Queensland’s Museum Of Underwater Art Is The Only One Of Its Kind In The Southern Hemisphere

Marco Ruiz Marco Ruiz - Staff Writer

Queensland’s Museum Of Underwater Art Is The Only One Of Its Kind In The Southern Hemisphere

MOUA is huge! And stages two and three are still not built.

Townsville’s Museum Of Underwater Art (MOUA) is a sculpture museum where the artworks are underwater or out at sea. It is the third of its kind in the world and the first in the Southern Hemisphere. Subsequently, MOUA brings to our ‘girt by sea’ country a new way of experiencing and connecting with the coastal and marine wonderlands.


Located within The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, MOUA’s underwater sculptures not only create new habitats for marine life (in the same way shipwrecks become new homes for fish and other creatures) but it also establishes and fosters links between the science of marine ecology and the art, culture and storied-worlds of the local people, namely the Manbarra and Wulgurukaba People.

More than anything else, MOUA is about highlighting the need for ”reef conservation, restoration and education on a global scale.” And we think that that’s a pretty important job this decade.

Stage one of MOUA has been completed and consists of two pieces.

The first is Ocean Siren and although it is above water, its 202 LED lights use data collected from the Australian Institute of Marine Science weather station on Davies Reef to reflect what is going on beneath the surface, most notably the rising sea temperatures. Modeled after 12-year old Takoda Johnson, a member of the local Wulgurukaba people, the 16-foot tall sculpture can be viewed by anyone walking along The Strand.

The second is Coral Greenhouse located 80 kilometres off of the coast on John Brewers Reef. It is the largest underwater structure built by artist Jason DeCaires Taylor measuring nine metres in length and weighing in at 58 tonnes. It is also filled with 20 ‘reef guardian’ sculptures and kitted out with all the necessary equipment to monitor water salinity, pH and oxygen levels as well as underwater cameras to capture the development of the corals. (The structure has only been on the seafloor for a relatively short time but it is already taking on a life of its own.)


Stages two and three have been proposed for sites at Palm Island and Magnetic Island and both stages are expected to be completed by December 2021. Palm Island will see an Indigenous-themed sculpture where a Corroboree of people, sculpted from casts of local residents, are placed in either kneeling or standing positions.

Magnetic Island will be home to a trail of sculptures with the theme of reef science. Up to eight sculptures of significant reef scientists, including Dr Charlie Veron (coral), Dr Rick Brayley (clam), Dr Katarina Fabricus, (coral) and Dr Maurice Young (shells) will be fully submerged in two proposed locations. Both islands are intended to be snorkel destinations.

To find out more, take a look at the Public Information Package for stages two and three here.

The Man Behind The Art

Jason DeCaires Taylor is the man behind other underwater museums in Cancun, Mexico and Lanzarote, Spain and underwater sculptures around the world. His intention with his works is to use them in order to engage communities and bring about positive change. His sculptures, located in areas outside of most people’s daily life, allow visitors the opportunity to experience samples of worlds beyond their own in a safe and non-destructive manner.

He says of his underwater museums that they ”are places of preservation, conservation and education. They’re places where we keep objects of great value to us, where we value them simply for being themselves.”

How To See MOUA

While Ocean Siren can be seen from land, Coral Greenhouse is best observed from, well, under the water. To get there, you’ll need a boat, equipment to help you breathe, and a tour guide. To see MOUA’s tour operators, go to their website.

Prefer to keep your feet on dry land? How about a coast-to-coast train trip to scratch that holiday itch?

Culture Escapes