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Underworld creature stopped dive after Likoni ferry tragedy? No, sculpture in Mexican underwater museum

Tragedy struck the Likoni ferry across Kenya’s Kilindini harbour on 29 September 2019 when a car carrying Mariam Kighenda, 35 and her four-year-old daughter Amanda Mutheu slid off the ferry and plunged some 60 metres into the water. The ferry connects Mombasa island to the mainland in the city of Mombasa on Kenya’s southern coast.

The bodies were retrieved nearly two weeks later on 11 October in an arduous recovery effort that captured the attention of the nation – including the president.

Several initial efforts were thwarted by strong currents, low visibility and channel traffic. The team of divers included Swedish scuba diver Volker Bassen, who lives in Kenya.

‘The grandfather of Loliondo’

On 5 October a Facebook user posted a photo that he claims explains why the car couldn’t be found. It shows what appears to be a man sitting on a couch watching TV – on the ocean floor.

“Matters Likoni rescue mission,” the caption reads. “Forget the bull sharks, the darkness, mud and sand torrents under the sea bed in the deep Likoni channel. The Swedish diver had promised 2hours and he retrieves the bodies and vehicle. He didn't make it.

“LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING: The ocean is home to salmadoras and all sorts of underworld creatures. Majini [ghosts] inhabits these acquatic environment.

“The diver found the grandfather of Loliondo, seated watching Ocean TV news, very comfortably down there. He just aborted his mission.” (Note: Loliondo is a Tanzanian village that, in 2011, drew hordes of visitors to the self-declared prophet "Babu wa Loliondo" and his "wonder drug".) 

Was the underwater “grandfather of Loliondo” the reason Bassen couldn’t find the vehicle? We checked. 

Bassen’s observations underwater

In a press briefing on 5 October, Bassen explained the failed recovery operation.

“First of all I would like to retract my comment of a previous interview that I had that it would take about two hours to take the car up. I realize that I had underestimated the conditions here that the Kenya Navy has to deal with,” he said.

“There is zero visibility basically, very deep water and a terrible, terrible current that makes it quite difficult to locate the car.”

Underwater art museum

A reverse image search on Google reveals that the photo first appeared online on 30 October 2010. It was uploaded on Pinterest by Sladjana Markovic in a folder titled “Underwater sculptures [Mexico]”.

Further research led us to the Cancun Underwater Museum of Art website where we found another photo of the sculpture, taken from a different angle. Titled Inertia, it is one of many sculptures on display by the artist Jason Decaires Taylor. The museum is in Punta Nizuc, Cancun, in the Mexican Caribbean.

The photo does not show a creature in Kilindi harbour that scared the diver Bassen off his recovery operation. It’s a sculpture in an underwater museum in Mexico.  – Grace Gichuhi


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