Encountering living corals: A nineteenth century scientist and artist reveals the underwater realm

Book chapter


McCalman, Iain. (2019) Encountering living corals: A nineteenth century scientist and artist reveals the underwater realm. In In M. Cohen and K. Quigley (Ed.). The Aesthetics of the Undersea pp. 111 - 123 Routledge.
AuthorsMcCalman, Iain
EditorsM. Cohen and K. Quigley
Abstract

This chapter describes the challenges faced by biologist William Saville-Kent, the first both to catalog and represent the extraordinary variety of coral on the Great Barrier Reef – without diving gear and in an era before colour or underwater photography. Saville-Kent had previously mastered innovations in the aquarium, the great nineteenth-century technology for exhibiting live undersea creatures on land. In documenting corals on the Reef, he showed his mastery in nature photography, working in stringent conditions to produce informational photographs of great clarity, which, for example, could only be obtained when the coral was exposed at low tide. At the same time, in black and white photos, the distinctive colour of these formations, along with their beauty, were lost. In Saville-Kent’s opus, The Great Barrier Reef of Australia: Its Products and Potentialities, reviewers appreciated unmediated access to “the thing itself,” which, McCalman shows, emanated from Saville-Kent’s inclusion of a range of supplementary media: black and white photos, scientific description, poetic phrase and Saville-Kent’s own brilliant, finely drawn chromolithographs.

Page range111 - 123
Year2019
Book titleThe Aesthetics of the Undersea
PublisherRoutledge
Place of publicationOxford, United Kingdom
ISBN9780367001582
Research GroupInstitute for Humanities and Social Sciences
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