Answering Echoes (Part One)


The weather has been overcast for a few days now. A dense blanket of mist hovers over the water, as if protecting the sea that quietly laps underneath it. Water particles quiver in the air, softening the sharpness of things. With the lack of wind the gulls lost interest in flying. For several days, they silently and patiently bobbed around the umbilical, in expectancy of a haul from the deep.

I have a morning ritual of spending time on deck observing the surface of the water and the gulls. They are more active when the wind picks up. They swoop and glide inches over the huge surface of the uneven, undulating water, like swallows navigating the tips of grassy fields. Today I have noticed a dramatic decline in their numbers, so they must have figured something out and set their focus elsewhere. I have acquired a deep admiration for them, in this landless region they are astonishingly at ease, more adept than at land. Three hundred and sixty kilometres out their resilience is striking.

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In this vast expanse there is so much to take in. For me, this trip presents a multitude of ‘firsts’. Stepping onto the ship I felt like I forgot anything I knew (or thought I knew)  and realised all that I didn't, I am in the process of being introduced to new spaces, conditions, language and histories. Most significantly, it is the first time in my life that I have stood and looked out and not been able to see land. I have only ever been ferried short choppy distances from one place to another by boat. This trip the destination lies beneath us, three thousand metres below in a canyon on the Porcupine Bank.


Hi Louise,
I hope this reaches you well!
Everything is going really well, time is actually flying so my apologies for the lack of contact.

The day I last got in contact was the day we made transit towards the Porcupine Canyon. It started of well at first but I eventually got to experience sea sickness after being up on the bridge filming- which is quite like a hangover without the party! So I took to bed for the evening and watched some movies and it sorted it out. Got up the next day, which wasn't so rough, and felt fine. It is certainly a strange one though!

I am loving it on board. The weather has been overcast, like a blanket protecting the sea, which has been quietly lapping away for the past few days. The gulls and the gannets had settled on the surface of the water due to the lack of wind. They silently and patiently bobbed around the ROV umbilical for several days in expectancy of a feed from the deep. Today I have noticed a dramatic decline, they must have figured it out. I have acquired a deep admiration for them, not because they had mistaken us for a trawler, but that they can survive so far out from land. I have a morning ritual of spending a half an hour with a coffee on the deck observing, mostly watching gulls, gannets and petrels swooping and gliding inches over the huge surface of the uneven water, like swallows navigating the tips of grassy fields.

I've been reading a lot and writing a bit, especially writing (nonsense) the first few days when we were in the bay. There is so much to take in and i'm trying to read and write my way around my thoughts. Each day I usually research a theme- contemporary art and the sea, sound and the sea, the history and development of marine geology and scientific discovery, modern scientific technologies, so its quite a lot of information. Once I stepped onto the boat I felt like I forgot anything I knew and realised all that I didn't, so I feel like i'm in a process of intense learning about the sea.

I have a few ideas... I am interested in how the maps the marine geologists make are visualisations of sound- and I have been thinking a lot about how do those visuals sound- apparently the pings or "answering echoes" (a term I prefer that I found in a book by marine biologist Rachel Larson called The Sea Around Us) are not audible to the human ear so I have been thinking of different ways of making sounds from images of the topography of the deep. The images of the acoustic mapping are colour graded, so red is higher and blue is deeper in the scale, so things like this colour scale could be used to create a sonic scale. There are actually a lot of sonic possibilities within these realms and I am curious to using the human voice in some way. I've also been recording the thruster- when the ROV is in use, it sounds like being in the belly of the beast. I love it, but it does make me wonder what all the underwater life think of it all. The engine noises are very interesting, when I am recording them I seem to be hearing melody in a certain frequency.

So i'm collecting sounds and researching different topics in the hope that I will find what it is about the deep that I want to communicate, that is important to communicate. There is one idea that I came upon, watching a news report on the marine geology page involving the scientists onboard, which is that the deep is as connected to us as the forests- that we are all part of the same eco systems, no matter how remote, what affects the deep also affects us. So that is something to consider.

I also do want to make a glossary and as I read and chat with the scientists and crew I am collecting descriptions and words that are used in relation to the deep. I absolutely love the writing of Rachel Carson- she writes in prose about the formation and development of the deep, her prose are full of rich imagery and fact- the way she marries the two are incredible. She died in the 60's of cancer, I only wonder what she would have continued to write. I have ordered a trilogy of books on the sea that she wrote so they are on their way to my home now.

There are a few more things I need to do, like see a few sunrises and sunsets and see the stars, it's been cloudy and i'm hoping for clear skies soon. Bad weather is coming again on Tuesday, more bouncing to come, but now I have my sea legs. There also have been no whales so far.

I keep counting how many days I have left on the boat each day, I can't keep count so its a daily occurence, I don't want it to end too soon but time if flying!

My best, Carol Anne