sea creatures

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History Illustration Science

Page Through a Fantastical Compendium of the World's First Color Illustrations of Marine Life

August 17, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

In the early 18th century, publisher, bookseller, and apparent fish enthusiast Louis Renard compiled the seminal compendium of color-illustrated ichthyological studies. The volume contains more than 450 species rendered in vibrant hues that, while somewhat anatomically accurate, feature embellishments in color and characteristics. From beak-like mouths to extraordinarily patterned skins, the vast illustrations of marine life are unusual, bizarre, and sometimes psychedelic. One of the most fantastical illustrations even depicts a mermaid (shown below).

A digital copy of Renard’s work—which officially is titled Fishes, crayfish and crabs, of various colors and extraordinary figures, which one finds around the Moluccas islands and on the coasts of the Austral lands—is available in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, an incredible open-access digital archive. Overall, the library estimates that about 9 percent of the illustrations are fabricated, a detail that’s unsurprising considering the Dutch publisher never traveled to the East Indies to complete his studies. Instead, he copied 460 hand-colored copper engravings from other artists, many of which were contributed by soldier and painter Samuel Fallours who was based in Ambon, Indonesia. In a similarly duplicitous manner, the library also believes that Renard identified himself as a secret agent to the British crown as a way to sell more copies of his work.

The tome was published in three editions, and only 16 of the initial printing, which happened between 1718 and 1719, are known to exist. Thirty-four copies of the second version from 1754 remain, which is also the iteration shown here. There are just six books left from the third printing in 1782.

Page through the entire compendium in the digital library. To enjoy the vivid illustrations off-screen, Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings, is selling masks and prints of the enhanced creatures.

 

 

 



Photography

Underwater Realm: Black and White Photos Capture Breathtaking Moments Amongst Life in the Sea

June 26, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Mexican photographer and anthropologist Anuar Patjane captures black and white moments of life underwater as a way to bring awareness to a part of the world most do not get a chance to see. Patjane searches for awe-inspiring snapshots to connect viewers with images of fish and other underwater animals. He hopes his photographs create an empathy towards these creatures and their environment while also expressing the impact that our choices have on their trajectory as species of the sea.

“With the [Underwater Realm] series, I try to drive our attention towards the beauty of our oceans a a truth usually unnoticed: We are brutally overfishing in our oceans, and our attention should be concentrated on the way we fish, as well as what we eat from the ocean,” he explains in an artist statement about the series. “We see and care when a forest is gone because it is visible to everybody, but we don’t see when we destroy life underwater.”

Patjane not only captures life underwater, but landscapes from all over the globe that may often go unnoticed. You can see more of his series, including images shot in Antarctica and Iceland, on his website and Instagram.

 

 



Art Science

An 80-Foot Steel Kraken Will Create an Artificial Coral Reef Near the British Virgin Islands

October 18, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

All images via Owen Buggy

This past April a massive 80-foot steel kraken was purposefully sunk into the Caribbean Sea on top of a decorated WW2 ship. The former Navy fuel barge and its monstrous passenger were placed underwater in order to jumpstart a new coral ecosystem, while also serving as a cutting-edge education center for marine researchers and local students from the surrounding British Virgin Islands. The project is titled the BVI Art Reef, and aims to use sculptures like the porous kraken as a base to grow transplanted coral.

The Kodiak Queen, formerly a Navy fuel barge named the YO-44, was discovered by British photographer Owen Buggy approximately two and a half years ago on the island of Tortola. Instead of letting the historic vessel get picked apart for scrap metal, Buggy approached former boss Sir Richard Branson about collaborating on a restorative art installation. Together with nonprofit Unite B.V.I., artist group Secret Samurai Productions, social justice entrepreneurial group Maverick1000, and ocean education nonprofit Beneath the Waves, the project was established as both an eco-friendly art installation, and a philanthropic measure to rehabilitate native marine species.

“It’s envisioned that within just a short space of time the ship and artwork will attract a myriad of sea creatures,” said Clive Petrovic who consults on the environmental impact of the BVI Art Reef. “Everything from corals to sea sponges, sharks and turtles will live on, in, and around the wreck. The ship will become valuable for future research by scientists and local students alike.”

To sink the massive ship, the project sought the help of the Commercial Dive Services who safely submerged the vessel off the coast of the island Virgin Gorda. It was the first time the ship had been in the water for nearly 17 years, and was lead to its final resting place by a bevy of boats and helicopters.

Filmmaker Rob Sorrenti filmed both the construction and sinking of the kraken and its ship. The full-length documentary is currently in post-production, with an estimated release early next year. You can watch a clip from the upcoming film below. For information on visiting the BVI Art Reef, and to learn more about its educational programs, visit the project’s website and Facebook.

 

 



Art

Artist Transforms a Fallen Redwood Tree into A Gigantic Eight-Tentacle Sea Creature

September 25, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

Washington-based woodcarver Jeffrey Michael Samudosky has been creating elaborate figural works from a variety of Pacific Northwest trees since he started his company JMS Wood Sculpture in 1998. One of his most recent projects is a replica of an Enteroctopus dofleini, or Giant Pacific Octopus, carved from a fallen Redwood given to him by Redwood Burl. The cephalopod’s tentacles curve and twist their way across areas which Samudosky left natural, including the entire back of the trunk which gives the illusion that the octopus is on top of the tree, rather than a part of it.

Samudosky has previously carved deep sea diving helmets, rams, and bears twice his size. You can explore more of the self-taught woodworker’s pieces on his website and Facebook. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 



Photography

Photographer Jorge Cervera Hauser Captures Sea Creatures Against Sun-Drenched Oceanscapes

May 8, 2015

Kate Sierzputowski

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Jorge Cervera Hauser produces intimate snapshots of underwater creatures, effortlessly capturing their magnificence as they glide through the sea in schools or pairs. Each image displays moments that look as if they were captured in a split-second, yet simultaneously appear dramatically staged. Most of the images included were taken either in Baja or the Mexican Caribbean, and the image of the shark gliding alone through turquoise water was taken at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas. No matter the location, each photograph was taken far away from human life and miles out in the open ocean.

The Mexico City-based artist is also a film producer, yet his true passion lies with the animals he captures within his photography. Along with a few friends he runs a marine conservation NGO called Pelagic Life, which aims to conserve the Mexican open ocean through eco-tourism. Through his organization Cervera Hauser produced the documentary “Mexico Pelagico” which has already been released in Mexico and will be available on Netflix June 1st. More images of Cervera Hauser’s underwater voyages can be seen on his online portfolio here.

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