10 Breathtaking Underwater Statues and Sculptures

silent-evolution-sculpture-underwater-statues (Image: Jason DeCaires Taylor; the underwater sculpture Silent Evolution)

Carefully constructed and lovingly designed, but why are these elaborate and beautiful sculptures submerged? Whether they have been consumed by water through natural disasters or placed there deliberately by artists and conservationists, underwater statues are bestowed with an eerie beauty not always present on terra firma. What’s more, unlike their counterparts on dry land, underwater statues are teeming with marine life, which only heightens the intrigue of these compelling artworks committed to the deep. From the broken, submerged ruins of ancient civilisations to carefully crafted watery reflections of modern life, this article explores some of the most impressive underwater sculptures from around the world.

Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA), Cancun, Mexico

man-on-fire-underwater-sculpture (Image: Jason DeCaires Taylor; ‘Man on Fire’ underwater sculpture)

Artist Jason DeCaires Taylor created this beautiful and breathtaking piece of conservation art designed to help protect the natural reef that has been rapidly declining over the past few decades. The underwater museum off Cancun, known as Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) is one of Taylor’s two underwater sculpture works featured in this article (see below). Divers can explore the fantastic and awe-inspiring underwater museum and see the living reef growing and slowly engulfing the figures, creating a haunting and ever changing ecotourism experience. Several highlights of the museum include the epic ‘Silent Evolution’, ‘Hombre en Llamas’ – or ‘Man on Fire’, a haunting cast of a local fisherman serving as a support structure for the growth of fire coral – and ‘El Coleccionista de Sueños’ which is a realistic depiction of a man and dog guarding a bottle collection which holds preserved messages from the global community.

The Statues of Heracleion and Canopus, Abu Qir Bay, Egypt

lost-city-of-Heracleion-underwater-statues (Image: fridaykiss via YouTube; underwater statues lost for more than 1,000 years)

The cities of Heracleion and Canopus once guarded the gateway to ancient Egypt, and may have been connected with such notorious historical figures as King Menelaus of Sparta during the Trojan War. The ruins of these ancient cities lie deep underwater allowing many stone statues and sculptures to retain much of their former glory. These haunting underwater statues, some depicting stately pharaohs in the classic style of ancient Egyptian, and the ruined temples and dwellings that once surrounded them were long thought to be the stuff of legend. But their discovery in 1999 by archaeologist Franck Goddio confirms the myth of the two lost cities that sank into the silt millennia ago.

Christ of the Abyss, Italy

christ-of-the-abyss-2 (Image: Dominic/CADiver – website)

Originally constructed and deliberately submerged in 1954, this magnificent religious statue was crafted from bronze and is about 2.5 metres in height. The original structure had to be retrieved and restored due to the crustaceans and rapid onset of corrosion and decay. Returned to the water in 2004 in its original position, the beautiful underwater sculpture stands on the seabed at a depth of 17 feet with its hands raised skyward as a memorial to Italian scuba diver Dario Gonzatti, who died nearby in 1947. The base and hand had to be replaced but otherwise the restoration has left the underwater sculpture as true to its former state as possible. Over the years several other statues of Christ of the Abyss have been cast from the original mold, including those off the coasts of Grenada and Key Largo, Florida (above).

Underwater Statues in the Ruins of Cleopatra’s Palace, Alexandria, Egypt


underwater-statues-cleopatra-palace-2 (Images: Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, photos: Christoph Gerigk)

These submerged ancient ruins are thought to be the royal quarters of Cleopatra, cast into the sea by earthquakes 1,500 years ago. The incredible sunken palace is so well preserved that the city of Alexandria is planning to offer tours and its underwater statues and other ruins. The sculptures at the ancient site include depictions of animals including lions and ancient Egyptian iconography. With everything from domestic pottery and tiny personal artifacts to the remnants of giant sphinxes, pillars and towers frozen in time, this spectacular ancient palace has been a source of immense interest for archaeologists striving to excavate the submerged treasures from Cleopatra’s ancient lost palace.

Underwater Sculpture Garden, Grenada

Viccisitudes-underwater-statues (Image: Jason DeCaires Taylor; the underwater statues of Viccisitude)

An underwater sculpture garden created by Jason DeCaires Taylor (of Cancun Underwater Museum fame), these statues are now an integral part of Grenada’s aquatic environment, including fish species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. The main feature for this beautiful underwater sculpture garden is ‘Viccisitude’, which features life sized statues holding hands in a circle and paying tribute to the slaves that died during their transportation by boat. Other sculptures gradually being enveloped by the stunning coral reef include the haunting female figures of ‘Grace Reef’, laid out on the seabed, along with the isolated and poignant ‘Lost Correspondent’, which features news clippings from the 1970s.

The Roman Sculptures of Baiae, Bay of Naples, Italy


lost-underwater-statues-roman-resort-baiae-2 (Images: Pasquale Vassallo via YouTube)

The fine bronze and stone sculptures of the Roman resort Baiae are believed to have sunk into the sea due to heighten volcanic activity in the area. The sunken Roman settlement was once effectively a red light district where the wealthy and powerful of Ancient Rome came to indulge in vice and depravity. On this ancient site they have uncovered what appears to be a factory for the mass production of bronze sculptures, with casts and production equipment preserved in the deep waters of the bay. The ancient settlement was all but destroyed by invading Muslim forces in the 8th century AD, and was finally abandoned in 1500 amid a malaria epidemic.

The Living Sculptures, Bali

underwater-sculptures-bali-2 (Image: fionachilds; an underwater sculpture of a mermaid in Bali)

underwater-sculptures-bali (Image: Anandrani via YouTube)

Bali has created its very own collection of conservation art that is gradually becoming part of the greater coral reefs of the area. This ecological intervention strategy has been implemented off the coast of Bali with several Living Sculptures dotting the reef, constantly changing and lying in wait to surprise and enthrall divers. From traditional Balinese figures painstakingly crafted and positioned to collections of underwater artworks created from unlikely found objects such as bicycles, these beautiful underwater sculptures have been created by different artists to help support and create awareness of the reef’s struggle to survive in the face of human pollution and destruction.

Rock Sculptures of the Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram, India

submerged-temples-seven-pagodas-Mahabalipuram (Image: Pspk; One of the sunken temples at Mahabalipuram, India)

The Mahabalipuram temple complex is the stuff that myths are made of, with local legends proclaiming the dazzling beauty and magnificence of the seven temples. Now only the Shore Temple remains, its stunning peers destroyed in a flood that locals believe was the work of envious gods. The Tsunami of 2004 caused the remaining Shore Temple to collapse. Religious rock sculptures, shrines and carved reliefs that once adorned the temple are now exposed amid its underwater ruins. The primordial sculptures and underwater statues fascinate archaeologists who believe that the Shore Temple may be one of the Seven Pagodas spoken of in European folklore.

Wastwater Gnome Garden, Lake District, UK

underwater-gnome-garden (Image: christthn via YouTube)

Certainly more quirky than the other entries on this list, the so-called ‘Gnome Garden’ in the Lake District’s beautiful yet bleak Wastwater was originally created as an attraction for experienced divers, but was removed in the 1990s after three divers tragically died trying to reach it. In 2005 it was reported that the secret gnome garden may have returned to Wastwater, the deepest in the Lake District, and there are rumours that its new incarnation hasn’t been retrieved because the weird underwater statues are too deep for police divers to reach safely. The 50m police diver depth limit is relatively well known, so it is possible that the new gnome garden was placed at this depth to thwart removal attempts. It’s also clear, however, that gnome gardens aren’t confined to Wastwater. The example above (see full video here) is located in Scotland’s Loch Fyne.

The Elephants of Siam Bay, Thailand

siam-bay-elephant-underwater-statues (Image: Sharkey Scuba Thailand via YouTube)

Phuket scuba divers can dive down to view these incredible elephant sculptures, which lie at the north side of Siam Bay. The artificial reef was put in place to help rehabilitate bay after the tsunami of 2004 devastated the underwater ecosystem. The haunting underwater statues representing elephants, some with their trucks held aloft in spectacular fashion, are perhaps the most impressive of the series of structures sitting on the sea floor, but other neighbouring sculptures include a giant clam shell and huge temple gate. There’s also a somewhat frightening stone fish lying just on the edge of the reef, but the real attraction is the fascinating coral and marine life now making these bizarre man-made conservation artworks their home.

Related – 10 Strange, Dark and Creepy Sights of Eastern Europe


About the author: Morgan Pinder




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