Friday, 28 November 2014

Run with it! Or rather, swim with it...

One of my main interests in writing about lesser known species is to try and shed light on the beauty of the unknown and the wonder in the worlds that surround us. This past month I came across three distinct articles that touch on framing other than human nature through a lens of fear. The first article is from the CTV news reporting on a recent video capture of an anglerfish which is a deep sea being also referred to as the black sea devil. This article brought me back to my research on the Australian grey nurse shark and the undeserved monikers and reputation they earned in the late 1960s. Many of the pieces that reported on the Australian grey nurse shark would capture the audience with a provocative tag-line that did not necessarily convey the tone of the story, which is very much the case with the CTV anglerfish article. The title of the story, Research team captures deep-sea nightmare on film, conveys an alarmist reaction in the reader whence the content reflects a very different perspective. However, this is not so much the case with the second article that I came across…

The hype about the 'Jurassic World' trailer that the public has been waiting for on the “edge of their seat,” very much reflects how popular Hollywood big box office productions gear their audiencess viewpoint to interpret nonhuman nature through a lens of fear. The Jurassic World trailer echoes societal glorifications of an obsession with control and the confinement of other beings for human entertainment. We see this most effectively mirrored in the brief glimpse of a mosasaur breaching the water in the SeaWorld-like pool with its arena of awe-struck spectators watching the beast attack the dangling great white shark in true Jaws fashion. The carefully timed high pitched sounds from the striking of isolated piano keys of that ever recognisable John Williams slow piano piece creates that eerily unsettling feeling in the viewer to a point that one is both primed and caught off guard by the ensuing drama that will follow. The creation of these types of films reinforce our penchant for attributing human characteristics in relation to intent over instinct upon other beings that hunt for survival over sport or vengeance. This brings me to the last article that I explored which looks at deflating the hyperbolic myths that surround the great white shark…

This third article exposes ten well-disseminated myths, from the intent of attacks, frequency at which they occur and the efforts that we have made to safeguard against shark attacks. One of the key myths surrounding shark attacks and their occurrence is also tied to the frequency of their reportage in mass media. Often times there can be years when no fatal attacks occur but a sudden clumping of attacks (and clumping is in relation to three or four attacks) in a single year can send the media into a feeding frenzy. These fatal attacks also tend to occur at times that other prey species are more active and hence at times when it is ill-advised to be in the water. And while it is true that there may indeed be an increase in the number of attacks that do occur, this is more a reflection of the “ever-increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans, which increases the opportunity for interaction between the two affected parties" rather than truly reflects a swell in the rate of attacks.  

Thus, it is intriguing to examine the way in which information is conveyed to the public and the ways in which we construct realities through our narratives as they do nourish our beliefs…

Thursday, 20 November 2014

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

This past June, I set out to begin the story of the seahorse within my series, as they have always captivated me. Last week we explored the storyline of Griffin and Sabine, two characters that are a part of the narrative of the Knysna settlement in Beautiful Creatures. I have had a strong fascination for these beings from a young age. Hence, when I graduated from high school, my mother had a friend make me a pendant that I still wear to this day.

It was not until many years later, when I was accepted into a student exchange program to Australia, that I would re-ignite my love of seahorses. I was elated to be traveling to a place I had never dreamed I would ever get to see. The seadragon was what brought me to realising this other childhood dream, seeing Australia. As part of my research for the program, I had planned to undertake a project involving the study of seadragon behavior and habitat conservation. I had the great fortune of working with a wonderful mentor with whom I continued to work with after my BSc Honours degree. 

By Sage Ross (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
At the time, I was living in Victoria, B.C. with my partner and we would often take walks along the beach at the end of our road. I had only recently moved to the West coast and already I was preparing to leave for Australia. There were several walks along the shore when I would contemplate ideas for my research. However, my most memorable walks are those with my partner exploring the shoreline and picking up the sea kelp that resembled the leafy sea dragon’s lengthy leaf-like protrusions. I would playfully hold the kelp in each hand and mimicked the seadragon's movements saying “guess who I am!”  as we laughed… That was over ten years ago, but I can still remember it like it were yesterday. The seadragon was originally going to be my research focus. However, due to time and residency constraints I had to shift to a more realistic research project. And so, I embarked on writing about on the public perception of the Australian grey nurse shark, an equally fascinating being with a rich cultural history. That said, the exchange program introduced me to seadragons and hatched my passion for these wonderful creatures.

By G. H. Ford [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Seadragons are close relatives of the seahorse and these beautiful creatures have a tail like no other … The female and male will share in a lovely courtship dance which results in the male’s tail being embedded with rows of eggs that will hatch a new generation of seadragons… 

While the weedy seadragon has lovely lines and striking colouring the leafy seadragon is a master of disguise with its elaborate camouflage. However, both have such splendid visual qualities that are certain to enchant you!



Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Iridescent Dragon

Nick Hobgood
Among the Knysna settlement inhabitants were two wandering souls, Griffin and Sabine. Griffin had been a long-time resident whereas Sabine had only recently returned to Knysna. It was like having been in a dream that she found herself back in the watery refuge of her birthplace. This was mainly because she did not have any recent memories of her time in the settlement. Sabine felt as though she had fallen into a deep sleep only to reawaken surrounded by the softness of the undulating sea grass that calmed her unsettled soul. She had not known this at first but Griffin was to become an exceptional companion. His soft copper markings dotting the side of his pouch and head made him stand out from the rest in the herd. But there were many elements to why Sabine was so drawn to Griffin. One being that he had traveled between the settlements and was a treasure chest of adventures... A truly wonderful storyteller! Sabine and Griffin had briefly met as fry. Although he did not have much of a memory of her, Sabine certainly had kept a place in her heart for Griffin over time. She had not been conscious of this rooted emotional memory until it was sparked at the end of the dry season when he finally engaged after she had silently watched him for the past few months. The reawakening of this embedded unconscious history with Griffin gave her hope that the loss of her recent memories would return to her one day. She hoped that in time the memory gap between fry and present day would rematerialize in much the same way her love for Griffin had come rushing back. It was an unusual chain of events that reunited Griffin and Sabine with such fervour. As such, this was a bit daunting for Sabine, yet she was not one to shy away from the promise of such a deep connection with another. And now, as they entered into the hot season of South Africa’s November, the bond between them grew exponentially stronger each day...

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