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The ocean's depths are supplied by nutrients falling down from the surface waters. The work of the rest of this article will be to explore this seeming impasse. A whale fall is a phrase used to describe a cetacean's carcass that has settled in the abyssal or bathyal zone, that is, deeper than 3,300 feet in the ocean floor. A train driver’s life was saved by a giant whale tale after his train crashed through the barriers at the end of the track. Roman et al., “Whales as Marine Ecosystem Engineers,” 381. For more stories like this, check our news page. More specifically, might there have been a series of extinctions of deep-sea creatures due to the loss of whales without us knowing? Would the massive depletion of whale populations have an effect on creatures living below? He wrote that “only sharply reduced annual harvests and protective regulations that are both enforceable and enforced offer the possibility that the last of the great whales will survive.”1 Despite the strong feeling evident in the article, McVay’s story of threatened extinction depended on abstract quantitative methods that have been questioned over their ability to communicate the complexities of extinction processes. Would these plumes have travelled down the water column in any way? video. I particularly highlight instances where “shared ground” seems impossible to conjure. In December 2014, George Monbiot wrote a piece on “Why Whale Poo Matters” for the Guardian with the subtitle, “Not only does nutrient-rich whale poo help reverse the effects of climate change—it’s a remarkable example that nothing in the natural world occurs in isolation.”38 He focused on the trophic cascades arising from the release of large fecal plumes at the ocean’s surface. Unknown extinctions thus not only challenge Western modernity’s hubristic assumption that everything can be known but also ask us to enter deeply into the kind of ecological ethics that Mick Smith argues grounds itself in the recognition that “what appears to us is not all that appears.”119. Such consequences may be complex indeed.”117, And yet, unless these stories are told carefully, there is the particular risk of developing accounts, of the kind that Mitchell and Noah Theriault have criticized, where the distant and disconnected extinction story “normalizes the profound violences driving extinction, while cocooning its viewers in the secure space of the voyeur.”118 Thus, Rose’s emphasis on “living in the present temporalities, localities, and relationalities of our actual lives” when trying to respond to extinction remains a powerful injunction for unknown extinctions, particularly in continuing to try to trace one’s connections with, and responsibilities for, the processes causing these losses. In my previous work on leatherback turtles, although I started out with an assumption that they must always live very far from me, I was astonished to find evidence of a leatherback sighting in the Forth of Firth, just offshore from a local Edinburgh beach, where I now live.34 I suggested that this realization enabled a specific everyday connection with these seemingly exotic creatures that might be imaginatively inhabited. As he notes, conservation biologists do not track endangered microbial species, and none are present on lists of known extinctions.94 Even so, with the rapid loss of top soils and changes in agricultural techniques, he claims that “many soil inhabiting species are almost certainly becoming extinct before we even learn of their existence.”95 As a result, and as we saw in the case of whale-fall extinctions, “to the extent that they do not appear as constituents of our world it might seem impossible to concern ourselves with them instrumentally, let alone ethically.”96 What follows is a fascinating effort by Smith to continue to emphasize the significance of knowing encounters for eliciting concerned responses, while also showing how the encounter brings with it an excessiveness that can lead to ethical responses that go beyond the face-to-face itself. This approach seeks to draw readers into imaginative encounters with embodied, specific, and lively creatures to support situated ethical responses.8 In this article, I explore this mode of storytelling by approaching the processes of loss that inspired the “save the whale” movement from a more relational perspective. In an influential article for The Scientific American, “The Last of the Great Whales,” published in 1966, conservationist Scott McVay joined the chorus of concern about the future of great whales. Jelmert and Oppen-Berntsen’s objections to the idea that whales have significant effects on the biodiversity of the deep sea, for example, were couched in terms of warding off scientific objections to a resumption of whaling.71 Indeed the conclusions of Smith et al.’s recent modeling of extinction risks—some two decades later—continue to be framed in terms of how to minimize the impact on these ecosystems should this resumption occur. browser that Krogh, “Conditions of Life at Great Depths in the Ocean,” 433. Many of these calls are framed in terms of the potential uses for humans that are being lost, such as the possibility of a cure for cancer. In the work I have done so far on whale falls, however, there has been a much more profound absence, and this article represents my efforts to think through the significance of encounter for storying extinction when confronted with extinctions that can never be known. basin floor.”43 By 2003 Smith and Amy Baco were able to claim that “despite being one of the least-studied deep-sea reducing habitats, whale falls may harbour the highest levels of global species richness; thus far, 407 species are known from whale falls.”44 In the most recent review from 2015, Smith et al. The emphasis on raising awareness of the particularities involved in extinction processes forms one aspect of this. A whale fall occurs when the carcass of a whale has fallen onto the ocean floor at a depth greater than 1,000 m (3,300 ft), in the bathyal or abyssal zones. Thus I want to return to the problem of “shared ground” advocated by Rose via the work of philosopher Mick Smith to move between earth and sea, and toward what we might call a “suspended ground.”. While this narrows things down a little, it is still not much to go on for an ethography of the sort that van Dooren and Rose have championed. Whale falls have several remarkable qualities that yield unusual, energy-rich ecosystems at the ocean floor. The train plunged straight through, and would have ended up in the water below if the artwork hadn’t broken its fall. Roman et al., “Whales as Marine Ecosystem Engineers,” 382. Whale carcasses create long-lived, ecologically significant habitats that support diverse and highly specialized ‘whale fall’ communities, and which may have been critical in the dispersal and evolution of chemosymbiotic communities during the Cenozoic1,2. Instead the focus is on individual species and isolated representatives. Smith, Roman, and Nation, “A Metapopulation Model for Whale-Fall Specialists,” 2. As Joe Roman et al. A subway train in the Netherlands was saved from a spectacular crash when it burst through buffers and landed on an artwork in the shape of a whale tail. These species have adapted to live in … Recent discoveries of whale fall polychaetes include the chrysopetalid Vigtorniella flokati Dahlgren et al., 2004, and the bone-boring siboglinids Osedax frankpressi Rouse et al., 2004a nd O. rubiplumus Rouse et al., 2004 from off California, and O. mucofloris Glover et al., 2005 from Sweden. The term ‘mysterious’ provocatively acknowledges that an understanding of life on earth in its emerging fullness can never be totalised.”112 How might lively ethographies actively engage with the encounter’s opening onto mysteriousness? . The rest are trivial: they ‘drop out’ of history.”92 From the examples discussed so far, it is possible to see these frames at work within unknown extinctions. Local seafloor enrichment What shared ground might there be to develop understandings of ethics, responsibility and connection in response to these speculative losses? She is editor in chief of Time and Society and an editor of Participatory Research in More-Than-Human Worlds. The various successional stages of whale falls and their “different persistence times” create “time lags,”61 or what are more ominously known as “extinction debts.”62 These lags are produced due to the diachronic nature of the decomposition of whale remains, where each successional stage is affected at different times.63 Communities toward the later stages of the process may not feel the full effects of the loss of habitat from whaling until many years after the last whale has fallen. Within the suspension, then, it is important to remember that some unknown extinctions are made to matter more than others. have been depleted or extinct for >100 y.”65 Here the extinction debts are said to be most likely to be “realized.”66 However, extinction processes set in train by whaling “may be ongoing in the Southern Ocean and northeast Pacific, where intense whaling occurred into the 1960’s and 1970’s.”67 Writing around a decade ago, Smith claimed that in some cases “whale-fall specialists may only now be approaching their greatest habitat loss, potentially causing species extinctions to be occurring at their highest historical rates.”68 Proposals for urgently investigating whale-fall communities in these areas are thus a high priority for researchers.69. We consider the consequences of removing these animals on the … Drawing on numbers, lists, and population counts, McVay marshaled together graphs of numbers of whales caught in units of thousands, catch records that fall off precipitously, and specimen illustrations drawn to scale. The shadowy remains of the postulated deep-sea extinctions associated with industrial whaling, however, have so far been unloved unknowns that drop out of progressive time. Smith, “Bigger Is Better” 286; see also Roman et al., “Whales as Marine Ecosystem Engineers,” 382. . Once the body comes to rest, biologists refer to this as a whale fall.As you would guess, other fish and sea animals initially eat the meat off the carcass. For Alaimo, rather than suggesting an absence of ethical encounter, the alienated conception of the ocean found within Western frameworks has the potential to be transformed into a challenge to humanist frameworks that Rose has criticized for fostering “the illusion of mastery and control.”80 So while the unknown character of the deep sea might seem to separate out humans from ethical connection with it, Alaimo argues that “it may also suggest that sea life hovers at the very limits of what terrestrial humans can comprehend.”81 One consequence of these limits “may be an epistemological-ethical moment that debars us from humanist privilege.”82 Playing on the definition of suspension, as a taking away of privilege, a state of indetermination, as well as a feeling of awe, she argues that this debarring from privilege instead potentially “keeps us ‘fixed or lost as in wonder or contemplation.’”83 Might an ethics of storying the unencounterable rest on this capture in the mode of suspension, rather than a capture by the direct encounter, as with Rose’s experience with dingoes? I thought: hey, something very strange is going on.’. However, far from the lofty goal of curing significant diseases, in an effort to demonstrate the economic potential of preserving these ecosystems the articles I have read so far can end up awkwardly talking about whale-fall bacteria as “a novel source of cold-adapted enzymes of potential utility in cold-water detergents.”91 What this suggests is that the fact of the failure of human knowledge in the face of unknown extinctions does not reliably challenge humanist narratives of progress and economic success and the fragmentation they encourage. Smith and Baco, “Ecology of Whale Falls at the Deep-Sea Floor,” 332. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-8623219. . Four successional stages have been identified, where the whale is first broken down by scavengers eating the soft tissue, then opportunist polychaetes (bristle worms) and crustaceans eat the “fallout” from this process. one’s response to concrete manifestations of extinction can tap into an intuitive ethical register that acknowledges and responds to the broader phenomenon without needing to apprehend it directly. There was a blow of two to three seconds. Here I am indebted to discussions with Thom van Dooren about situated uncertainties, something he has explored in The Wake of Crows , particularly chapter 5. Spanning an epic story across approximately fifteen hours of playtime, players will command the armies of Riverwatch to bring an end to a sinister plot to shoot down the legendary creatures and throw the world into chaos. Whale-fall ecosystems: recent insights into ecology, paleoecology, and evolution. Smith et al., “Vent Fauna on Whale Remains,” 27. Indeed if “the aim of lively ethographies [is] to seize our relational imagination,”113 then mustn’t this imagination also reach out into the suspension that relationality inevitably brings with it? The train plunged straight through, and would have ended up in … Smith et al., “Whale-Fall Ecosystems,” 589. However, what came as a surprise to ocean researchers was the finding that dead whales support entire ecosystems. Further, far from adhering to the punctuating temporality of the death of the last or the cloning of a first, this deep-sea extinction process epitomizes what van Dooren has termed the “dull edge of extinction.”58 Indeed, the process of breaking down the remains of great whales does not happen quickly. Was able to escape to safety himself thus pose particular questions for the Lively approach to storying extinction into. Been able to escape to safety himself problem of whether unknown extinctions can storied. 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