This romantic image is actually a disaster area: Kampung Apung Teko, one of Jakarta’s many villages, has become more and more flooded until it gained a new reputation as Jakarta’s only floating village. A more than questionable feat. Until the 1990s, the three-hectare village was a community adjacent to rice fields. Now it is accessible only through foot bridges. The population was down to 200 households around 2010.
Lake Lovatnet is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Norway. In the first decade of the 1900s and again in the 1930s large fissures in the rock formation above the lake appeared and eventually rocks repeatedly fell into the lake. In 1905 a massive piece of the mountainside loosened and fell into the lake, producing waves of up to 40 meters in height that completely destroyed the two farm villages on the shore. “61 people lost their lives, half the population of Bødal and Nesdal together. Only ten were ever found.”
The villages were rebuilt, only a little bit higher up the shore. In 1936 daily rock falls happened again before eventually in September that year “one million cubic meters of rock fell down from 800 m height into Lake Lovatnet, pushing up the water and creating three waves; the highest a more than 74 meters high.” The two towns were once again completely destroyed.
Only a hundred kilometers away in a fjord called Tafjord the same thing happened in 1934: a massive piece of rock fell off the mountianside and sent a tsunami wave 17 meters high, reaching up to 300 meters inwards land, crushing houses and other buildings, moving large boats inwards land and killing 23 people.
This threat of rock slides resulting in tsunamis and floodings is common to this region of Norway. In 2015 director Roar Uthaug made a film based on the assumption that a similar event is expected to occur anytime in the future on the Åkerneset mountain, not far from Tarfjord. The movie entitled “The Wave” was so successful, two consecutive films were produced in 2018 and 2022.
In a 1971 special edition of Architectural Review devoted to the lagoon city author Jan Morris proposes to simply let the city sink. It’s a polemical claim, but one that takes the ambivalences and dilemmata of historic heritage seriously. A different, longer version of the text was printed in the New York Times on July 20, 1975. It is a wonderful piece of polemic and speculative journalism on the city that, according to the words of Jan Morris, “for a thousand years has occupied a unique position in the imagination, the affection and the distaste of all the nations.”
Both version of the text are online here (1971) and here (1975). And in 2023 Catherine Bennett wrote a nice piece for Wired magazine to review Jan Morris original position, which is also online.
This is an image from the famous sinking scene from the movie “Erik the Viking” from 1989. the movie plot is built on the medieval saga of the explorer Erik the Red. In one part of the saga Erik and his comrades arrive at the mystical island Hy-Brasil (or simply Brasil) west of Ireland. But the movie combines this Irish myth with two other popular myths: the sinking of Atlantis and the peaceful Minoan culture in the Mediterranean Sea. In a comic climax, the inhabitants of Brasil cheerfully and confidently drown in the sea.
The scene also obviously quotes the very similar scene from the 1961 movie “Atlantis – The Lost Continent”, that can be found here.
Here is the full video excerpt:
This movie is certainly not of the greatest to have come out of Hollywood. But made in 1961 it is one of the first movies about Atlantis and has been influential in popularizing the myth in the 20. Century. Made with a lot of stock footage from the movie company MGM, particularly from “Quo vadis” filmed ten years prior, the movie is not concerned with Atlantis as a sunken or submarine civilization, but with the downfall of a civilization and an oppressive political system and class. Really, the so called Lost Continent the story is set on could be any ancient empire or city.
The only remarkable feature of the movie I found to be the destruction sequence towards it’s very end. It’s filmed and edited in a very classic structure giving a good example of the Hollywood aesthetics of destruction. In a shot-and-reverse-shot-sequence the viewer is put in the position of the refugees in three boats and a safe distance from the desaster site. Here are the last 3 minutes of the movie (without sound):
And here is what director John Landis has to say about the movie:
In the north of Portugal, sea lvel rise causes masssive land loss along the Atlantic coast. The building that has become the most emblematic for the situation along Portugal’s coast are the Torres de Ofir, three towers set between the Cavado river and the ocean front in Esposende, about an hour north of Porto. The Portuguese hydrobiologist and researcher at the Abel Salazar Institute Adriano Bordalo e Sá made the following statement which has become much quoted by the press: ” “Se vivêssemos num país a sério, as torres de Ofir há muito teriam sido demolidas / If we were a serious country, the towers would have been demolished long ago.”
Depending on how the photo is taken, the three towers appear more or less vulnerable to the ocean. Some photo journalists have even opted for a tilted perspective, making the scene appear a bit more dramatic. Here is a selection of recent and historic photos. Clearly the Torres de Ofir are an infamous and much publicized example of the kind of problematic coastal architecture in times of rising sea level.
This is the cover of the 2022 edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories about the sunken island kingdom Numenor, with an illustration by Alan Lee. In Tolkien’s oeuvre Numenor is geographically situated west of Middle-Earth and shows strong similarities to Plato’s Atlantis.
Its major cities are located along the coast and the inhabitants are a sea-faring, maritime society, refered to by the people of Middle-Earth as “Sea-Kings”.
I am no expert on the oeuvre of J.R.R. Tolkien. My knowledge is from vague memories of reading some books as a teenage so I rely here solely on source from the internet that are manifold and sometimes contracitory. As I understand, Numenor is not the only flooded land in the Tolkien Universe.
Among the texts I have read, the most astonishing invention by Tolkien to me is the idea of the bending of the earth which leads to the destruction of the island. Here is a quote from Wikipedia: “Eru Ilúvatar, the One God, caused the Changing of the World: the hitherto flat Earth was transformed into a globe, Númenor sank beneath the ocean. The whole population on the island was drowned.” (quote from wikipedia) This flood story is told in a short story entitled “Akallabêth“. The full text can be found here.
Thanks to Manuel Rivera for the lead!
Set in the South-American Amazon basin, the plot is based on the true stoy of Henry Ford’s „Fordlandia“ project, a business venture the us-American automobile entrepreneur conducted in the 1920‘s in the region to secure rubber supply for the booming car industry. In the comic book a fictitious billionaire follows Ford’s footsteps into the jungle to pick up the ruinous business. But he is obsessed with the idea of a second deluge and devotes all his time – and money – into catching animals to cage on his arch. Like a true business man he does not build the arch himself but buys a mega-flying boat off another billionaire, Howard Hughes. Like Fordlandia, the legendary „H-4 Hercules“ was a massive fail too; the only one of these planes ever produced had one flight only in 1947.
The images are from my german edition of the book:
The story was published in 1991 but one can’t help think of today’s grant rescue schemes of the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. It’s a common feature of today’s climate debate, that billionaires seek and successfully generate public attention to techno-utopian elitist projects. (See this article by Douglas Ruschkoff on his encounter with prepper billionaires which caused quite a buzz upon it’s publication last year) The nice twist in Batem and Yann’s story is that this rescue project is completely built on the past failures of similar minded men.
In addition to these megalomania schemes and failures, the story also references environmental destruction and authoritarian development projects in developing countries: When the deluge does eventually come, it is not a universal one but just the massive tidal wave from a bust reservoir dam, that was finished just before by the authoritarian regime of Palumbia, the fictitious state the adventures of the Marsupilami are set in.
A common theme in Northern European flood myths are the church bells of submerged cities. This motive can be found all along the ccoasts of Brittany, Wales, England, Germany and Poland. The popular folk song “Bells of Aberdovey” relates to the legend of the sunken kingdom Gwydneu (more commonly known as Cantr’er Gwaelod) off the coast of Wales. The song is most likely not an original folksong at all but a composition from 1785 for an English Opera with lyrics in English not Welsh. The today popular Welsh version was first printed in 1905.
About the motif of submerged bells see also the art installation by Marcus Vergette in this post.
The producers write on their website: “What do you get when you combine underwater fantasy with SCUBA technology? Why, you get mermaids, gliding and twirling to the soundtrack of children’s fairy tales or popular music. […] In the shows the mermaids (and mermen — called princes) discreetly take mouthfuls of air from the slender breathing tubes while they perform. Even with the air tubes, though, it’s clear that part of being a mermaid is being able to hold your breath for quite a while.”
Interestingly, the audience is seated in a giant glass tank, turning the concept of aquarium inside-out: “The mermaids are swimming in a natural spring; the 500-seat theater is embedded in the side of the spring 16 feet below the surface.”
The park is a business venture by the famous performer and sports swimmer Newt Perry, a former Navy soldier who became a celebrity by appearing in over 100 of filmmaker Grantland Rice‘s “Sportlight” short films over a period of three decades. Newt Perry, once dubbed “The Human Fish”, went on to became a much sought-after film advisor for Hollywood.
Thanks to Bernd Mand for the lead!