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Artist turns seafloor into art by creating underwater museums

Turning the seafloor into art
Turning the seafloor into art 04:23

Over the past 15 years, Jason deCaires Taylor has been transforming sea floors into public art spaces.

The sculptor, environmentalist and underwater photographer has created projects that often explore the relationship between humans and the natural world. 

Taylor first created Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, found just 15 feet down off the coast of Grenada. The project started with casting living Grenadians in plaster – after a hurricane had destroyed many of the island's coral reefs.

Taylor wondered if underwater sculpture based on those casts could lure divers and tourists away from the reefs that had survived.

"Maybe if I created something that was a distraction or a way to attract them to an area that was barren or that had been impacted by the hurricane, then…" Taylor said.

"That would give the reefs that were growing better conditions to grow?" CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer asked. 

"Yes," responded Taylor.

The sculptures made of non-polluting concrete kept growing and changing as ocean creatures moved into them along with plants and fish. Coral is slowly turning the sculptures into artificial reefs.

That first marine sculpture park led to others spread from Mexico to the Maldives. 

"What goes through your mind when you swim around your installations and see them fusing with nature?" asked Palmer.

"Initially, they're all just barren stretches of sand underwater with very little marine life. But when I go to see them now, there is turtles, soft corals, as you know, hard corals as massive shoals of fish, octopus, this massive center of life," Taylor said. 

Taylor is much in demand. In his workshop, just outside London, are casts from more than a dozen marine installations that have grown more political – to reflect his passion for the environment and his worry about humanity's precarious future.

Ocean Siren, one of his most recent installations, sits on Australia's Great Barrier Reef and is wired to show the ocean warming around the coral.

And 20 feet underwater, off the coast of Cyprus, a new project just opened. Museum of Underwater Sculpture Ayia Napa houses an underwater forest that's already drawing marine creatures.

"I think there is a sort of a positive narrative that people take away when they visit the works that I hope that it reminds them that, you know, we are nature," Taylor said. "We're part of the environment where we're dependent on each other for our ultimate survival, this symbiotic relationship."

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