Finally I can put a face to Mother Nature. However, I must first warn you, despite her majestic features she looks terribly uncomfortable.
I’ve found her beneath the tropical waters of the Bahamas, off the western coast of the capital Nassau. It’s here her five-and-a-half-metre frame and 60-tonne weight emerges from the ocean floor. She is the world’s largest underwater sculpture and her figure cuts an imposing silhouette against the vast blue of the ocean.
As I snorkel in the gin-clear waters, my eyes dart to her crooked neck, then to her up-turned hand and finally her hunched shoulders. It’s then that I’m the one who begins to feel uncomfortable, for it looks as though she’s bearing the weight of the ocean on her shoulders. And she is, metaphorically speaking.
Commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Fund, the sculpture, known as Ocean Atlas, was designed by artist and conservationist Jason deCaires Taylor. Modelled on a 13-year-old Bahamian girl, the sculpture’s youthful appearance symbolises the burden we ask future generations to carry. With 40 per cent of the world’s coral reefs already lost, Taylor’s artistic goal is “to promote the regeneration of marine life and use sculpture as a means of conveying hope and awareness of the plight of our oceans”.
Built using wire, pH neutral marine cement and galvanised steel, Ocean Atlas joins a sea of more than 550 of Taylor’s submerged sculptures. All are forever in transition, over time transforming from rock into an artificial reef beckoning and sustaining sea life. Like those works, this sculpture was built to draw mankind away from over-stressed natural reef systems to give them much-needed time to rejuvenate and grow. For me it’s a surreal snorkelling spot with a profound message.
Find out more about Jason deCaires Taylor’s incredible underwater art at underwatersculpture.com.