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What lies beneath?

What lies beneath?

If you’ve spent a decent amount of time touring Australia by caravan, you’ve no doubt visited your fair share of museums – but have you ever visited an underwater museum? Well, now is your chance!

The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA), 18 metres below the surface on the Great Barrier Reef in Townsville, North Queensland, features sculptures by artist Jason deCaires Taylor that aim to inspire and educate visitors about reef conservation. The figurative sculptures combine artistic elements with the scientific; many of them are designed to allow for coral planting, so that the complex will eventually transform into a reef ecosystem, presenting an exhibition that changes with time.

The 12-metre-long, 158-tonne Coral Greenhouse on the John Brewer Reef is one such sculpture. Constructed of steel and concrete, its skeletal frame structure contains 20 human statues (‘reef guardians’) frozen in a science lab. It is also designed to dissipate strong ocean undercurrents and promote coral growth. While it certainly resembles a laboratory, the artwork also functions as one, with equipment that monitors water salinity, pH and oxygen levels, in addition to underwater cameras to record coral development.

Coral Greenhouse is found 80 kilometres from Townsville, which is a two-hour boat ride. While it can be viewed with a snorkel, the best way to see the installation is on a day-trip dive tour with one of the four approved tour operators found on the MOUA website (

If diving and snorkelling are a little too adventurous for your tastes, you can see one of the MOUA’s sculptures above the water too. Ocean Siren is a four-metre sculpture based on 12-year-old Takoda Johnson, a member of the local Wulgurukaba people, one of two traditional owner groups of the area. The figure towers over the water’s surface and is embedded with more than 200 solar-powered LED lights that illuminate at night and change colour according to the temperature of the ocean, using data collected by the Davies Reef weather station.

If you’re heading up to Queensland this winter, take the opportunity to visit one of the most unique museums in our part of the world!

Pictured: Coral Greenhouse, Townsville North Queensland. Photograph by Matt Curnock. Image © Townsville Enterprise

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