10 mysterious statues you can only see underwater

From submerged saints to Greek gods, these are the world’s most amazing underwater sculptures.
By Brooke Morton

It's a chance to take a one-of-a-kind selfie – after all, it’s not everyday you score face time underwater with a mermaid off Grand Cayman or Christ of the Abyss off Key Largo, Florida. And although some are movie props and others’ origins remain unknown, they all stand together to support the greater idea of ocean conservation.

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Meet a woman underwater

272kg of beautiful mermaid © Justin Lewis / Getty Images

Amphitrite statue off Grand Cayman

“She has two parts that are shinier than anywhere else,” says Keith Sahm, Sunset House Resort general manager, of the 272kg mermaid statue 50m offshore from the property on the island’s southwest point. Find her at a depth of 15m – within easy swimming reach of divers and snorkelers alike.

Watch out for the guards

Guardian of the Reef, Grand Cayman © Chris Parsons / Nauticam

Guardian of the Reef statue off Grand Cayman

It brings you luck to plant a smooch on the Guardian of the Reef – or so says Nancy Easterbrook, who sunk the merman in the front yard of her Grand Cayman scuba shop, Divetech. Easterbrook also points out that the same sculptor who created the guardian crafted the mermaid at Sunset House. “They’re like brother and sister,” she says, “I imagine they communicate underwater like dolphins.”

Visit an underwater museum

MUSA – Museo Subacuatico de Arte © Jason de Caires Taylor/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

MUSA or Museo Subacuatico de Arte off Cancun, Mexico

“It’s euphoric when sunlight fires up all the colours of the sponges growing on the statues,” says Jason deCaires Taylor, creator of the 500 life-size sculptures that comprise this underwater installation off Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc, Mexico.

That’s more people than you'd expect underwater © Jason deCaires Taylor

For the full experience, Taylor recommends viewers learn to scuba dive. He says, “You want to step back and see the entire installation; the beauty of being a diver is that you are in a 3D world – you’re not subjected to gravity, forced to view everything at eye level as you would in a gallery.” Check out more of Jason's unique work on his Facebook page.

The biggest underwater statue ever

The largest underwater sculpture, ever © jasondecairestaylor.com

Ocean Atlas off New Providence, Bahamas

The world’s largest underwater statue is a credit also belonging to Taylor, the mind and chisel behind Ocean Atlas. The 60-ton figure symbolises the greater need for ocean conservation, placed at a site in immediate need of reformation. “There’s a refinery around the corner leaking onto the coral reefs,” he says. “Tourists come and see the oil, so yeah, it’s been brilliant to put some pressure on the refinery.”

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Say a prayer underwater

A freediver exploring the Christ of the Abyss statue.
The Christ of the Abyss statue near Portofino © Julie Gautier

Christ of the Abyss off the Italian Riviera, Portofino

Where pioneer Italian diver Dario Gonzatti lost his life scuba diving in 1947, there now stands a 2.5m bronze Christ, created by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti. It’s 10m under the surface, popular among freedivers and scuba divers wishing to pay homage to those who have taken their last breaths in the sea.

Or see the other underwater Jesus

Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo © Getty Images / Aurora Creative

Christ of the Abyss off Key Largo, Florida

Galletti’s mold bore three figures: The second lies in Grenada, honouring the Italian crew lost in the tragic 1961 sinking of M.V. Bianca C passenger ship. The third is in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, 8m deep off Key Largo. Its GPS coordinates are widely published, making the site one of the planet’s most widely visited underwater attractions – just ask a local with a GoPro and fins.

See an underwater grotto

Martin Zapanta
An underwater grotto in the Philippines © Martin Zapanta

Underwater grotto, Bohol, Philippines

What started as an initiative to deter illegal fishing practices – like the use of dynamite and cyanide – resulted in a destination for underwater pilgrimage. In 2010, 4m tall representations of the Virgin Mary and young Jesus were sunk in the Bien Unido Double Barrier Reef Marine Park off Bohol.

Check out a mystery city

A hidden city under water? © Shawn Miller

Yonaguni in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan

It’s still a mystery as to what created the Asian Atlantis. This series of sandstone formations off Okinawa, Japan, has too many right angles, terraced structures, pillars and other features to be the result of Mother Nature. Yet, if manmade, how did it end up 5m underwater?

Check out Hollywood history

Underwater Maoi © Randy Olson / Nat Geo Creative

Fake moai, Easter Island, Chile

How the Easter Island moai – the stoic-faced 7m tall monoliths – came to exist can be haunting. Not so for the single statue underwater. It’s no ancient wonder, but rather a failed 1994 Kevin Costner flick, Rapa-Nui, responsible for this face now positioned atop corals for divers to marvel at.

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