27 Dec Apsaras, ancient Hindu spirits who are very beautiful and wonderful dancers

On October 22nd, 2014, The Marine Foundation along with Reef Check Indonesia and the community of Jemeluk Bay installed ‘The Apsara’, a living sculpture in the sea in the Jemeluk Bay Underwater Gallery. The Desa Seni community raised the funds for the creation of this innovative environmental artwork during a series of fundraising activities including a wonderful tantra workshop with Angela Perez, a silent auction, and Zaza and her sea friends children’s workshop.

The artwork is inspired by the Apsaras, ancient Hindu spirits who are very beautiful and wonderful dancers, who in many ways have qualities similar to the Greek fables of the sirens and mermaids. The sculpture is designed to provide a hiding place for fish and a solid surface for coral and sea creatures to settle. It did not take long for her glistening white surface to become dappled in textures and soft colours with a collection of green and white sea squirts (marine invertebrate filter feeders) residing on her.

In July this year big waves hit the northern shores of Bali. Wind patterns have been consistent and predictable for generations with prevailing winds that always came from the same direction and at particular times of the year. This is no longer the case with strong winds blowing powerful waves into usually protected bays. These changes are directly related to the effects of climate change which are exasperating national climatic events such as El Niño. El Niño occurs when ocean water temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean become warmer than normal. While this may not sound like a big deal, it can have profound impacts on weather patterns around the world and it can create very severe weather. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitors the warmth of the water in the central Pacific as one major indicator of an El Niño’s strength. In mid-November 2015, the recorded temperature was the highest ever seen in the region.

Apsara was knocked over by these waves and her body buried in the sand, amazingly undamaged. The Reef Check team and the community came to her rescue, organizing lift bags to raise her out of the sand and back upright. In discussions, it was agreed that due to such unpredictable weather conditions we need to take into consideration the likelihood of this occurring again and decided it would be necessary to add a stabilizing structure to both the Apsara and the Mermaid eco art reefs. This weighted base will create a foundation and at the same time more places for fish to hide. Also corals that get broken off during storms can be replanted by divers creating a coral garden with fragments of coral that might otherwise have died.

The community signed an agreement that the Jemeluk Bay Underwater gallery would be a designated ‘No Take Zone’ enabling the art gallery to be a sanctuary. New sculptures are being sponsored and installed, creating a new eco tourism attraction in the area and enabling the generation of income through a sustainable and environmental endeavor.

The Apsara is looking strong and elegant, she has changed color and texture during her time burrowed in the sand and is now set to brace the year ahead. It is exciting to see what life will grow on her now and what will choose to live within her. The Oceans have been a vital source of renewable food since the birth of mankind; we depend on their health and well-being. Yet marine eco-systems all over the world are in rapid decline. We can be part of the solution and ensure a healthy ocean for all future generations with creativity, innovation and positivity.