Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Terra Incognita

Over this ocean the familiar lodestar of Polaris never rises. The year is 1769.  James Cook's Endeavour is exploring and charting the southern ocean.  The alien constellations of the south glimmer above the clouds.  Below, in the darker parts of the water, the wheels and pinions of clockwork appear.  Due to the careful observation of the sun and stars, in combination with the invention of a reliable marine chronometer, the crew of this ship knows where they are. 

Celestial navigation. Their immediate surroundings provide no hint to the crew as to their location.  Paradoxically, only by observing distant heavenly bodies, and by knowing the precise time on the other side of the globe, can they determine their exact location. 

Sometimes, it is only by observing that which is very far away, that we can determine where we are now. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Mapping Newfoundland

Between 1762 and 1767 during the summer months, James Cook surveyed the coast of Newfoundland.  His ship and crew traveled around the island and precisely locating every bay and island using the new science of celestial navigation. 

The world was being captured in a map.  Every point was precisely located within the grid of latitude and longitude.  The wilderness was transformed into territory; property of the British Crown. 

But when all the world had been found, was something lost? When there was nothing left uncharted, did something else go missing?   

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Joshua in the North Atlantic

Joshua Slocum's boat 'Spray' sails through an ocean that seems to be breaking apart. Between the gaps in the waves it appears as though a ship could fall into the sky.

This little ship that carried its single occupant across vast oceans tells two stories. On one hand it illustrates the resilience and ingenuity of the individual to accomplish remarkable things. On the other hand it shows how small and short-lived these achievements are on a larger scale.  The sailor is a tiny dot; the ocean is vast.  The human achievement is a fleeting journey; the ocean endures forever.

A decade after this successful voyage, Slocum and his boat were once again in the North Atlantic. He was headed for the west indies when he disappeared without a trace.  No wreckage or debris was ever found.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a pioneer aviator and is best known as the author if 'The Little Prince'.  The life of a pilot was dangerous and Saint-Exupéry had several close calls. Engines were temperamental; navigation instruments and radios were primitive and unreliable. 

It was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's experience of surviving a crash in the Sahara desert that was the inspiration for the encounter with the Little Prince. The text in this image is an excerpt from the story wherein the prince recounts a visit with the sole inhabitant of a small planet: a geographer who makes maps but considers himself too important to actually visit the places he records.  

In this image the clouds are sharp and clear within a small horizon around the plane. Further afield, the image breaks down into map like patterns and abstractions. Saint-Exupéry disappeared over the Mediterranean while on a reconnaissance flight to occupied France. Shown here is a Lockheed P-38, the plane he flew on this final mission. In the sea below, I've put a small life raft to help him out after the crash.  

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Lost Horizon Spray

Joshua Slocum was an experienced sea captain when he took on the challenge of attempting to sail around the world on his own. He restored and re-purposed an old fishing boat into a sturdy ship that was small enough to be managed by one man but tough enough to withstand everything the oceans could throw at it. 

His boat, 'Spray' was so well balanced and Slocum was so good at setting her sails that the little vessel could stay on course for hours on end with the wheel lashed. He described his adventures in his famous book "Sailing Alone Around the World"

The ghostly text that appears in this picture describes an episode during which, suffering from food poisoning, Slocum hallucinates a member of Christopher Columbus crew steering the Spray safely through a storm.

Monday, December 3, 2018

En Route to Howland Island

Sky and water overlap.  Waves and clouds look like islands as they mirage into each other at the horizon. A small plane flies over a vast ocean in search of a tiny speck of land. Amelia Earhart and her navigator search for Howland Island - an essential refueling stop in the Pacific Ocean.  Earhart's own words appear in the sky. The text is from her book 'For the Fun of It' wherein she describes and shares her love of flying.  

Earhart's attempt to fly around the world lay at the very edge of her era's technology. The Pacific leg was the longest and most dangerous and one that she ultimately did not survive.  

This image is both tragic, in that it depicts a doomed flight, and optimistic, in that it depicts the heroic striving of someone pushing the envelope of the possible in the pursuit of something they love. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Theseus' Paradox

The sky and sea are churning into each other.  Building facades appear as ghostly apparitions in billowing clouds.  In this chaotic ocean a small vessel is faintly visible.  This little boat is symbolic of the little bit of order that we keep close to ourselves, that allows us to survive the tumult of a chaotic world.

Theseus' paradox is based on the story of Theseus' ship. The Greek hero's ship was kept for a hundred years and continually repaired so that eventually all the original planks and timbers were replaced. The question is: is this ship, with no original parts, the same ship?  is it still Theseus' ship?

Like Theseus' ship, our little boat of life needs to be constantly maintained, adapted and updated. That which will keep us afloat tomorrow is not what kept us afloat yesterday.