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Kenya to open 'underwater museum' (Flickr: DirectDish)

Kenya to open 'underwater museum'

26th July 2012

Africa's first underwater museum is hoping to be open by 2014; the first underwater museum in Africa and one of the only museums of its kind in the world

To be located on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, the 'underwater museum' will be part of the Malindi Marine National Park. It will focus on marine life, such as sea turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and dolphins, and shipwrecks, of which there are around 35 in the area spread over Lamu, Mombasa, Malindi, Watamu and the south coast.

A few shipwrecks in Fort Jesus and near Nyali have been identified so far as to become the first attraction sites. Shipwrecks will be developed and prepared to be the 'exhibits', fitted with underwater cameras that will transmit images to visitors above sea level.

The museum will also study the relationship between the marine life and the shipwrecks, which attract fish feeding on mico-organisms on the wood of the ships. The wood also provides a habitat for the marine life.

Vessels from Portugal, Britain, Germany and India dot the seabeds around the Kenyan coastline, relics of the Indian Ocean coast's trade links with the Far East, when the East African coast was a key point in the global trade network. Eleven of these shipwrecks have been resting on the sea bed for more than half a century, including Highland Lassie, which sank in 1879, and the boats Hamad and Sussex, both of which sank in 1909.

The human remains from the shipwrecks will also be archived in the museum records. The project's current goal is to assess just how many wrecks there are in the area and their current condition and stability. Kenya will be one of the only places to have an underwater museum, joining the UK, the USA and China.

However, some have argued that the money spent on the museum would have been better spent on health research into diseases that affect the population, such as malaria.

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