Ocean Siren: Solar-powered coastal sculpture in Australia can warn of risks to coral reefs from climate change

Ocean Siren – a solar-powered sculpture of an indigenous girl warning about rising ocean temperatures – has been installed on the coast in Townsville, Australia.

The four-metre high sculpture is part of the Southern Hemisphere’s first Museum of Underwater Art, a project by underwater sculptor and environmentalist Jason deCaires Taylor.

The Ocean Siren reacts to live water temperature data from the Davies Reef weather station on the Great Barrier Reef and changes colour in response to live variations in water temperature.

It serves as a visual representation of the current conditions out on the reef and can potentially warn of risks to coral reefs from warming seas.

The sculpture, which remains out of the water at all times and is elevated six metres off the seabed, can be viewed at various points along the coastline and up close from the adjacent public pier. The lighting is entirely powered by nearby solar panels to ensure it is self-sufficient and carbon neutral.

Featuring an internal matrix of 202 multi coloured LED lights that are illuminated each day at sunset and gradually change colour from the centre of the figure to its extremities, similar to the display of a heat sensing camera image.

Ocean Siren – which is installed 30 metres from the shoreline above the water facing the reef to act as ‘a reef guardian’ – is modelled on local Takoda Johnson, a young indigenous girl from the Wulgurukaba tribe. It aims to inspire reef and ocean conservation action and achieve positive environmental outcomes.

In an artist statement, Jason deCaires Taylor said: “The young girl holds in her hands a traditional Baler shell, an
indigenous communication device. She holds it as a flare or a siren, a warning signal that warm seas could be a risk to the Great Barrier Reef.

“She looks out at Yunbenun (Magnetic Island), the traditional home of her great grandfather, and to the Great Barrier Reef beyond. Her inherent youth is a strong symbol of how she will help shape its future.

“Ocean Siren aims to bring reef science directly into an urban environment in a live, visual, and emotive way, distilling this complex issue into a clear and stark message.”

Ocean Siren, which was installed in December 2019, was made possible through a $2 million Queensland Government grant.

Image Credit: Jason deCaires Taylor Facebook page

Musuem of Underwater Art

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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