle of the ocean is not a habitual practice of mine, but I felt quite safe and secure with the Aquaworld guides who instructed us on where to go, who to follow and what to do if we decided to opt out anytime during our swim. The ocean was comfortable in temperature with a slight current that even beginners could handle.
As I buoyed up and down in my life vest and my feet in fins systematically flapping beneath me, I decided to take a peak in the water to see what I’d gotten myself into. The first look underwater was surreal — immediately, there were beautifully colored reefs and schools of fish swimming just right under me. Our guides took us around to see some natural reefs and corals before taking us out to the museum and fish of all sizes swam to us. Unfortunately, some corals and reefs were less vibrant than others because of negative environmental effects on the marine life throughout the years, but it was still an exciting sight to see.
Upon entering the museum, the first sculpture I saw was a Volkswagen Beetle that was parked in solitude with nothing but a few fish swimming around it. It looked life-size and still had visible holes from where reefs and corals were planted before sinking it in the water. Diaz informed us that this Volkswagen had spaces inside for crustaceans and fish to inhabit. We eventually arrived to The Silent Evolution where the 400 sculptures are installed. Sculptures were covered in algae, seaweed and a few even had corals growing out of them, with fish swimming through and between them. In this stage of growth, it looked almost natural. Perhaps in a few more years, the development of sea life will increase, and the beautiful neon-colored reefs and corals of all sizes will emerge.
Snorkeling was a fun way to see the exhibit from a safe distance but, next time, I’d like to dive down to the site for an up-close encounter with the sculptures and the sea.
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