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Zombies vs Aliens: Exploring Europe’s First Underwater Museum

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Underwater Museum

They were lined up like a mini army, an eerie group of the walking dead; zombies from another world. Like some weird catastrophic event – something from a B movie – a whole population on the march, frozen solid in stone and drowned underwater!

Underwater Museum

But although eerie and zombie like, the statues in front of us were beautiful too, each one uniquely different. A man in a hooded top, a fisherman in a waistcoat and cap, a barefooted lady reading a book, a mother and her young child, and a child on her own gazing up towards the surface. What seemed weird is that these statues looked more at home than we did. They seemed alive and at home where they stood. It was us who were invading their world, breathing air from our tanks and creating streams of bubbles; we were the aliens.

Underwater Museum

As our guide took us on our tour through Europe’s first underwater museum I was excited about what we’d see next. The first exhibit we were shown was a couple taking a selfie of themselves! Then it was on to a group of traditional dugout canoes manned by young boys. It represented a scene once common on Lanzarote’s shores where boys would paddle out to sea to race each other and to fish.

Underwater MuseumUnderwater Museum

Our next exhibit was even more topical and relevant.  “The Raft of Lampedusa”, a tribute to the refugee crisis and depicting a scene throughout the Mediterranean, that of a small boat packed with whole families including young children risking their lives as they flee from war and persecution to find a safe country to escape too and start a new life all over again. All these exhibits were brilliant and thought provoking in their own right, but the group of statues we were hovering over was the most impressive to me.

Underwater Museum

As the sun filtered down through the milky somewhat chilly water, they were very evocative, and perhaps the reason they seemed so eerie was down to the less than perfect underwater visibility.  We could just see the surface some 15 metres above us, but horizontal visibility was even less and variable and wasn’t helped by the vertical swimming positions of some of the divers in our group.

Underwater MuseumArthur and I had been diving all week with Safari Diving out of Puerto del Carmen and had been recommended to book our Museum dive with The Dive College. Situated on the south west end of Lanzarote, there are a limited number of licensed dive centres with permits to take divers to the Museum. Each diver must pay a 7 euro entrance fee in addition to the cost of the dive, which tends to cost a little more than a regular dive on the island. Being a shallow dive it’s suitable for divers of all skill levels.

The museum has been designed and created by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who has also created similar amazing projects in Mexico, Grenada, and the Bahamas. The sculpture park in Grenada, which was the first of its kind in the world, has been listed as one of National Geographic’s Top 25 Wonders of the World; while most recently, “Ocean Atlas”, Taylor’s Bahamas creation, is the largest single underwater sculpture in the world, measuring 5 meters high and weighing over 60 tons.

Taylor’s statues are made up of a mixture of ingredients including wire and concrete, and are situated on sandy bottoms waiting to be transformed into completely new ecosystems, breathing rich new life into an area of low diversity.

Underwater Museum

The Atlantic Museum is best viewed as it is now by scuba diving, but soon areas will be created at shallower depths so snorkellers can easily swim down and enjoy the sculptures. As the museum grows and takes shape, a variety of very ambitious and exciting pieces will be added, including a giant mirror to create the illusion of a ‘pool’ in the sea, a large wall to create the walled garden, and an underwater fountain complete with actual lighting as its centrepiece.

Underwater MuseumAs we left the amazing statues of men, women and children, we followed our guide into what we were told in our pre-dive briefing will be the amazing garden area. In this spot there were already a number of fascinating statues. Half human, half plant, we swam over to a series of giant cacti. Some had human heads, some didn’t. One was clasping its hands with its arms stretched out – like a gardener tending to his crops – his feet forming part of a cactus.

The Atlantic Museum project is massive. Originally 500 statues were planned at a cost of 700,000 euros of public funding. There was some controversy regarding the cost, and perhaps due to complaints things have been held up, as to date only 50-odd statues have been sunk. Due to statues only being permitted to be sunk in the winter season, no more are planned till later this year; but when it is finally completed, Lanzarote’s Underwater Museum will be fabulous and a real boost for tourism on the island (especially for Playa Blanca).

We were at the end of our tour and had reached what was undoubtedly my favourite piece. I’m not sure if it’s actually called the Tree of Life, but that’s what I would have called it. An artificial tree reaching up to the sky, it was home to hundreds of tiny fish taking shelter within its branches, feeding on the algae already beginning to cover it. Like tiny little lights, the fish reflected and bounced light all around the tree, making it look like it was being illuminated by loads of tiny fairy lights blinking off and on as the fish turn one way and the next. A lone predator watched them, waiting to pounce; it must have swum by and chanced upon this oasis in the desert.

Underwater Museum

Taylor’s pioneering projects have become hugely successful in terms of marine conservation, stimulating people to engage and become aware of the need to protect our fragile marine world. His creations are works of art that grow and change as the marine world shapes them, colours them and adds to their beauty. It will be interesting to see when his Atlantic Museum is finally finished – and where Taylor’s next project will take him.

Read Gavin’s article about diving other parts of Lanzarote here.

All of Gavin’s diving was arranged by Safari Diving Lanzarote.

Gavin Anderson has been an award winning underwater photographer for the last 25 years, in which time he has written for many of the UK's leading scuba diving magazines. He won BSoUP's newcomer trophy in 1993 and is the co-author of the lonely planet dive and snorkelling guide to the Red Sea. He has made over 5000 dives all over the world from his native Scotland to the South Pacific Islands of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu; Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia; the Caribbean and the USA; the Canary Islands, Corsica, Ibiza, and many other destinations. To supplement his diving career Gavin also runs a wedding and portrait studio based in central scotland.

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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Marine Life & Conservation

Dive with a Purpose: Shark Guardian’s Expedition Galapagos

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Shark Guardian has just unveiled their largest and most exciting expedition yet: a seven-night, eight-day adventure in August 2026 aboard the Galaxy Diver II, a state-of-the-art
vessel specifically designed for divers exploring the enchanting waters of the Galapagos
Islands. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage deeply with marine
conservation in one of the world’s most revered diving destinations.

Shark Guardian is a UK registered charity dedicated to protecting sharks and marine
ecosystems worldwide. Founded by marine biologists and conservationists, Brendon
Sing and Liz Ward-Sing, Shark Guardian leads educational programs, research projects,
campaigns and expeditions aimed at fostering a better understanding and respect for
marine life. Their work spans several continents and focuses on direct action,
education, and advocacy.

Shark Guardian’s ethos revolves around the concept of “diving with a purpose.” This
philosophy underscores the importance of not just experiencing the wonders of the
underwater world but actively learning and contributing to its preservation. Participants
in Shark Guardian expeditions engage in citizen science projects, which involve
collecting data that supports ongoing research and conservation efforts. These
activities empower divers to make a tangible difference, turning each dive into an act of
conservation.

One of the newer additions to the Galapagos diving scene, the Galaxy Diver II, is
specifically tailored for divers. Its design prioritises comfort, safety, and environmental
responsibility. The vessel boasts modern amenities, spacious dive decks, and the latest
navigational technology, ensuring that every dive is not only memorable but also has
minimal environmental impact.

A highlight of this expedition is the opportunity to dive at Wolf and Darwin islands,
renowned for their vibrant, untouched marine ecosystems and as a haven for large
pelagic species. These islands are famous for their schools of hammerhead sharks,
whale sharks, and manta rays, offering spectacular diving that attracts enthusiasts from
around the globe.

Shark Guardian have developed this trip to ensure a hassle-free experience. The
expedition package also includes internal flights from Quito, Ecuador, to the Galapagos,
plus accommodation in Quito before and after the trip. This allows divers to relax and
enjoy the experience without worrying about logistics.

Participants will join a diverse group of passionate divers and conservationists. This trip
offers a unique opportunity to network with like-minded individuals who are eager to
learn about and contribute to marine conservation. It’s a chance to share experiences,
knowledge, and a commitment to protecting the marine world.

sharks

Shark Guardian is offering an early bird price available until May 31st 2024. This special
rate provides a fantastic opportunity to secure a spot on this exclusive expedition at a
reduced cost. Availability is limited, so interested divers are encouraged to act quickly
to ensure they don’t miss out. All the details can be found on their WeTravel page, where
bookings can be made easily and payment instalments are available.

Expedition Galapagos, aboard the Galaxy Diver II offers more than just a diving
holiday—it is an investment in both personal and planetary well-being. By participating,
divers not only witness the majesty of one of the world’s premier diving locales but also
contribute to its preservation for future generations.

Find out more about Shark Guardian at www.sharkguardian.org.

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