A new cast of hybrid characters continues Jason deCaires Taylor’s effort to revitalize the Great Barrier Reef. Recently installed off the coast of Townsville, Australia, as part of the Museum of Underwater Art, Ocean Sentinels is comprised of eight figurative sculptures that meld the textures of marine life with the likeness of influential conservationists.
Similar to “The Coral Greenhouse,” which was embedded in the aquatic landscape in 2020, these works are made of pH-neutral, low-carbon concrete and stainless steel and are created with the intention that sea creatures use them as homes. “It is hoped that in years to come a variety of endemic species such as corals, sponges, and hydroids will change the sculptures’ appearance in vibrant and unpredictable ways. Like the Great Barrier Reef itself, they will become a living and evolving part of the ecosystem, emphasising both its fragility and its endurance,” Taylor says.
Due to warming waters caused by the climate crisis, much of the reef is experiencing coral bleaching, a stress-induced reaction that causes the sea creatures to expel algae in their tissues and drain themselves of their characteristically vibrant colors. Taylor’s works are designed to help spur new growth, offer a sanctuary for the endangered lifeforms, and lure away curious divers from more vulnerable areas.
Ocean Sentinels include stylized renditions of Indigenous leader Jayme Marshall, marine scientist and “godfather of coral” John Veron, and nine-year-old Molly Steer, who led an initiative to stop the proliferation of single-use straws, among others. See more of Taylor’s underwater sculptures before and after sea-creature colonization on his site and Instagram.