Sculptures in underwater museum victim of neglect
The museum was built by the Antalya Chamber of Shipping in 2015 around Side in the southern province of Antalya’s Manavgat district with a cost of 400,000 Turkish Liras. In the museum, which was visited by 30,000 people in its first year, there are 117 sculptures in five different themes. The making of sculptures was completed in nine months.
In three sections, located at a depth of 11, 18 and 22 meters, 1.5 miles off Side, there are statues depicting the War of Independence, the camel caravan in deserts, the Mevlevi, and the mythological sea god Poseidon, which is the biggest and most striking among the others.
Visited by an average of 70,000 people until 2021, the museum offers diving enthusiasts a fantastic view. But the museum is the victim of negligence nowadays. Many of the moss-covered statues at the bottom of the sea, which have become nests for fish, are either broken or fell as they are disconnected from their bases.
Although all kinds of hunting are prohibited around the area, where the Side Underwater Museum is located, nets thrown by poachers also cover the statues. The anchors thrown to stabilize the boats and fishing also destroyed some of the statues, revealing the iron skeleton inside.
Şahin Gerçek, the owner of a diving school in Side, stated that the appearance is ugly and that anchors can also harm holidaymakers who want to go for a dive.
“Both professionals and amateurs can dive in this area. We are worried that the museum has been neglected. Since 2015, no one has been interested. The ghostly nets have overturned the statues. We have identified them. There are broken statues. It is dangerous. The irons of the broken statues lie exposed. Divers can get injured by these irons when visibility is poor. Divers are also disappointed when they see this view,” Gerçek said.
Antalya Branch Manager Cüneyt Koşu from the Istanbul, Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea Regions Chamber of Maritime Commerce (IMEAK) said the museum hosts many tourists.
Stating that this museum project was realized for the development of Side and to draw attention to underwater, Koşu said they were inspired by an underwater museum in Mexico.
Noting that the Side Underwater Museum seems abandoned, but IMEAK always allocates a budget for the museum, Koşu said: “In fact, we just changed the broken buoys. We allocate a budget for whatever is required according to annual needs. It is expected that the sculptures will be damaged over time. This is inevitable. However, this area, which has been declared as a forbidden area, needs to be well protected by the locals. I saw it when I was diving too. The statues have been damaged due to wrong anchorages and fishing with nets. The statues have broken and are covered with nets.”
The recent situation of the damaged sculptures was recorded by underwater cameras. While most of the statues were covered with algae and became nests for sea creatures, it was seen that some statues were disconnected from their bases and fell. In the sculpture groups depicting the War of Independence, it was seen that rifles of soldiers were broken, and some of them fell to the seafloor by breaking off from their connection points.