Monday, 16 May 2022

brendan the navigator

Counted as one of the twelve apostles of Ireland and best remembered for his ocean-voyage to find the Isle of the Blessed (see previously), the monastic saint from Clonfert is feted on this day in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox traditions. Although the Vita and Navigatio from the early eighth century mostly attest to his faith and devotion to the gospel and give scant details on his seafaring, a rich mythology has formed around the adventures of Brendan (Brรฉnainn moccu Alti) and his crew, retinue and their search for Eden—which though mostly taken for religious allegory and to incorporate Christian elements into the Irish custom of the sea-going sojourn, there is some evidence in the account that they might have encountered hitherto unknown lands and icebergs and reportedly Christopher Columbus studied his tack and jibe to find favourable winds to carry him past the Canaries. Patron to the dioceses of Kerry and his home of Clonfert, Brendan is also the protector of mariners, boatmen, elderly adventurers and whales—due to one legend of them making landfall only to discover it was in fact a great sea monster called Jasconius.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

preserved fish iii

Via Super Punch, we learn about the titular whaler (see more about the phenomenon of nominative determinism), New York shipping merchant, director of Bank of America, founding broker of the New York Stock and Exchange board (*1766 - †1846, his blacksmith father and grandfather bearing the same name) and involved in the political machine of Tammany Hall. In the sense of “saints preserve us,” like many in nineteenth century puritanical America, Fish was given an excruciatingly pious name.  Humble Brag.


Sunday, 27 June 2021

queequeg

Though not critically received as well as a project of this stature and pedigree ought to have been afforded, the epic retelling Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (see previously), directed and produced by John Huston with screenplay by Ray Bradbury and starring Gregory Peck, Orson Welles and Richard Basehart (Ismael and the narrator for Knight Rider) debuted in theatres in the United States on this day in 1956. The cinematic poster for twentieth anniversary re-release anachronistically references its summer box office revival and the screenplay places the whale’s home waters in Bikini Atoll—which is not in the text—to address the massive nuclear tests being conducted in the Pacific at the time of filming.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

ahab

We were pleased to learn that the ambitious project to illustrate page-by-page the whole of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick by graphic designer Matt Kish (previously) has finally been published in book form so one can contemplate all the drawings in parallel to the text that informed and inspired them. Though still available at the artist’s original blogger blog (see above) we would encourage you to get a printed copy for the best experience.

Friday, 15 January 2021

pequod

Prior to the arrival of the pilgrims the small, isolated island of Massachusetts Bay Colony whose name in Wampanoag means “sandy, sterile soil tempting no one” and the brunt of many a Limerick was home to a small and sustainable population of Native Americans, evicted by the rapidly increasing settler numbers, soon realising that Nantucket lived up to its name. And so not content with their misguided incursions, the colonisers looked to the sea to support their growth, including whaling operations. Public Domain Review has collected dozens of visually brilliant ship’s logs and personal journals of crew sourced mostly to the cusp of the age when waters were depleted and boats had to venture further and further for their quarry and cheaper alternatives to the risky enterprise presented themselves.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

pilot whale

Conceptualised and referenced in passing but never appearing in the series due to budget constraints—the same sort of limitations that inspired the transporter room in order to forgo filming landing and launch scenes, we are reminded how the Enterprise of Star Trek: The Next Generation had a deck dedicated to Cetacean Ops that hosted a collaboration between humanoid and marine mammal crew to help with the ship’s guidance and navigation research.  I guess that drawing too much attention to this place would mean that one had to show it.
According to canonical technical manuals, it was staffed by a dozen bottle-nosed dolphins under the supervision of two orcas, and like having Vulcan minders on Star Fleet vessels, the custom comes from Star Trek IV when whales were able to intervene to save the Earth. Much more to be found, including some in-show mentions,  at the discussion thread linked above.

Monday, 15 April 2019

baleen

Like nature studies informed by Bauhaus and Joan Mirรณ, Present /&/ Correct refers us to the portfolio of art collective that embraces messy Modernism with their reinterpretation of specimen slides of plankton—that is whale food and an indispensable part of the food-chain not to mention producing fully half of the world’s biogenic oxygen supply that ought not to be judged by their size, individual members of this drifting current called plankters. Much more to explore at the links above.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

cetacea

We enjoyed reflecting on this article from the Smithsonian Magazine that suggests that science and society is growing more receptive to the sensibilities of those that talk to the animals through the lens of the Inuit, Iรฑupiat and other aboriginal people who respected and revered their quarry and mainstay, the whale. Rather than dismissing their connection as superstition or as something totally inaccessible and inscrutable, researchers and ethnographers are taking the lore and traditions of northern people more seriously, realizing and appreciating that this “whale cult” forms a quite different paradigm than the common narrative of Western culture’s article of faith that mankind was given dominion over Nature.

Friday, 7 August 2015

pequod

Via the Everlasting Blort comes a really keen vignette from the archives of Brain Pickings on an almost two year project undertaken by artist Matt Kish to illustrate, page by page, the entirety of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale using mixed media and found canvases in the form of discarded paperbacks. Melville himself labored almost to the day the same amount of time to author his great work. There’s an evocative gallery of artwork to peruse that really stirs the observer to reflect on all the complex themes and motifs aloft in that story—the action of the drama contrasted with the poetic mediation that defies the usual literary architecture.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

spermaceti

Reflecting on all the terror and ravages of petroleum and how we’d all like to make do with less providing that the industry take the commanding lead, I do suppose fossil-fuels are a better alternative than what sustained humans through the period of mechanisation and urbanisation, whale oil. Before advent of kerosene and the harnessing of vegetable oils, whale oil provided illumination in oil lamps and was a staple in cooking and the product of the waxworks organ in the heads of whales was used for candles and cosmetics. The animals were nearly hunted to extinction until substitute products became cheaper to obtain. And although the legacy of petroleum production and the rampant expansion it has enable probably will cast a longer shadow, at least the inhumanity with the slaughter has relented. We are still jerks but maybe a little more civilised about it.