"A snorkeler swims over life-size statues near Cancún, Mexico.

More than 400 of the permanent sculptures have been installed in recent months in the National Marine Park of Cancún, Isla Mujeres, and Punta Nizuc (map of the region) as part of a major artwork called "The Silent Evolution." The installation is the first endeavor of a new underwater museum called MUSA, or Museo Subacuático de Arte."


Created by Mexico-based British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, the Caribbean installation is intended to eventually cover more than 4,520 square feet (420 square meters), which would make it "one of the largest and most ambitious underwater attractions in the world," according to a museum statement.

In doing so, Taylor hopes the reefs, which are already stressed by marine pollution, warming waters, and overfishing, can catch a break from the approximately 750,000 tourists who visit local reefs each year.

"That puts a lot of pressure on the existing reefs," Taylor told National Geographic News. "So part of this project is to actually discharge those people away from the natural reefs and bring them to an area of artificial reefs."





Pictured in late 2010, "Sarah," modeled after a U.K. linguistics professor, is the only "Silent Evolution" statue with a false lung, according to Taylor.

Divers can either fill the lung by blowing bubbles into a hole on her back or using air from their tanks. The air then slowly escapes though the opening in her mouth.

The cement figures will change in appearance over time as coral and other marine life takes over—all part of Taylor's vision.

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