9 Amazing Statues You Can Only See Underwater

The vast oceans contain many natural wonders, but they are also home to some astounding additions made by humans. Across the world statues have been sunk into the oceans for a variety of reasons—as memorials, to offer protection to a fragile marine environment, or simply as art. Colored with algae and populated by coral, some of the statues have become tourist destinations in their own right.

1. CHRIST OF THE ABYSS // A MEMORIAL TO DIVERS LOST AT SEA

Christ of the Abyss in Florida. Image credit: vgm8383 via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Famous Italian diver Duilio Marcante conceived the idea of placing a statue of Christ under the water near a popular dive site in San Fruttuoso, near Portofino, Italy, after his good friend and fellow diver Dario Gonzatti lost his life diving near that spot in 1947. Sculptor Guido Galletti received the commission, and created an 8-foot bronze statue of Christ with his arms outstretched. The statue was placed more than 50 feet underwater in 1954 and provides not just a memorial to those who have lost their lives at sea but also a reference point for divers in distress.

Christ of the Abyss has become a busy diving site and in 2003 the statue was removed from the ocean for refurbishment after it became corroded and lost a hand due to being hit with an anchor. It was returned to the sea in 2005. The beautiful and affecting statue has proved so popular it has been recast a number of times and copies now exist in St George, Grenada and Key Largo, Florida.

2. VIRGIN MARY // DETERRING ILLEGAL FISHING

In 2010 in Bohol, the Philippines, locals placed two statues 60 feet underwater near a very rare double barrier reef, the Danajon Bank. The delicate marine area had been a victim of overfishing and some fishermen were resorting to using dynamite and cyanide to increase their catch. In order to deter this destructive behavior, two 14-foot statues of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus were placed on the sea floor, apparently to remind everyone that God created this special marine environment. The initiative worked, and dynamite is no longer used for fear of damaging the religious icons. Instead, divers flock to the site to admire and pray at the statues.

3. OCEAN ATLAS // HOLDING THE OCEAN ALOFT

Creators Project/YouTube

The largest known underwater statue is Ocean Atlas, made by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor and placed 16 feet underwater off Nassau, the Bahamas, in 2014. The statue was designed to draw attention to the need to conserve the oceans. Ocean Atlas weighs 60 tons and depicts a girl sitting hunched over, seemingly holding up the ocean above her; the piece is inspired by the Greek legend of Atlas, the Titan who held the world aloft. DeCaires Taylor specializes in creating underwater works of art and uses special pH-neutral marine cement, which is intended to last for hundreds of years and encourages coral and seaweed to colonize it, forming an artificial reef.

4. MOLINERE, GRENADA // WORLD’S FIRST UNDERWATER SCULPTURE PARK

The world’s first underwater sculpture park was created in 2006 in Molinere Bay just off St. George's in Grenada, after the area was damaged by a storm surge. It was hoped that the sympathetic sculptures, also created by Jason deCaires Taylor, would help the sea life regenerate by providing surfaces for algae and coral to cling to. One of the first installations was Vicissitudes, a circle of life-sized figures with interlinked hands, cast from the bodies of local children. More recently, 14 new sculptures based on Amerindian art by local artist Troy Lewis have been added to the park, including a 3-foot high Zemi, or stone idol.

5. EASTER ISLAND STATUE // MYSTERIOUS MOAI

Off the coast of Easter Island, home to the amazing carved stone Moai figures, lies an underwater statue that is not all that it seems. The 10-foot tall concrete Moai is not an original ancient statue but a modern replica. Mystery surrounds the origins of the piece—some claim it was created by modern-day residents of Easter Island and placed underwater as a tourist attraction, while others assert that it was a prop created either for a Chilean television show or for a 1994 Kevin Costner movie. Whatever the truth, the statue has become a popular dive site, especially since the lack of pollution means that the crystal clear waters give divers a great view of the submerged statue.

6. AMPHITRITE // MERMAID STATUE OFF GRAND CAYMAN

"Amphitrite," by Simon Morris, off Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

In 2000, the Canadian artist Simon Morris created a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of a mermaid, named for Amphitrite, the wife of Greek god of the sea Poseidon. The 600-pound mermaid statue was sunk under 50 feet of water off the coast of Grand Cayman Island in Sunset Reef (an earlier version also exists in British Columbia). When the statue was put in place, it was lowered into the water using a crane before being towed to its resting place. To ensure the statue did not crack on its journey into the deep, three small holes were drilled into the head of the statue to allow air bubbles to escape. The statue is now a popular place for divers.

7. NEPTUNE MEMORIAL REEF // UNDERWATER MAUSOLEUM

The Neptune Memorial Reef off Key Biscayne, Florida, was created in 2007 as an underwater mausoleum with statues and memorials constructed from cremated remains. Built in the style of the lost city of Atlantis, the Neptune Memorial Reef is now the world’s largest human-made reef. Those wishing to have their loved one buried in this unique manner can have cremated remains mixed with non-porous cement, which is then fashioned into a statue or memorial stone of their choosing. Mourners (and curious divers alike) can then dive or snorkel the site to explore the vast underwater cemetery and coral garden and pay their respects.

8. RUINS OF BAIAE, ITALY // ROMAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIVE SITE

In Roman times, Baiae on the Bay of Naples was the equivalent of Las Vegas—a party site packed with lavish villas and populated by the elite. Unfortunately, the bay-side location proved its undoing, since the whole area is plagued by volcanic activity, and the entire city was abandoned by 1500 before being reclaimed by the sea. Today Baiae is a protected archaeological underwater park. Many of the statues have been removed to local museums, but excellent replicas stand in their place, ensuring the ruined temples retain their original character. Tourists can explore the area by glass-bottomed boat, snorkel, or scuba-diving, providing a tantalizing glimpse of this once thriving (and decadent) Roman resort.

9. MUSA // UNDERWATER SCULPTURE PARK

The Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) off Cancun, Mexico, is an underwater sculpture park for divers and snorkelers that now contains over 500 statues. Created in 2009, the site covers some 4520 square feet of otherwise featureless seabed and utilizes materials that promote sea life, creating an artificial reef. Six artists have created works for the underwater museum, ranging from interactive stone hoops through which divers can swim to Silent Evolution, the largest exhibit, which features a crowd of 450 life-sized statues. One of the aims of the project is to help protect the nearby natural reefs (which are becoming damaged through overuse) by diverting visitors to MUSA, an otherwise barren area of seabed.

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George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
This Crafty Bicycle Can Knit a Scarf in 5 Minutes
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo

Knitting can be a time-consuming, meticulous task, but it doesn’t need to be. At least not if you’re George Barratt-Jones. As The Morning News spotted, the Dutch designer recently created a human-powered automated knitting machine that can make a scarf while you wait for your train to arrive.

The Cyclo-Knitter is essentially a bicycle-powered loom. As you pedal a stationary bike, the spinning front wheel powers a knitting machine placed on top of a wooden tower. The freshly knitted fabric descends from the top of the tower as the machine works, lowering your brand-new scarf.

Cyclo Knitter by George Barratt-Jones from George Barratt-Jones on Vimeo.

“Imagine it’s the midst of winter,” Barratt-Jones, who founded an online skill-sharing platform called Kraftz, writes of the product on Imgur. “You are cold and bored waiting for your train at the station. This pedal powered machine gets you warm by moving, you are making something while you wait, and in the end, you are left with a free scarf!”

Seems like a pretty good use of your commute down-time, right?

If you're a fan of more traditional knitting methods, check out these knitting projects that can put your needles to work, no bicycle required.

[h/t The Morning News]

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THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images
6 Works of Art That Were Hiding in Plain Sight
An ancient angel mosaic on a wall of the Church of the Nativity
An ancient angel mosaic on a wall of the Church of the Nativity
THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this year, an 1820 facsimile of the Declaration of Independence turned up in Texas. Despite once being owned by James Madison, it had been shuffled among the papers of a family who eventually forgot about its provenance and came to consider it "worthless," at least until its recent authentication. As one of only 200 facsimiles created by printer William Stone, it was a rare document, but what made headlines was a curious footnote in the document’s journey: It had been hidden behind wallpaper during the Civil War as protection.

There’s something tantalizing about a precious object concealed by wallpaper or painted over; it suggests treasures might be hiding anywhere—maybe in our own homes. Here are a few stories of art that's been lost, and found, on the same wall, hidden beneath wallpaper, paint, and plaster.

1. ANGEL MOSAIC // PALESTINE

Conservators who began restoring the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2013 after centuries of neglect were prepared to clean its mosaics from years of soot and grime. They weren’t expecting to find new ones.

Using a thermographic camera, one restoration worker noticed a shape in the plaster walls. When the team started chipping off the material, they found the brilliant glow of mother-of-pearl tiles. Soon an 8-foot-tall angel was revealed, dressed in a flowing white robe, its golden wings and halo as luminescent as when they were installed in the Crusades era. It’s believed that the angel was covered up following an 1830s earthquake, perhaps to hide damage. Now the lost seraph (above) has rejoined the procession of radiant mosaic angels who are walking to the nativity along the church’s historic walls.

2. MEDIEVAL MURALS // WALES

Mediaeval wall paintings, Llancarfan church, Wales
Chris Samuel, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

During the Reformation, the murals in Catholic churches of the British Isles were often covered with plaster, turning them into more austere Protestant spaces. In covering them so entirely, this art was sometimes inadvertently protected from centuries of decay. In 2010, conservators announced an incredible find in the 800-year-old Church of St Cadoc at Llancarfan in Wales.

Church staff had long been intrigued by a thin red line of paint on the wall. After conservators began the painstaking work of removing 21 layers of limewash, a dramatic painting of St. George slaying a dragon appeared. The discoveries continued with scenes of other popular medieval motifs, such as the Seven Deadly Sins, a royal family, and "Death and the Gallant," in which a rotting corpse with a worm creeping in its rib cage leads an elegantly dressed man to his mortal end. The murals are now on view for all to enjoy.

3. BRETON GIRL SPINNING // FRANCE

Paul Gauguin, "Breton Girl Spinning"
Paul Gauguin, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Now at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, French artist Paul Gauguin's 1889 Breton Girl Spinning is an enigmatic fresco of a young girl dancing at a small tree. In one hand, she is spinning wool; in the distance, above the water and shapes of ships, a huge angel with a sword is flying. In part because of this angelic figure, the painting is sometimes called Joan of Arc.

The work was painted right on the plaster dining room wall of La Buvette de la Plage, an inn in Brittany, France. After being forgotten under layers of wallpaper, it and two other murals (one by Gauguin and one by his student Meijer de Haan) were rediscovered in 1924 during some redecorating.

4. MAYA MURALS // GUATEMALA

While updating their kitchen around 2007, Lucas Asicona Ramirez and his family in the Guatemalan village of Chajul discovered some old interior design—Maya murals, hidden for centuries beneath the plaster.

The roughly 300-year-old artworks in the colonial-era home featured figures in both Maya and Spanish attire, representing a moment of European arrival. One may be holding a human heart, or possibly a mask used in a dance. Ramirez hopes to turn the room into a museum, but needs more funding. Other households in Chajul also have historic murals in their homes, and some are striving to conserve these memories of their ancestors even while local preservation resources are limited.

5. WILLIAM MORRIS RED HOUSE MURALS // ENGLAND

The 19th century British artist and writer William Morris is celebrated for his textiles, writing, wallpaper, and other work in the Arts and Crafts movement. The house in Bexleyheath, Kent, that architect Philip Webb designed for him and his wife Jane in 1859 was intended not just as a home, but an incubator for art. The "Red House" became a hub for like-minded artists, and Morris founded “The Firm”—which produced decorative objects such as stained glass and furniture—there in 1861 alongside several other artists. However, the Red House community was short-lived, and financial difficulties forced the family to move out in 1865, never to return.

When the National Trust acquired the house in 2003, they found that the group had left behind some of their artistic experiments. Behind a wardrobe, under layers of paint and wallpaper, the trust made a most extraordinary find: a full wall of almost life-size biblical figures. Researchers believe they were collaboratively painted by Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his wife Elizabeth Siddal, and Ford Madox Brown, all of whom were major artists in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

6. AMÉRICA TROPICAL // UNITED STATES

Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros had just been expelled from Mexico for his leftist activities when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1932. Local boosters commissioned him to create a mural on the theme of "Tropical America" on the touristy Olvera Street, which was an idealized vision of a Mexican market, but he had no interest in portraying some folkloric fantasy. “For me, 'America Tropical' was a land of natives, of Indians, Creoles, of African-American men, all of them invariably persecuted and harassed by their respective governments,” he said in a 1971 documentary.

His América Tropical: Oprimida y Destrozada por los Imperialismos, or Tropical America: Oppressed and Destroyed by Imperialism, was a moody landscape with gnarled trees clawing at a Maya temple. At the center, an indigenous man is crucified, with an American eagle ominously descending over his head. Innovative techniques such as airbrushing gave the tableau a visceral edge.

The 18-by-82-foot act of subversion was soon whitewashed. Still, many people did not forget it, especially as Siqueiros became recognized as one of the most influential of the early 1900s Mexican muralists. Eight decades after it was painted, the city of Los Angeles, along with the Getty Conservation Institute, began a restoration. The whitewash had protected its details from sun and rain and finally, in 2012, its defiant scene was again revealed to the public. It is now the oldest mural in L.A., and the only one by Siqueiros in its original location.

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