Divers Off Florida’s Southwest Coast Can Now See An Underwater Gallery

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LEE COUNTY, FL. (CNN) – An experiment in underwater art is underway off the southwest coast of Florida.

A kind of art gallery has now been attached to a sunken World War II-era ship that’s become an artificial reef.

Chad Oliver made the trip 28 miles off the coast of Sanibel Island to see the drivers and the artist installing the unique gallery.

Steve Shrimp, Boat Captain/Diver: Well we’re taking various people, divers and reporters and that out to a vessel called the Mohawk.

Most divers go into the Gulf of Mexico to see beauty already there.

It was a World War II ship, a lot of history behind it.

Few add to it.

We’re going to install art on the side of the ship.

It’s a mission 30 miles from shore and decades in the making.

75 divers.

And one photographer responsible for bringing the worlds together.

Andreas Fran, Artist:  “I’m a photographer as well as a diver.”

Andreas Frank first photographed the USS Mohawk two weeks after it sunk.

Every ship has it’s own history.

This Austrian superimposed images on those photographs.

Models dressed as they would have looked during the war years.

My main job is to find the right place for each image.

Each work is encased in steel-framed plexiglass.

The crystal blue water gives a clear view of the coast guard cutter.

A lot of fish out there it’s just a beautiful dive.

Divers use magnets to attach the art to the Mohawk.

It’s a little bit slower in order to get it just right.

Andreas leads the effort happening 90-feet below the surface.

He stood back and leveled ’em so they were perfect and gave us a thumb’s up and said let’s go to the next one.

By the end of the day 12 pieces are in place.

Go wreck diving – bring both things together – diving and photography. couldn’t be better.

It’s the third underwater project for an artist who’s not worried about theft.

Each magnet holds 120 pounds and we have five on it.

So one person can’t removed it anyhow.

Frank’s images re-create what sailors might have done in their down time.

And what they dreamed about….

That’s the reason they are girls here.

They are very lonely maybe.

It was really really sweet.

Just the wreck.

Never mind the artwork.

The Mohawk has a heroic history. The crew survived Nazi U-Boats. Rescued survivors of torpedo attacks.

And was the last ship to radio General Dwight D. Eisenhower that the weather was clearing for the D-Day Invasion.

And so for me it’s like a stage, and I bring life back to the shipwreck.

Franke’s art will remain underwater for four months.

Whatever grows on the glass is up to nature…

I love what the sea is doing to the pictures.

In October, the images will go on display at Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers.

It will be like Christmas, it will be like opening a present to see how all of that has affected it.

A new take on art and history.

We hang this in a gallery so everybody can see this – not only divers.

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