Saturday, September 01, 2007

The unspeakable deeps

The feeling of wetness at meine kleine fabrik:

In 1928 the naturalist William Beebe described his experiences as a helmet diver in the book Beneath Tropic Seas. Beebe felt that our existing terrestrial vocabulary was an inexact and at times unimaginative instrument for gauging the world beneath the waves. For example, he wrote: "I know the exact shade of a certain feathery sea plume, but resent having to refer to it as zinc orange. Yet I am always pleased when I detect salmon, or pearl-grey or ultramarine." Beebe struggled to present an accurate and poetic account of the fantastic visions presented to him by the ocean realm, but he was not the first.


During the fall of 1957 an unusual find was made at Cornell University in upstate New York. Professor Thomas Eisner, a young faculty member who was working in Roberts Hall and had begun to explore its musty corridors, found a series of locked antique wooden cabinets. Through the dingy glass windows were visible hundreds of delicate and unusual sea creatures, all the more extraordinary because landlocked Ithaca is several hundred miles away from the closest tide pools. Eisner, now recognized as a founder of the field of chemical ecology, and his graduate student Roger Payne, who later discovered that Humpback whales sing songs [endnote 1], picked the locks with a paper clip and were absolutely mesmerized to find that the highly detailed ocean invertebrates, including octopus, squid, pelagic snail, and sea cucumber, were made of glass. Altogether, 570 creatures had been-well, how had they been?-fashioned by someone, for some purpose. But why? And when?
Another item that reminds me of Lovecraftian things.

The beauty and detail of this naturalistic artwork is also amazing. Check the link, there are more pictures and lots more information there.

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