Diver and Ocean Atlas sculpture

All photos: Jason deCaires Taylor

Jason deCaires Taylor is famous for his surreal underwater sculptures that double as artificial reefs, and his latest work draws on the story of the mythical Greek titan, Atlas, who is believed to hold the cosmos on his shoulders.

Installed along the western coast of Nassau, Bahamas, the sculpture, titled "Ocean Atlas," alters the typical Atlas narrative by depicting a young Bahamian girl holding up the ocean just below the water's surface.

Man diving above Ocean Atlas

In light of all the threats to Earth's oceans and coral reefs — overfishing, acidification, water pollution, habitat loss and global warming — Taylor intends for "Ocean Atlas" to symbolize "the burden we are currently asking future generations to carry and the collective responsibility we have to prevent its collapse."

Ocean Atlas close-up

The statue, which is significantly grander in scale than much of Taylor's other work, appears especially surreal at low tide, when a mirror image of the piece can be seen reflecting on the underside of the water's surface. To make sure that marine life will colonize and thrive on the statue for years to come, the artificial reef is constructed with sustainable pH-neutral materials.

Ocean Atlas under construction

The work was commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) as part of an underwater sculpture garden built to memorialize the organization's late founder, Sir Nicholas Nuttall. In addition to "Ocean Atlas," the garden also includes an artificial reefball trail and sculptures by local artists Willicey Tynes and Andret Jones.

Be sure to check out Taylor's website and Facebook to see more of his exquisite work.

Ocean Atlas holding up the surface of water
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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Symbolism of 'Ocean Atlas' matches its beauty
Underwater sculpture symbolizes the burden we're passing on to future generations and the collective responsibility we have to prevent environmental collapse.