Swim With a Pineapple Under the Sea at America's First Museum for Scuba Divers

iStock
iStock

At the first underwater museum in the U.S., you’ll find a motley crew of characters. There's an oversized skull, a deer, a pineapple, and a model of undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau's scuba mask.

Seven sculptures in total are coming to the Underwater Museum of Art—UMA for short, pronounced like the actress—which will make its debut off the coast of South Walton, Florida, in late June.

A skull sculpture
Underwater Museum of Art

Unlike most museums, visitors don't need to buy tickets. But they will need their own scuba or freediving gear, plus a boat to get to the diving spot, which is located less than a mile off the coast of Grayton Beach.

The sculptures lie at a depth of 60 feet in an area containing an artificial reef, which has grown over the years in an effort to encourage marine life. And statues certainly aren't the only thing to admire underwater—divers have a good chance of spotting turtles, snappers, groupers, and all types of reef fish, according to Andy McAlexander, president of the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA), which founded the museum in collaboration with the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA).

"It's the Gulf of Mexico. Anything could swim by you," McAlexander says.

A turtle reef
A turtle reef in the South Walton Artificial Reef
Underwater Museum of Art

McAlexander played a key role in helping UMA get off the ground, and organizers plan to continue expanding their underwater art collection. "We plan on doing it every year, so we'll select between five and seven [artworks] a year from now on," he tells Mental Floss.

When the CAA put out the call for artists who wanted to submit (and submerge) their artwork, they received about 20 entries. Above all else, the sculptures had to be environmentally-friendly and toxin-free, so materials were limited to steel, concrete, and aluminum. That was no problem for artist Rachel Herring, whose father owns a metal fabricating shop. She had taken a few welding lessons from him in the past and put that knowledge to use to construct a large, metal pineapple.

A pineapple sculpture
Underwater Museum of Art

"The pineapple is the symbol of friendship and welcoming, and what better way to welcome wildlife and tourists alike to the Underwater Museum of Art?" Herring writes on her website. "It is intentionally hollow to shelter small fish and wildlife. From above, the leaves splay out to create the view of a sun from above, which is the symbol of life."

Another sculpture mimicking Aqua Lung, a scuba mask invented in the '40s by Cousteau and Émile Gagnan, was created with help from local school students.

The museum may be the first permanent underwater sculpture exhibit in the U.S., but there are other places to see submerged art. In Key Largo, Florida, an underwater sculpture dubbed "Christ of the Abyss" depicts Jesus with outstretched arms.

Can You Name the President Just by Looking at Their Facial Hair?

New Harry Potter Scrabble Accepts Wizarding Words Like Hogwarts and Dobby

USAopoly
USAopoly

Patronus, Hogwarts, and Dobby may not be words found in the official Scrabble dictionary, but they are very real to Harry Potter fans. Now there's finally a board game that lets players win points using the magical vocabulary made famous by the Harry Potter books and movies. SCRABBLE: World of Harry Potter from USAopoly is a new edition of Scrabble that recognizes characters, place names, spells, and potions from J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World.

Like traditional Scrabble, players use the letter tiles they pick up to spell out words on the board, with different words earning different point values. Any word you can find in an up-to-date Merriam-Webster Dictionary is still fair game, but in this version, terms coined in Harry Potter qualify as well. First and last names, whether they belong to characters (Albus or Dumbledore, for example) or actors from the franchise (Emma or Watson), are playable. You can also spell magical place names (like Hogsmeade), spells (accio), and objects (snitch).

Harry Potter version of Scrabble.
USAopoly

Showing off the depth of your Harry Potter knowledge isn't the only reason to put wizarding words on the board. Magical words are worth bonus points, with players earning more points the longer the word is. SCRABBLE: World of Harry Potter also includes cards with special challenges for players—a feature that can't be found in any other version of the game.

This Harry Potter edition of Scrabble will be available for $30 at Barnes & Noble and other retailers this spring. Until then, there are plenty of Harry Potter-themed games, including wizarding chess, out there for you to play.

Harry Potter version of Scrabble.
USAopoly

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