Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Of Their Bones Are Coral Made

Full fathom five, or deeper still,
At rest within the ocean’s chill
The ocean currents may create
A home for fish and tiny krill
Where war machines have met their fate

The seascape changes, day by day
As predators now follow prey
To chase them into turret caves
And places they can hide away
In ships and tanks beneath the waves

A month goes by; the wreck conceals
Now, groupers, triggerfish, and eels
In every crevice, cave, and hole;
A shadow from above reveals
A shark or tuna on patrol

The algae fronds and coral fans
Have overgrown what once was Man’s,
Re-writing all his grand designs
And following their separate plans
They soften all the human lines.

Will corals act as Sandburg’s grass
As months and years and decades pass,
To cover death, and loss and grief
Until, through seas as clear as glass
We only view a coral reef?

Photos: David Doubilet/National Geographic (click to embiggen; you'll be glad you did)

These gorgeous photos may be found in the February 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands January 25 (you can tell from the fact that Jan 25th has already passed, that this phrase is part of the contractual agreement with Nat Geo to use these wonderful pictures), in a photo-essay on a variety of artificial reefs—from deliberately sunken ships and tanks, to the supports of oil and gas rigs, to a cemetery where cremated remains, mixed into concrete, allow those who desire to spend their eternity sleeping with the fishes.  Over time, each artificial reef is transformed--“nothing of him that doth fade / but doth suffer a sea-change / into something rich and strange.”  There are more photos, and the accompanying essay, here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/02/artificial-reefs/doubilet-photography

Parenthetically… I have been a National Geographic fan for as long as I can remember.  When I mentioned this fact to my fellow travelers two years ago in Greece & Bulgaria, it turns out that the vast majority of them, in their secret heart of hearts, had fantasized about taking the same amazing trip we did, seeing the same sights, talking to the same people… but with a NatGeo press pass.  So when the NatGeo rep contacted me with the offer to use some of their pictures for a blog post, there was no possible way I would turn that down.  And even if it were not part of the agreement, the idea that I could legitimately close my post with an official National Geographic magazine cover is just soooo coooool.  I know I’m not actually writing for National Geographic.  But I can dream.


Melissa said...


Anonymous said...

In Flanders' reefs the polyps grow
Between the hardware row on row
That mark our place; and in the sea
The fish, still bravely swimming, fly
Scarce heard amid the cries below.

Anonymous said...

Alas, I'm still waiting for my copy of this issue! The parents gifted me a subscription for Christmas, but there was some mixup in my address at some point along the way... Can't wait to get it, though!

makita said...

Beautiful pictures!