So, the story of The Little Mermaid involved, erm, a little mermaid who found herself on land surrounded by humans and being expected to blend right in with her pretty little feet and seashell bra. Right? Well, although growing a tail and flipping about with the dolphins was probably just a pipedream for many of you, there is a person who has flipped the entire story on its head and forced the awkward bodies of the human race to live watery lives in the depths of the ocean – sans tail.

Part of the fun of travelling to new places and discovering new cities is being an unashamed tourist. Comfy shoes, padlocked bag and clutching a map is sometimes the only way to tackle an exploration mission. Especially when part of your trip involves venturing to museums and galleries which, although brilliant for soaking up the history and culture of a place, often leave you tired and delirious with museum feet (don’t lie, you know exactly what I mean). Jason deCaires Taylor has found an ingenious and… well, downright eerie way of ‘jazzing up’ the whole experience – avoiding the museum feet and making you feel like you’ve bagged a walk-on role in a real life fairytale.

In Mexico, deCaires Taylor has erected a spooky collection of sculptures that not only allow visitors to enjoy swimming around the coral reef in Cancun, but also ensure that the natural wonders that attract tourists remain unscathed by flippers, snorkels and the select few who decide to take a piece of the reef home with them as a souvenir. The ocean floor has now been littered with life-sized sculptures of real folk from the surrounding towns instead of the debris of passing visitors.

MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) has been described as ‘the most ambitious underwater artificial art attraction in the world.’ Situated a little way away from the main reefs, the sculptures themselves have, over time, become living reefs in themselves. By ensuring that the artwork has been created from specialised materials used to promote coral life, deCaires Taylor has created an artificial paradise that draws in sea creatures and wildlife as well as tourists. In doing so, the ‘genuine’ coral reef has been protected as visitors are more enchanted by the idea of swimming amongst the people frozen in time than the rest of the waters.

One particular sculpture that has been bewitched with certain quirkiness is that of Archive of Lost Dreams. The statue depicts a registrar categorising messages in bottles that have been contributed by a selection of communities of various ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, while his dog lounges at his feet. In addition to acting as a diversion from the damaged reef, the sculpture acts as a kind of time capsule – the messages within the bottles are hoped to document current values and aspirations of those who have offered them to the sea, so that future generations can discover them and learn from the past.

The artwork has attracted a tonne of visitors and has gained fans from the likes of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder who has used The Lost Correspondent as the artwork for his album Ukulele Songs (incidentally, definitely worth a listen). With rock royalty showing a love for the eerie underwater displays, you don’t need much more incentive to take a voyage to the depths of the ocean. No padlocked bag needed – and definitely no unsightly Crocs… perhaps just that tail from The Disney Store you treasured when you were, ooh, that high?

Want to see more photos? Check out Jason deCaires Taylor’s website.


*Post written by Nancy Dent