With over 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface covered in water and billions of years of world history, it’s no wonder that our planet’s oceans, seas and lakes hold some of the most fascinating attractions (both natural and man-made) that can be found on the planet. For those looking to flex their adventure muscles and temporarily leave behind the security of solid ground, here are 6 human contributions so fascinating, they’re worth taking the plunge for:
6. Yonaguni Monument, Okinawa
Found off the coast of Yonaguni, the southernmost of Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, not much has been confirmed about the origins of the enormous rock formation. Containing step-like features, scientists dispute whether the “monument” is natural or man-made, and several theories have cropped up encompassing everything from monolithic construction to government conspiracy. Nevertheless, the site remains a popular destination for divers, providing a unique opportunity to stand on a massive underwater structure and witness an abundance of marine life brought on by the strong Yonaguni current.
5. Museo Subacuatico de Arte, Cancun
Created in 2009, the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) is the largest underwater attraction of its kind, now consisting of 500 life-size sculptures meant to showcase the relationship between art and environmental science. Founded by the Director of the National Marine Park, the President of the Cancun Nautical Association and an English sculptor, this unique museum, while being extremely cool, serves two very important ecological purposes: to divert traffic from the increasingly over-crowded waters of the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Marine Park and to facilitate the recovery of the area’s resources by providing an alternate complex reef structure safe for marine life colonization. The site of the underwater museum is both snorkel and scuba friendly, divided into 2 sections of differing depth. The Salon Nizuc is only 4 meters deep and is viewable via snorkeling only, while the 8-meter deep Salon Manchones allows for a much more up-close and personal experience for divers (and snorkelers if they so choose).
4. Truk Lagoon, Micronesia
This remote mid-ocean location found about 1800 km off the coast of New Guinea gained international media attention after its 1969 exploration by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. The lagoon and its surrounding 125 square km landmass served as the primary Japanese military base in the South Pacific during the Second World War, a fact that has remained unforgettable by the vast amount of largely preserved sunken ships that can be found throughout the area. Despite essentially being a Japanese military burial ground (human remains can still be seen in some of the wrecks), the site has become a popular scuba diving destination, providing a unique insight to the lives (and deaths) of those killed during the February 1944 allied attack known as Operation Hailstone. Today, divers can see ship decks littered with human objects, holds with remnants of weapons, military vehicles and artifacts and, what many consider to be most interesting, the remains of submarine I-169 Shinohara, a vessel involved in the 1941 attack of Pearl Harbor.
3. Underwater Post Office, Vanuatu
For anyone who feels as though they have sent snail mail from every possible place on earth, this one is for you. Found in the waters of Hideaway Island in Vanuatu, the Underwater Post Office provides visitors with the chance to write a post card on dry land and then dive 3 meters to mail them, resulting in a truly unique postal experience. Opened for business in 2003, the official office consists of a small structure with a counter that houses postal workers during opening hours and a tiny yellow mailbox for after-hours postage. The site is accessible to both divers and snorkelers and open hours are advertised by a raised flag visible form the island’s beach.
2. Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo
One of three bronze statues (all cast from the same mold) created by sculptor Guido Galletti, the Christ of the Abyss statue found in Key Largo, Florida was gifted to the Underwater Society of America in 1962. The extremely popular scuba diving attraction is found about 25 feet deep in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and is weighed down by a 9-ton concrete base. A replica of the original (which is found in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of San Frottuoso, Italy), the statue stands 8.5 feet tall and depicts Christ offering a blessing of peace, with his face and arms raised upward. Aside from this world-famous attraction, this site also offers exceptional snorkeling and scuba diving for its expansive coral and marine life.
1. Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada
Opened to the public in 2006 by British sculptor Jason deClaires Taylor, the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park (also known as the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park) is the first contemporary art collection in the world to be found completely under water. The park’s goal is to unite the area’s inhabitants with the marine world that surrounds them, and consists of several exhibits of human forms created from casts of the local population. Divers can check out several installations, such as Grace Reef (a collection of statues depicting a local woman lying on the sea floor), The Unstill Life (a take on the classic “still life” using everyday objects), and the probably most recognizable Vicissitudes (a circle of children facing outwards and holding hands). Since it’s opening, the park has added exhibits by several other sculptors and continues to grow as one of the most popular diving sites in the region.