700-pound robot sculpture is latest artwork added to sunken ship off Pompano Beach

Pompano Beach’s art gallery has another exhibit for public viewing but it isn’t where you might expect.

A robot sculpture named “Mechan H2O” was submerged more than 100 feet underwater Wednesday to forever live on the stern of the Lady Luck sunken ship. It’s part of the Shipwreck Park underwater art exhibition that both creates artificial reefs to attract fish — and attract divers looking for a great selfie.

Oregon-based artist Tyler FuQua said his 700-pound masterpiece is made mostly of steel that is a quarter inch thick designed to “last quite a few years underwater.” It’s inspired by a “fictional robot company from the future, or the past,” he said. “It’s such a weird location, so amazing at the same time. We have robots around the country” and when he tells people “it’s going underwater (they ask) ‘What’s next? Outer space?’ ”

Lady Luck is a 324-foot tanker vessel that was sunk in July 2016, as an artificial reef 1 ½ miles off Pompano Beach’s shore.

Among the art pieces already onboard: three “card sharks,” larger-than-life figures, standing on deck looking at their cards. An octopus is playing pool, and nearby is a mermaid cocktail waitress and giant dice sets. There’s also a treasure chest on the ship’s wheelhouse. Another piece of art will next be displayed on the beach for a year, then sunk onto the wreck.

“It’s art appreciation underwater,” said Sandra King, city spokeswoman.

Some of the artwork though is now unrecognizable, said Jeff Torode, owner of the Pompano Beach-based South Florida Diving Headquarters, who got the mechanical-inspired art to water. That’s because there has been “so much growth of mostly soft coral and marine life.”

He is excited about this latest addition, which was “designed very well, it’s open in lot of spaces (so fish can) swim in and out of the helmet.”

There are more than 2,000 artificial reefs in Florida’s waters. City officials said the city paid $35,000 for the art piece that doubles as a reef.

Lady Luck is farther deep than the Okinawa, another Pompano Beach sunken vessel, which is 70 feet underwater. That one also has artwork, including a mermaid with a gazing ball.

Some art gets knocked around a bit: A seahorse got struck by an anchor of a visiting boat and knocked off. It was retrieved by crews and will be put back on the bow of the Lady Luck in a couple weeks, said Rob Wyre, chairman of Shipwreck Park Pompano Beach.

Wednesday morning’s addition of the robot had a minor wrinkle.

The robot was brought onto the sea on a bow, pushed into the water with tether lines, but as it went overboard, it got caught up in an unexpected strong current and missed its mark by about 10 feet, Torode said.

The piece was quickly hoisted back up from the sand, and popped into its place. “Our drill team is going now down to drill it into the deck,” Torode said mid-morning. “The lead diver said it’s right where we want it: on the stern of the ship of the Lady Luck.”

Mayor Rex Hardin said it was all a part of the continuation of the public art program.

“Displaying public art on the beach and then sinking it, it’s a cool thing to do No. 1, and No. 2, it generates tourism dollars for divers to come back time and time again to see the newest addition to the artwork,” Hardin said.

Unlike an environmental catastrophe off the coast of Broward where divers are still cleaning up tires tossed overboard that had been intended to create a fish habitat, the artwork doesn’t get attached to the ocean floor.

“It was designed for this purpose,” Hardin said. “We’re careful how we treat the environment. Lady Luck was sunk to provide additional habitat for coral and fish. It’s a healthy eco-system we have there now.”

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at lhuriash@sunsentinel.com. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

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