The Museum of Underwater Art

Townsville has a new tourist ‘hot spot’ that could one day be the city’s equivalent of what the harbour bridge is to Sydney.

The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) is an amazing melding of art, science and culture that it is hoped will bring visitors, and at the same time grow people’s respect for the Great Barrier Reef.

Its first installation is called Ocean Siren, and it was created by renown British artist Jason deCaires Taylor.

Ocean Siren stands above high tide level, just offshore from The Strand. It is modelled on a young local Wulgurukaba woman, who is shown holding a conch shell and looking towards her home on Magnetic Island. According to MOUA board member Dr Adam Smith, “she’s representing not only her culture but caring for our oceans, and calling for others to do the same.”

Ocean Siren also has a scientific purpose. It’s linked to sensors at a weather station well offshore on Davies Reef,  that measure water temperature.

As the sun goes down, that information affects the colour of the sculpture, and the pattern down her back reflect the current state of the reef.

“If everything’s good it’s blue,” says Adam Smith, “and if it’s way warmer than average and you’ve got concerns about coral bleaching, it’s red.”

Art and science also come together at the museum’s other work, that’s lying on the ocean floor, in 18 metres, at John Brewer Reef.

MOUA’s Coral Greenhouse is a work by Jason deCaires Taylor, that’s a 12-metre long stainless steel structure surrounded by almost 50 other sculptures, many in human form.

“It’s a fish attracting device, and over time coral will also be attracted, there’s been cuttlefish there, anything’s possible, ” says Dr Smith.

“We wanted to create something world-class, something amazing. The artist has a beautiful saying, he says once I put it in the ocean it belongs to the ocean, and the ocean transforms it, it becomes a biomorphic structure.”

“Everyone will want to snorkel or scuba dive it and have their own photo with something that’s out of this world.”

Australia’s first underwater museum is open now, so to find out more, and to book a dive, visit

With stage one of MOUA complete, planning is currently underway for a cultural piece at Palm Island and a marine science walk at Magnetic Island.

For those who prefer to stay dry, check out Reef HQ Aquarium on Flinders Street East to experience the Great Barrier Reef.

Whatever your motivation for visiting Townsville, The Ville Resort-Casino is a wonderful place to use as your base.

The rooms as beautiful, the dining is top-notch and the facilities (particularly the pool area) are spot on. The Ville is a comfortable walk from the marina, and Townsville’s dining precincts and The Strand are nearby.

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