Have you heard about The Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA), located off the coast of Isla Mujeres in Mexico’s Maya Riviera?
It’s the world’s largest underwater museum.
It looks like a pretty cool place. And, being underwater it has to be cool. I want to dive right in.
Composed of over 500 life-sized sculptures, MUSA offers incredible displays hidden 28 feet below the ocean’s surface. That means that the only way it can be explored is by diving or snorkeling. For me, having already been to Isla Mujeres, and since becoming an advanced certified scuba diver it would be an adventurous outing.
The project began in 2009 as an effort to protect the endangered Mesoamerican Reef (the second-largest barrier reef in the world) by diverting divers and snorkelers to MUSA.
Roberto Díaz Abraham, one of the founders of the museum, describes it as an “art of conservation.” Each sculpture holds special nooks and crannies that help to support the breeding of marine life while providing a safe habitat.
Six artists helped to compose the works found in MUSA: Jason deCaires Taylor, who is also a co-founder of the museum, Roberto Díaz Abraham, Salvador Quiroz Ennis, Rodrigo Quiñones Reyes, Karen Salinas Martínez and Enrique Mireles, but a large portion of the works are by Taylor.
Taylor models his sculptures after local residents from his nearby fishing town of Puerto Morelos and covers them with a marine-grade cement consisting of a PH-neutral surface that promotes coral growth. He allows the plaster to dry before removing it and filling in the remainder of the sculptures.
Since they’re made with this marine-grade cement, the statues have become covered in algae and coral to make for a stunning sight.
Some of Taylor’s works are a satirical commentary on humanity. He created “The Banker,” a series of men in business suits submerging their heads in sand, after attending a climate-change conference in Cancun.
“It represents the loud acknowledgment made about the issue, but when it comes to taking action nobody wants to stick their neck out and do something about it,” Taylor said about the work.
Some of his works symbolize the growth of new life. “The Resurrection” was created using coral fans that had broken off during a thunderstorm in Cancun.
You’ll also find statues of people you might recognize. “The Anchors” is molded from the heads of “Today” show anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, and Natalie Morales, and NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders.
But what’s most fascinating is that each of his works is built to aid in the protection and understanding of marine life. “The Ear” is a work installed with a hydrophone and hard drive. It allows researchers to study marine life via audio.
“Anthropocene,” or the Volkswagen, is made specifically for lobsters. Taylor created the piece after fisherman wiped out about 50 lobsters previously living in his “Silent Evolution” display. The car has holes to allow the shellfish to enter the sculpture, and inside it is stacked with shelving units where the creatures like to sleep.
MUSA offers an exploration into a world that’s remained a mystery.
“Two-thirds of our world is water, but there’s so much in that incredible world that’s still unknown,” said Taylor.
There are two different exhibits within the museum: Salon Manchones, which holds 475 sculptures and is 8m (27 ft.) deep and Punta Nizuc, which offers a shallow snorkeling area about 4m (13 ft.) deep and a semi-submersible boat as an alternative to diving.
MUSA is open year-round for public viewing; however, because the diving site is protected as a conservation area, you’ll need to sign up with one of the museum’s selected tour guides to access the site. Tickets cost about $60 for a two-hour tour.
If you can’t make it there in person, here’s some footage to mentally transport you to the stunning sight. https://youtu.be/lrpnxEHNW4Y