Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Barely-Imagined Beings

C R McClain of Deep Sea News happens to flag up a short movie of deep sea creatures from Les Watling and NOAA Ocean Explorer. It includes a marvel called Iridogorgia (50 seconds into the clip). Don't let the name put you off: Iridogorgia is at least as strange as anything in Dr Seuss and much more beautiful. This is well worth a watch (but lose the New Age jazz sound track!).

Last weekend's Cambridge convivium Passionate Natures was rich indeed, with some brilliant contributors including Richard Mabey, Jules Pretty, Jeremy Purseglove, Marina Warner, Patrick Wright etc. More power to the convenors! My 0.002 eco-cents of speechifying came in five parts: The Undiscovered Country; Crossing a Threshold; Making a Place in the Imagination; Destruction; and Memory and Hope. It was pretty informal, but I may polish it for publication.

One point to mention here. I am framing part of the Coral Bones project as a Book of Barely-Imagined Beings. With a nod to Jorge Luis Borges, it links fragments of philosophy, science, history, politics, anthropology, poetry and other things through stories about sea creatures. All the creatures really exist but many are so strange that they are almost beyond imagining; many, perhaps most, face destruction by humans because we can hardly imagine what that means.
“All that is told of the sea has a fabulous sound to the inhabitant of the land and all of its products have a certain fabulous quality, as if they belonged to another planet”.
So wrote Henry David Thoreau, a guiding voice for Passionate Natures. But the convivium opened on a darker note with a reference to Edward Hoagland's Endgame: Meditations on a diminishing world, which is said to contain the coinage "tsunamic" in reference to the human impact on the biosphere. (I haven't been able to access Hoagland's essay, but my 0.001 eco-cents worth is that I may have got some of the way there in early 2005 with Tsunami coming for us all). Hope dies last, of course, and there is always a chance that enthusiastic gloomsters are wrong: the end of coral reefs in human experience over the next few centuries or thousands of years, for instance, is not necessarily a slam dunk while some are brave and resourceful enough to act effectively.

(A Benthoctopus sp. investigating ALVIN's port manipulator arm: "Those inside the sub were surprised by the octopod's inquisitive behavior". Image by Bruce Strickrott, Expedition to the Deep Slope)


Blogger Kevin Z said...

In reference to your Book of Barely-Imagined Beings, I have been thinking about this for a while myself. My idea was to edit a collection of poems and short stories by anyone willing to contribute along with high quality in-situ pictures. I would arrange the book based on themes (not phylogenetically). I would love to talk to you more about this if you are interested! Perhaps, there can be a collection of essays, poems and short stories from science bloggers.

8:11 pm  

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