What lies beneath…

An unexpected legacy of the hurricanes and tropical storms that have struck Grenada’s coastline in recent years has been the construction of the world’s first underwater sculpture park. Shocked by the damage to the reefs, British sculptor and diver Jason de Caires Taylor, 33, was moved to give nature a helping hand by installing an artificial reef on the sea bed at Molinere Bay just north of capital town St George’s.

Reefs the world over are desperately endangered and installing artificial ones helps to provide a habitat for marine life and allow corals to grow and develop naturally. We’ve all heard the sorts of comments about these sculptures. Most of the pieces are fashioned from body casts the artist took of local people and were inspired by Grenadian history and folk tales. It may seem eerie, but the celestial beauty quickly overcomes any notions of fear.

To find the somewhat elusive underwater sculpture park, don’t be on the lookout for signposts, or a hand painted hand pointing to a notice saying “sculpture park here’’. Just around a rocky little cove with a tiny beach in the corner, you must get in the water and find your adventure. As you make your way through the water, a dark indistinct figure kneeling all alone on the ocean bed will appear. Her name is Sienna and she is made of wire. A character from a story who was able to dive to great depths, Sienna was taken advantage of by hunters for sunken treasure and her story ends in tragedy and betrayal.

Further off lie the figures which make Grace Reef, all cast from the body of a Grenadian woman named Grace. They lie scattered in the sand like huge heavy ingots. There are 16 but I couldn’t spot them all because sometimes they become hidden as the sand washes over them.

Between two dark rocks sits The Lost Correspondent. A man sits at a desk, empty except for an old manual typewriter.  It had a sense of humour about it and it is a comment on how rapidly communication has changed.  When it was made, the top of the desk was laminated with old newspaper articles about Grenada’s political history. Over the months it has been down there, the stories have become obliterated by the build-up of silt. de Caires Taylor chose this material so that marine life could easily adhere to the surface and grow—just like children.

There is another figure many fear to witness. Deep in her dark, watery ravine she looks sinister. La Diablesse. In French, her name means She Devil and she comes from an old Caribbean folktale. The fish swam in and out of the rib bones of her skeletal body. Her face is hidden under a wide-brimmed hat. When she was made she had eye sockets but now they are filled with sea plants.  Her skirts are weeds flowing in the water like petticoats.

The photographs on de Caires Taylor’s website that document the various states of  transformation as the sculptures change from their original pristine state and gradually return to nature are fascinating to see, and it is surprising just how much they have altered in less than a year.

This other-worldly experience is equally rewarding for the casual snorkeller and the scuba diver. Floating weightlessly in the warm clear water above this astonishing installation, senses distorted by being submerged, the fragile beauty of our underwater world is revealed.

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