Researchers from the Indiana University Center for Underwater Science have partnered with the government of the Dominican Republic to create a ‘Living Museum in the Sea’ at La Caleta Underwater National Park.
Indiana University Center for Underwater Science’s fifth Living Museum in the Sea is the ‘1725 Nuestra Señora de Begoña’.
Indiana University (IU) collaborated with the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources as well as the Dominican Republic Navy.
The underwater museums are designed to protect and preserve historic shipwrecks and their coastal environments. They are open to the public, but accessed by snorkelling or scuba diving.
For the non-diving public, the Museo de las Atarazanas Reales displays many of the conserved artefacts from shipwrecks researched by IU.
1725 Nuestra Señora de Begoña opens to divers
“The Living Museums in the Sea model provides a sustainable alternative to treasure hunting,” said Charles Beeker, director of the Center for Underwater Science.
“IU researched the 1725 Begoña – a Spanish merchant vessel that sank in the early 18th century – for several years, with recovered diagnostic artefacts conserved and interpreted for display in the Atarazanas Museum.
“But the primary mission is in situ preservation and creation of an underwater exhibit, protected for this and future generations.”
In the Dominican Republic, treasure hunting from shipwrecks is still legal, providing half of what is salvaged is returned to the government.
“Treasure hunters can only sell it once, but with the living museum model, we can sell history forever,” added Beeker.
Museum accessed by snorkelling or scuba diving
Other ‘Living Museums in the Sea’ include one at the site of the Quedagh Merchant wreck abandoned by pirate Captain William Kidd.
Another, the 1724 Guadalupe Underwater Archaeological Preserve, is the Dominican Republic’s first underwater shipwreck museum, created in 2004.
The Morales Underwater Archaeological Preserve, a mock shipwreck site, was made on Guarango Reef in the Dominican Republic in 2011.
Underwater attractions are increasingly popular. Dive Bahrain, the world’s largest underwater theme park, officially opened in September with its submerged Boeing 747.
Earlier this year, Jordan also unveiled an underwater military museum dive site off the coast of Aqaba, where divers can explore tanks, troop carriers, and a helicopter.
Elsewhere, Central Pattana recently launched Aquaria Phuket and Andasi – an aquarium with the world’s largest underwater restaurant and Asia’s first underwater bar.
Images: Indiana University