FloodZone – an ongoing visual research of life in the tidal zone

FloodZone is an ongoing photographic series by Anastasia Samoylova, responding to the environmental changes in coastal cities of South Florida. The project began in Miami in 2016, when Samoylova moved to the area and experience living in a tropical environment for the first time.
The works display in an impressive way the ambivalences and the fluid frontiers between city and sea in a community exposed to frequent floodings. I am particularly impressed who artist Samoylova expands the topic and visual themes onto popular imagery and the everyday in the urban scenerie.

All images are from the artist’s website. Some works are currently on display at Stuio Hanniball in Berlin (until April 14. 2023).

Thanks to Ulrike Heine for the lead!

The Mermaids of Weeki Wachee

In a theme park near Tampa, FL, you can see mermaids perform for you live since 1947.

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.

New Perry and mermaid Nancy Tribble in Tampa, FL. Click on the pic for the online source and additional info!

Thanks to Bernd Mand for the lead!

“Bringing Humanity full circle bac into the Sea”

In an essay in which cultural historian HELEN M. ROZWADOWSKI traces the intellectual climate surrounding Jacques Cousteaus aquatic utopias, which he managed to manifest temporarily in his Conshelf-experiments (see my post here), she concludes:

“The story of ‘Homo aquaticus’ (a term invented by Cousteau) reveals the extent to which the future of humanity has become tied to the ocean, including as a font of moral rebirth and, more recently, as a refuge for the human species. […] A discourse about the fate of humanity and of the planet”

American Museum of Natural History: Pearl divers in coral reef, Tongareva, French Polynesia, diorama

According to Rozwadowski, aquatic fiction of the 19. and 20. century also reflected racist ideas of white superiority. According to the evolutionist concept that human evolution started in the oceans, popularized by Darwin and Haeckel, diving humans not only came closer to creation, maritime cultures like the Polynesians, were portrayed as less developed and closer to human origin. A popular trope of science fiction (and pseudo-science) from the 1950s through 1980s was the “insistence on evolutionary reversal to enable survival”. Man would have to develop backwards, grow gills and move back into the sea, if he was to survive the anthropocene.

Rozwadowski paints a picture of society, who’s view of the ocean is deeply connected and guided by “the twin dynamic of technophobia and technophilia”. Going into and mastering the ocean as a habitat was in the 20. Century at the same time a regressive phantasy and a futursit hight-tech adventure. To become aquatic, man either has to regress or he needs more and better technology.

As far as moral renewal is concerned, Rozwadowski quotes one of the divers of Cousteaus Conshelf project, Falco, with the words: “I don’t know exactly what happened. I am the same person, yet I am no longer the same. Under the sea everything is . . . moral.” Frederic Dugan, another diver and close associate of Cousteau and co-author of several of his books, “insisted that ‘the coming undersea life will be inspiring,’ drawing parallels to creative historical epochs such as the Renaissance.”

I find this very interesting under the light of current debates around climate crisis and particularly rising sea levels in the anthropocene. Could the threat of flooding also instigate utopian ideas about a moral and evolutionary renewal of mankind in the sea?

Amog the stories and books the essay quotes are: Jacques Cousteau with James Dugan: The Living Sea (1963), Paul Anderson: “Homo Aquaticus” (Amazing Stories, September 1963), Aleksandr Belayev: The Amphibian. (1928), Kenneth Bulmer: City under the Sea (1957), D.D. Chapman and Deloris Lehman Tarzan: Red Tide (1975), and Arthur C. Clarke: The Challenge of the Sea (1960) and: The Ghost of the Grand Banks and the Deep Range (2001).

Thanks to Lajos Talamonti for the lead.



In his book Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World (2019), Glenn Albrecht elaborated the term ‘solastalgia’. A portmanteau coinage, embracing ‘nostalgia’ (longing for the past) and composed of the Greek term algos (pain) and Latin solacium (solace), solastalgia alludes to the feeling of being homesick while you are at home. If you have never lived in a house threatened by rising waters, think of how, upon arrival at a pleasant destination when travelling, you can be instantly overwhelmed by homesickness for precisely that place, because you know your stay will be of short duration. The medical journal The Lancet has already referenced ‘solastalgia’ as a useful concept to assess the effect of climate change on mental health. (Quoted from an article by Thijs Weststeijn)

Comparable terms in other languages might be: saudade, banzo, dor [Portuguese], hireath, cwtch [Welsh], momo no aware, wabi sabi [Japanese], ma [Chinese], Sehnsucht [German], tizita [Ehtiopian], añoranza [Spanish], morriña [Galician], regrette [French], also from English : melancholia, sadness, grief, blues, longing, absence, pining, yearning…

Jeff Goodell: The Water Will Come

Lecture by US journalist Jeff Goodell on his book “The Water Will Come” with alot of examples and images around rising sea level and sinking cities. From 2019.

Why water?

Most ancient cultures share the idea of creation out of water. Be it a cosmic ocean, primordial waters or a more abstract idea of fluid, amorphous chaos. But why is that so? How come that so many creation myths that were formed long before any scientific knowledge about the role of water in biology or physics, agree on the central and fundamental role of water. This article by Morgan Smith gives an overview of the many traces of primordial waters and offers some explanation on the prominent role of water in ancient creation myths.

The egypt god Nun, god of the waters of chaos.

Globalize local initiatives

In this speech, Colette Pichon Battle, formerly of Gulf South Center for Law and Policy and now working with Taproot Earth, explains why in cimate change adaptation the local knowledge of “frontline communities” is important and why and how the local initiativves need to connect and globalize their efforts.

Thanks to Aron Chang for the lead.

Praise Song for Oceania

This is a beautiful poem by CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ, a coentemporary writer from the Pacific island of Guam. The typeset is quite impressive and transforms the words into a visual art piece as well as a poem. I won’t be able to reproduce it here, so I’ll just quote one stanza and encourage you to check it out in full beauty on this website.

praise your capacity to remember

                         your library of drowned stories

                                                 museum of lost treasures

                                                              your vast archive of desire

Thanks to Hilke Berger for the lead!

Underwater City 1969

The british movie “Captain Nemo and the underwater city” by James Hill picks up the themes and main character Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s famous novel and the sucessfull 1954 Disney movie on the same material. While the earlier US-movie develops further the theme of the Atomic Age and it’s promises and dangers, the 1969 movie focuses on the idea of alternative, egalitarian communities and the then popular dome structures (gedesic dome) in architecture, the Montreal Biosphere built by Buckminster Fuller in 1967 being maybe the most influential and notable expample.

The underwater city in the 1969 movie
The Montreal Biosphere

Each movie thus reflects the topics of it’s time. While the 1954 version is stylistically much closer to a Fin de Siecle, 19. Century aesthetic, the 1969 movie is all 60’s glitz and extravaganza. Furthermore, in the 1969 movie life under water seems like a perfectly sane and technically achievable project, while in 1954 Captain Nemo still clings on to life on land.

This is a fundamental not only technical but also political shift: The idea of leaving the known world behind, going up in space or down into the sea or exiling yourself in an alternative community is now fully developed. The Apollo Program that brought humans into space ran from 1968 to 1972. And in 1963 Jacques Cousteau constructed an underwater station where he stayed with a team of scientists for 30 days. The civilized world had thus become one of several options.

While the screen shot above shows a view of a complete city, it remains the only moment in the movie when the underwater city is actually seen. The action almost exclusively takes place in the rooms of Captain Nemo and in a swimming pool leisure area that looks more like it was directly taken from Blake Edward’s Hollywood satire “The Party” from one year earlier than like anything resembling a city. No houses, no streets, no stores or any other features of an urban environment are depicted.

It seems that the city as a theme and topography of movies did not play a big role in the 1960’s, quite to the opposite of the era of pre-war cinema. (Take for example “Metropolis” from 1927 about another model city run by a benevolent autocrat. See my post here) . The same mixture of artificial wilderness, tropical allure and wild west or pirate movie elements, all covered by a huge dome, can also be found in today’s indoor water parks like Tropical Island near Berlin:

The intertidal zone: New York 2140

What happens to cities when they become half or seasonally flooded? Kim Stanley Robinson draws a picture of an intertidal New York of the future, where New Yorkers still live in high rises and move across the city on boats and bridges. But there is also a jurisdical aspect to the intertidal zone. Here is one of many sections of his book New York 2140 that discuss the politics and philosophy of living in an intertidal zone:

That said, the intertidal zone was turning out to be harder to deal with than the completely submerged zone, counterintuitive though that might seem to people from Denver, who might presume that the deeper you are drowned the deader you are. Not so. The intertidal, being neither fish nor fowl, alternating twice a day from wet to dry, created health and safety problems that were very often disastrous, even lethal. Worse yet, there were legal issues.

Well-established law, going back to Roman law, to the Justinian Code in fact, turned out to be weirdly clear on the status of the intertidal. It’s crazy to read, like Roman futurology:

The things which are naturally everybody’s are: air, flowing water, the sea, and the sea-shore. So nobody can be stopped from going on to the sea-shore. The sea-shore extends as far as the highest winter tide. The law of all peoples gives the public a right to use the sea-shore, and the sea itself. Anyone is free to put up a hut there to shelter himself. The right view is that ownership of these shores is vested in no one at all. Their legal position is the same as that of the sea and the land or sand under the sea.

Most of Europe and the Americas still followed Roman law in this regard, and some early decisions in the wake of the First Pulse had ruled that the new intertidal zone was now public land. And by public they meant not government land exactly, but land belonging to “the unorganized public,” whatever that meant. As if the public is ever organized, but whatever, redundant or not, the intertidal was ruled to be owned (or un-owned) by the unorganized public. Lawyers immediately set to arguing about that, charging by the hour of course, and this vestige of Roman law in the modern world had ever since been mangling the affairs of everyone interested in working in—by which I mean investing in—the intertidal. Who owns it? No one! Or everyone! It was neither private property nor government property, and therefore, some legal theorists ventured, it was perhaps some kind of return of the commons. About which Roman law also had a lot to say, adding greatly to the hourly burden of legal opinionizing. But ultimately the commons was historically a matter of common law, as seemed appropriate, meaning mainly practice and habit, and that made it very ambiguous legally, so that the analogy of the intertidal to a commons was of little help to anyone interested in clarity, in particular financial clarity.

You can read the full book here.