The future of the seabed

Professor Faye Hammill
Dr Laurence Publicover
Dr Alexandra Campbell
Dr Giulia Champion
Dr Charne Lavery
Ross MacLennan
Dr Jimmy Packham

Is the seabed a realm of mystery or a part of our world? Surface the legal, ecological and heritage issues relating to the seabed.

Is the seabed a realm of mystery or a part of our world? We extract resources from it, lay cables across it, and send robots to search it. In 1971, Wolfgang Friedmann’s The Future of the Oceans warned of a “race to the bottom” as nations sought to territorialise and exploit the seabed. Fifty years later, ocean governance is again fiercely debated: a UN high seas treaty was recently agreed upon, yet highly controversial deep-sea mining could become widespread over coming years.

This roundtable brings arts and humanities perspectives to bear on legal, ecological and heritage issues relating to the seabed.

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This transcript has been automatically generated and so may feature errors.

So, welcome. Good morning, still just about the morning. Thank you very much for joining the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s curious panel discussion series. And welcome to this event on the future of the seabed. My name is Faye Hammill, and I’m a professor in English literature and Canadian Studies at the University of Glasgow, and I’m a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. So I’m going to be chairing this session, which I’ve co-organised with Dr Laurence Publicover, who’s here among the panellists. And today we’re going to think about how humans have interacted with the seabed, and how they’re likely to do so in the future. And we’ll be exploring ways that the deep ocean is imagined and also how people have struggled to imagine it will be asking to whom does the seabed belong and to whom should it belong. And this event is hosted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s national academy. And its aim is to recognise and mobilise expertise from across academia, business and public service for the benefit of Scotland and the wider world. And if you’ve not been part of a Curious event before, this is the annual public engagement programme, and it has events in a whole range of online and in person format. There are still several days to run until the 17th of September. So at this point, I’m going to start the slideshow, which I’ll be running throughout the presentation segment, and then I’ll be taking it away during the q&a. So I’ve already briefly introduce myself, I’m just going to add that this event is organised under the auspices of my current research project, which is called Ocean modern, and it’s about ocean liners in modern culture, including ship direct liners, which is where the seabed angle might come in. I’m just going to introduce all of the panellists now. So Dr. Lawrence Publicover, is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Bristol. His new book fathoming the deep in English Renaissance tragedy is forthcoming with Oxford University Press. And he’s also writing a book together with Dr. Jimmy Packham, who’s also on our panel that’s about human histories of the seafloor and has just been contracted to University of Chicago Press, citing hot off the press news. And Lawrence has previously written a book called dramatic geography, and also co edited shipboard literary cultures that Suzanne Debrett and he and a colleague run a Masters by Research programme on the seabed in science and culture at the University of Bristol. Next, Dr. Jimmy Packham is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Birmingham. And His research focuses on maritime writing and gothic literature. And as well as the project with Lawrence that I just mentioned, he’s currently writing a book on the Gothic tradition and the coastal politics of the British Isles that would be published by Cambridge University Press. He’s also a co founder of the Haunted Shores Research Network, and he’s published on American Gothic whales and whaling and the deep sea. Thirdly, Dr Charne Lavery is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. And she’s co director of the oceanic humanities for the global south project. And her book writing ocean worlds Indian Ocean fiction in English appeared in 2021. She’s recently co edited a book called maritime mobilities and anglophone literature and culture and also special journalists use on water, thinking oceanic Lee and reading for water. Next, Dr. Alexandra Campbell is Lecturer in contemporary literature and environmental cultures at the University of Glasgow. And her current research examines interlocking forms of environmental oppression and resistance that occur within and against logistical infrastructure. She’s now working on a book provisionally titled poetics and logistics, which examines the lived terrains and emergent grammars of struggle as conditioned by the logistics revolution from the 1960s to the present. And she’s also written widely on hydro politics and of humanities. And next we will have Ross McLennan who is a history curator working for Aberdeen archives gallery and museums. Since graduating in history from the University of Aberdeen Ross has worked in museums in the Northeast, and is currently in a two been carrying for the council museums history collections. The main areas that he’s responsible for are archaeology and maritime history. And born Aberdonian. He’s very proud to be involved in caring for an important collection relating to the heritage of the city. And then our final speaker, Dr Giulia Champion, is a research fellow at the University of Southampton. And her project investigates different communities engagement with representations of the seabed, and culture science, communication and policy interrogates how these can influence marine governance and ocean justice, focusing on the current development of the mining code by the International Seabed Authority. And this is one of the sort of contemporary spurs for our panel why we think it’s such a relevant issue to discuss at this particular moment. In 2022, Julia was a green transition fellow at the University of Stavanger. And she’s published in a range of journals in the fields of areas studies, Environmental Humanities, and energy history. That’s quite a lot of information all at once. If you’d like to know more about any of us or our projects, all the names are on the RSE’s events page where you booked. And Google will take you to a staff page at our institutions. I’ve just checked how easy it is to find yourself. So I’m going to move on now to pass over to Lawrence.


Great, thanks very much. So I’ll dive straight in. We wanted to run the session because we seem to be at a threshold moment when it comes to human relations with the seabed. And our final speaker Julia, as Faye intimated will address this point more directly. What I want to get across in this opening talk is first how we got to where we are that is to draw attention to a few other key moments in the human history of the seabed as a means of setting up and providing context for our discussions today. And second, I want to begin to answer what might feel like a question hanging over this session, which is why there’s so many literary scholars thinking about the seabed. And it’s with a few very brief thoughts in this area that I want to begin if I could have the first slide, Faye, which focuses on this word, fathoming. So this word Fathom is one that’s come to obsess me over the last few years for the reason that it can help capture what I take to be a slippery but undeniable truth, which is that how we think and speak about the seabed shapes our interventions in that realm. The word links the measurement of the seabed with knowledge making and comprehension. As a navigational term. It’s now formed notes a unit of six feet, which is as definition three beyond my slide indicates us chiefly in taking soundings, that is dropping a plummet into water to measure the waters depths, mostly to avoid shipwreck, but also as a means of orientation when others like celestial or coastal navigation are unavailable. But the word derives from an old English term fadem meaning embrace. That is it designates the roughly six foot perimeter of the circle you can make with your arms and body, or the length from fingertip to fingertip when you stretch out beyond the Zoom screen. A Fathom then is quite literally what you can get your arms around and the words move towards the more figurative meanings familiar to us today, when it connotes something to do with comprehension, or what you can get your head around suggests a key relationship between on the one hand the seabed, and on the other the limits of human understanding. The word is also significant, I think in how it indicates the extent to which we rely on our bodies on our subject positions when measuring and making sense of the world. And this is, I think, another thought worth hanging on to as we investigate the human history of this event today. To move them towards a necessarily brief summary of that history if I can have my second slide. So the basic question, underpinning the political history of the sea as a whole is can it be possessed, treaties and treatises have moved backwards and forwards on this matter, with paradigmatic positions taken up in the 17th century by the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, who argued that the sea was free to all and the English jurists, John Selden, who argued directly against Grotius that it could in some cases, be controlled, even possessed by states. The seabed poses especially complex questions when it comes to ocean governance because of course, it’s sort of land sort of see, one argument that Groasis and others, including John Locke, make against the notion that the sea can be possessed is that it’s fluid, you can’t build on it, defend it, cultivate it. This isn’t so obviously true of the seabed. But until fairly recently, arguments over possession of the seabed were in the pejorative and rather unkind sense of the word academic, other than when they put down pertains sorry, to shallow sea beds around coasts. What changed, of course, was that developing technology made the seabed accessible at greater and greater depths. I want to focus briefly on the period following the Second World War. A few things coalesced at this juncture, making the territorialization of defeat of the seabed that is nation states claims to it, especially urgent and significant technology often developed within the military made extraction from the deep seabed much more feasible. Even imminent. The materials that have been required to fight the recent war made access to seabed resources like oil gas metals more desirable. And the period of decolonization made the question of who should have the right to these resources, especially charge. The US made the first significant move with President Truman asserting his nation’s right to exploit the continental shelf adjacent to the USA. Interestingly, a White House press release from this time refer to this area as submerged land just quite an interesting expression I think, and this triggered a series of similar territorial claims. In tension with these was a position taken up most famously in a speech made by the Maltese ambassador to the UN in 1967 armoured powder, he argued that the seabed should be declared the common heritage of mankind, and expressions which we might wish to return later today. In the context of optimistic claims regarding the mineral wealth that might be extracted from the seabed, it became a kind of testing ground for global politics. Countries from the Global South, many of them newly independent, felt that the wealth on an in the seabed could become a great equaliser. A related current thought was that global governance of the seabed might be a stepping stone towards a world government once seen by some as especially desirable after the carnage of the war and given the dangers of the new nuclear age. Eventually, a UN convention came to a sort of compromise nation states with coastlines could claim a large chunk of the seabed around 42% of the global seabed, with the rest of it governed by a UN body already mentioned by fair the International Seabed Authority which will provide licences for its exploitation, partly due to the regulations attached to that exploitation, which were unattractive to the developed nations which had the technology to do it. And partly due to falling metal prices. Deep sea mining in these international waters never quite happened. Until now. The Pacific microstate now, in conjunction with a Canadian mining company seems set to exploit polymetallic nodules living within an sort of lying sorry, within an area that Pacific dubs to Clarion Clipperton zone. And here is here is a bit of polymetallic nodule from that area, and have this is for reasons we might get into a deeply controversial venture. And a lot of the arguments from the postwar period about who owns the seabed or should be allowed to profit from its exploitation have resurfaced in recent years. But the new context in two senses is the environment. There’s greater awareness of the seabed as a complex ecosystem links to other global ecosystems and therefore greater hesitancy in terms of interfering with it. And yet in tension with this position, those who advocate mining the deep seabed, arguing that we need it’s metals for batteries to help us transition to a green economy and prevent further global warming. So to wrap up after that kind of whistlestop tour, one of the things we want to explore today is how the two parts of my talk human conceptions of the seabed, and human interventions there might be linked. And on that point, I’ll hand over to Jimmy who will help us think further about the first part of that equation.


Lovely. Yes, thank you, Lawrence. And thank you everyone. For being here. I just want to pick up then on sort of southern Lawrence’s remarks and sketch out some of the qualities of the sea but as they appear to us in the cultural imagination, before handing over to our remaining speakers, who will speak much more elegantly about the political implications and ramifications of some of these things. And I’d like to begin with perhaps the most common rhetorical device that is used to bring the seabed interview for us, or perhaps to put it slightly more accurately, to keep the seabed out of sight for less fate. Are you able to skip to the next slide for me, please, we know more about the moon than we know about the deep sea. This is an aphorism that almost all of us, I’m sure have heard bandied about one way or another the way in which the seabed and deep sea and outer space often the moon, but sometimes also Mars are yoked together as we emphasise, perhaps the strange familiarity of distant space, and, more importantly, the alien unfamiliarity of the bottom of the sea. So these are just a couple of examples drawn from American and British sources. And I’m less interested really in the debatable, literal truth of such aphorisms. But I am interested in the way in which alienation and dislocation operates in this linguistic and imaginative framing of the seabed and the ways in which this serves continually to reiterate our own separation from distance from an even absence from the seabed itself. I’m sure we’ve all seen the deep sea episodes of progress names like blue planet, who reserved their most sort of spooky sci fi musical cues for the images of strange deep sea creatures drifting dreamlike across the screen. Such work posits the seabed as a deeply alien space, one which is essentially evacuated not just of its human presence, but also of its human histories, the histories that entwined the seabed, and humanity together, whether that’s the actual presence of humans living or dead at the seabed, or whether that’s a more mediated presence, such as the deep sea cables enable. If we’re all using the internet today, for example, chances are that internet connection is passing through cables along the seafloor rather than through satellites in orbit. And so one of the things that I think this work does this begin to make the seabed itself unimaginable, which matters insofar as the seabed is for many of us a site we can only really inhabit, imaginatively, very few of us are actually going to experience the deep seabed in any tangible way. So the work of imagination in constructing and bringing the seabed into view as it were, matters quite considerably. And such rhetoric both participates in that kind of construction, this kind of rhetoric you can see on the screen participates in that. But I think also strangely undercut sets. This space becomes a kind of blank space on a map, I suppose we haven’t yet filled in or haven’t yet filled in enough. This in turn will I think have potent political ramifications around for example, claims of ownership of the seabed. And as I said, I know some of my co panellists will be picking up on that aspect of this in more detail as we go. But I’d like to wrap up my own brief section with a short glance towards an essay from an 1899 issue of the spectator, which is on my next slide. By the late Victorian and Edwardian sailor and writer Frank T. Bullen. This feeling of alienation that I’ve mentioned is felt quite acutely here. But this essay on the sea floor also introduces a disconcerting note of horror into proceedings. But here, says Berlin, speaking of the seafloor is truly the great unknown, the undiscoverable country of which in spite of the constant efforts of deep sea expeditions we know next to nothing, here imagination May and does run riot. And in the second paragraph, he says it would be an awful country to view this suddenly exposed Law of the Sea, a barren land of weird outline of almost unimaginable complexity of console, but without any beauty. Bolin here is in some parts reiterating an outdated, commonplace that the seabed is a region bereft of life we know this not to be so. But what I like about this passage is the idea that the seabed is a space that we cannot really get our heads around, or perhaps to return to Lawrence’s terms cannot really fathom. Somewhere, we struggled to imagine, even as the resources of imagination are running riot supplying the material that our knowledge lacks. And lastly, I really like the development of Bullins. prose. In this article, he evokes Shakespeare’s Hamlet in that first sentence with the reference to The Undiscovered Country, an illusion that he doubles down on when he describes the seabed as the true valley of the shadow of death. As a site of death in the afterlife. This puts a slightly different, perhaps more Gothic twist on the idea of the seabed, as the common inheritance of mankind’s, as Lawrence mentioned a few moments ago. In the second paragraph on this slide, I think the prose that Bullins using, goes through some strange half repetitions. The undiscoverable country of that first paragraph has become the awful country, and the free reign of imagination has become the unimaginable. I end on this point, because I think one of the most remarkable features of literary wranglings with the deep sea and seabed has to do with the difficulties involved in getting this space to fit adequately into language. And this is perhaps quite a mild case of it here. But you might think of famous fictional sailors, like Coleridge is Ancient Mariner, who sails on the deep sea and comes home with disordered speech, or Herman Melville’s PIP from Moby Dick, who has a vision of the seafloor and appears to lose the ability to speak conventionally. More recently, the strange voices and disintegrations encountered by the submariners in Julia Armfield’s, Our Lives Under the Sea. As these literary examples suggest, the deep sea is a space that seems literally difficult to speak about a space that disorders language, or to put it slightly differently, that demands imaginative reconceptualization of how something like language itself might work to better accommodate the deep sea. And I’ll end there. Thank you.


Hi, thank you very much, Jimmy. That’s a perfect jumping off point for me jumping in. I want to start with the first slide. With the scene in this novel by the Kenyan author Yvonne Adhimabo Owuor. It’s a scene about halfway through the novel, where a young woman named Diana, she’s from the island of Pate off the coast of Kenya. And she’s been transported as a passenger on as one of very few passengers on a massive container ship from East Africa to China. She’s been granted a scholarship to study for complicated for complicated reasons. And they’re taking this kind of anachronistic voyage across the Indian Ocean. And there’s a storm of massive storm and the next morning some of the containers on board the ship appear to be bleeding. And although the containers are labelled scrap metal, they apparently are found to contain instead wildlife smuggled out of the Kenyan port as well as part of the very extensive what illegal wildlife trade in the Indian Ocean, including fair, lions, leopards, pangolins, zebras and gazelles. Next slide. The captain makes the decision not to hand the animals over to smugglers as he has been told to do, but instead just to throw the containers overboard. And I’ve been thinking about the scene as a kind of whale fall, and whale falls, you know, the substrate of a whole seabed ecology of opportunistic species. But here instead of this kind of lion fall, or pangolin fall, which is slightly facetious, but points to the way in which the novel imagines these kind of charismatic megafauna of African land animals mingling with the whale carcasses, bone worms, and hagfish at the bottom of the sea, bringing the two into a kind of gory proximity. Throughout the rest of the novel, the main character also repeatedly hear spirits calling from the bottom of the sea. So that’s the second paragraph on screen. She calls them gins, these dens widely believed in in the region and their sea spirits which are both comforting and dangerous. And what this suggests it’s a very pervasive view in the novel. And it’s just this inspirited vision of the seabed that links it to the beliefs, concerns and religious practices that are practised on land. So the seabed is not only seen in the novel as multi species, but as multi spirited. So what’s interesting about this, to me is who’s thinking about sensing witnessing the seabed in the novel. Even the novel acknowledges that next slide, it is not usually a girl, a child, from this largely Swahili Islamic island of piety that’s to be found having anything to do with the sea, let alone its bottom. Even though the island is populated by generations of fishermen and sailors, who are what they call sea keepers, and they certainly see themselves. Still, nonetheless, the main characters are swimmer and diver from a young age. She’s a free diver, and later becomes a ship’s engineer and navigator and sort of turns the stereotypical image of the sea girl the aquanaut on its head, instead of being masculine, heroic, why choose a young Swahili woman? Secondly, what’s interesting about about the portrayal as well as happens, next slide, it’s somewhere in the Indian Ocean, explicitly returning along the route of a historical voyage. That is not that of the HMS Challenger, which we usually associate with associated with deep sea exploration. This one is a Chinese vessel, returning, exploring the east coast of Africa and then returning to China in 1413 to 1415. So that’s the the recreation of their historical voyage and the novel and it pushes back on what’s tend to be the geographies we associate with the seabed and its exploration and science which tend to be northern hemispheric and Eurocentric. So I’ve used this novel as a starting point, but it’s worth noting, as Jimmy also suggested of, of the kind of explosion of literature’s about the sea red, and it’s also not the only one from these regions. Next slide. It these, this novel and these others like them push back on, on what are very persistent ideas about the submarine that Jimmy helpfully outlined. That is this is a space for white masculine exploration that it is invisible and therefore irrelevant that it is alien that it is disconnected from everyday life and concerns. And I think all of those things are particularly exaggerated in the context of the countries of the global South, the novels, and if we’ve determined the questions, I can tell you about what these other ones do. Or this one of them’s a work of poetry. What they do, they draw on other species, different kinds of religious and spiritual beliefs to draw imaginative and emotional links to the seabed, portraying it as something we could possibly care about. And if anyone is interested in the reasons that linking is necessary. Next slide. There’s a fantastic article by our favourite marine biologist podcaster and an Jameson, which starts with this cartoon from The New Yorker, which says, If anyone can’t read the caption, it says they don’t know why I don’t care about the bottom of the ocean, but I don’t. And it sort of encapsulates a kind of pervasive indifference, I think, to the seabed. If the seabed is to have a less destroyed future, it needs to be reimagined as a space that is both not alien, not extraterrestrial, but part of the world, as Jimmy pointed out, but also as part of the whole world sort of belonging to everyone. And to do that reimagining, we might need to turn to a different set of texts and artworks that portray the Sumerian is woven into the fabric of everyday life and history and belief systems as an also has kind of sub Alton connected and inclusive.


Hello. I’m going to not talk about the depths of the ocean


in a twist, but a little bit about how the imagining of the surface has really dominated our contemporary conceptualization of ocean space. So a slide please fate. Okay, so hope everybody remembers this from was it 2020 2021. So it just happened. But all the memes were excellent. So this is the blocking of the Evergreen ever given ship in the Suez Canal. And I’m gonna be talking today about logistics and logistical systems. So if our current era of capitalism is fundamentally shaped by logistics, it’s because the very form of maritime infrastructures that have grown across the world in both in magnitude both horizontally and vertically, have done so with such intensity, that they have brought with them entire new professions and imaginations to manage the different kinds of complexities and algorithms of seaborne trade. There are a proliferation of new laws that kind of try and manage these exceptional scales of mega ports reports and massive canal infrastructures. So today, what I want to try and do is to dip a toe into the logistical imaginary with you all, and think a bit about how logistical systems have forced us in the kind of last 56 years to read the ocean in very particular ways. And hopefully pick up a little bit on what Lawrence was saying earlier in terms of how our conception of the ocean really feeds into modes of interception, right how we see the ocean can kind of dictate forms of governance, different modes of extraction, and labour relations. slide please. So, according to UNCTAD, one of the most unfortunate acronyms, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, global tonnage in seaboard train has simple trade has increased over 400% In the years between 1970 and 2017. It has fundamentally the geography of trade that we have with us is massively altered by the advent of containerized shipping with over 90% of traded goods now carried by sea. So everything that you are wearing everything you’re watching this on the lunch that you will likely eat later on today, the flowers you buy, they are all with you because of the ocean. So where goods are traditionally been loaded in bulk forms, and you can see an image of that longshoreman stacking barrels I think corn syrup. On the left there were previously bulk modes of shipping were the standard form. The advent of the 20 foot equivalent unit or tea EU in 1961 prompted a massive transformation of our global system of trade. To the extent that people now consider the container to function as quote, a metaphorical image of the economy, or quote parable of our globalised world. The shipping containers standardisation of space and time effect To be formalises logistics as a smooth and frictionless system that is an endlessly expanding seamlessly around the globe. But you know, basically, in other words, the TTU predetermines, the need for specific structures of mobility and patterns of movement that are conducive to allowing for forms of logistical reproduction and transportation. In other words, basically, the container demands and determines how we read and engage with ocean space, essentially evacuating the depths of the oceans into a smooth transport medium. By demanding the creation and maintenance of straight and dimensionless lines logistical systems produce certain formulations of oceanic space, slide please Bay. And hopefully this works. This is me trying to be techie. So this is a screen capture taken from marine, which you can all go and have a look at in your break later on. All the ships that you can see here, the green are all cargo ships. The red are tanker ships, purple are pleasure ships, like cruises and orange are fishing vessels. And this is just me clicking around taking you on a global trip of contemporary trade. And this was recorded these are live ship movements from last Thursday. So this is very up to date. But essentially as a bridging unit between land and sea operations, the shipping container is emblematic of this kind of logic of integration that is central to the physical forms. It has the capacity to move seamlessly across physically distinct terrains, giving rise to imaginary use of the world as a, quote, unified global surface. So by drawing on a spatial difference into synchronicity, right between land and ocean, this kind of surface ideology that is embodied in the form of a container that can move seamlessly from ocean to land to train and be moved around everywhere and, and block us in traffic and the container evacuate. It’s the kind of ecologies and social forms that it moves through. It gives rise to processes of uniform realisation, regularisation and optimization. We don’t get a sense of where the boxes journey through, we just care about its contents and its arrival at our front door with whatever’s last night’s Amazon midnight ordering was. So the boxes form not only ensures the efficient transportation of goods, but carries with it this ideology of flattening that renders sea and shore into physically compatible friction free transport says surfaces. So as the marine geographer Kimberly Peters has contends the global shipping has created a quote, flat ontology of connection and understanding as global trade is driven by sufficient flow. And for pieces, this image of seamless interconnectivity is in part driven by critical readings of containerization that reinforce this idea of a 2d or surface ontology that really determines how we see the ocean and you can kind of get a sense of this, hopefully, from this madly moving screen in front of you, right, all these trade pathways and lines and corridors that kind of seem to organically emerge, are actually heavily policed, surveilled and reinforced. So yeah, this idea of how that adjustable field reduces oceans into flat spaces of connectivity and circulation, where the movement of stuff across space rather than through space is prime more primary. So I’m just gonna end my thing with a few provocations. The fact is, is that the ocean is not just this surface space, right? It is a space of turbulence, disruption, of tide and assault of rust and currents. So what happens to the economic form of capital and its attendant socio ecological relations? If we instead think about the oceans through its depths, rather than its evacuated surfaces? How might we read with the various maritime frictions with the Rust with the assault with the moon and other forms of social resistance such as port blockades or Labour strikes to disrupt or destabilise this sense of global surface imaginary and efficiency? What then basically is a different parable that emerges a different metaphor of our world that comes from the depths rather than the smooth surface. Thanks.


Thanks, Alex. And thanks to Faye and Lawrence and odyssey for having me and thanks, everyone for taking part. My name is Ross McLennan as Phil pointed out, and I work for Aberdeen archives, gallery and museums. So I’m a history creator, and a work in a small team with three of our history creators. We all share different subject areas that collection for me, it’s maritime history and archaeology. And what I’m going to concentrate on here is the the oil and gas collection that we have in that relation to the seabed from that perspective. So we’ve worked up as many of you may know Aberdeen became the sort of centre of the oil and gas the UK oil and gas industry from the 1970s and we isn’t organisation as a council have been collecting material related to that, from then. So we’ve we’ve collected about, we’ve gotten about 1400 Plus objects associated with oil and gas industry. And most of that is going to smaller material. We can’t obviously collect large scale material from the industry because of space. But what I’m going to do is is going to talk about are the Maritime Museum where some of this collection is displayed. So if I can get the next slide, please. So, when visitors come in to the Maritime Museum, they’re confronted by this, this model is one to 33 scale model of the marks in oil platform, which was east of Shetland, I can’t remember the distance but so the top side, as you see right at the top is the top side is what it’s called. That is actually an engineering model made by the oil company conical in the late 70s. And what the structure below that is the jacket that was built by a local model maker for the reopening of the museum in 1997. And what the museum, the centerpiece that is the centrepiece of the museum and the story of the oil industry, it kind of follows that up through the levels, so from the seabed, and then goes up to the top side of that particular platform. So if we can get the next slide, please. So first section looks at working on the war and the North Sea environment. So diving RVs, or remotely operated vehicles, which do a lot of work for the oil and gas industry. This is a helmet. And it was commonly used in industry in the 80s and 90s. It’s not on display, but it was recently acquired by the council and it uses a gas reclaim system, which was quite innovative at the time to to recycle the exhaled gas from the diver, and put it back to the diver to not waste money, essentially. And if I can get the next slide, please. And the next level we concentrate on and drilling and exploration on the geology of the North Sea. And I’d like to point out this map, it’s like an interactive map. And what we do, it maps the fields that are currently there on the piping network, I find it quite fascinating to sort of like, you know, understand complex nature of the structures under the sea and on the seabed. Even when I’m walking the dog to the west Aberdeen, I see signs that say like Shell pipeline oil pipeline warning, so it just brings it home like the piping system that’s like running from the seabed from the structures and going on land, making landfall and getting pumped down to like refineries, such as like Grangemouth in the centre of Scotland. Yeah, if I can get the next slide, please. And then move into the top, we speak about life offshore. And also decommissioning, which is the sort of end of production and the end of end of life of a field. This is not in the museum as well. But it’s a large object that we collected from the decommissioning of the vent Delta platform. It’s the identification panel that was on the side of the platform, and on all platforms have these identification panels. And what’s interesting about Brent, delta is when the top side was actually removed during the decommissioning, and shell who were operating or own brand, they basically decided to leave the reinforced concrete legs in place, they didn’t too unsafe to remove. So it’s my understanding that they’re still in the sea. They were kept, and basically a navigation beacon was put on top. So it just goes to show that at the time when the structures and this infrastructure was being laid, there maybe wasn’t an immense amount of input on to the ending of these these structures. And this is what, what governments, companies, workers, and also as a population as well, this is what we’re really dealing with. So yeah, that’s basically I’m whistlestop tour of the Maritime Museum. Going up Going forward, we need to collect and concentrate on the renewables. That’s something that we’re doing we need to focus on and tell that story in the museum. It’s a fascinating history. And I have to say it’s really complex and it’s quite bleak. And being a museum professional and trying to relay that to the public is a challenge trying to find information, the correct information. Session. And in trying to tell that story is challenging. But it’s, it’s, it’s new. It’s very fascinating. So thanks.


Everyone hope you can hear me. All right, thank you fan Lawrence for having us all and everyone for your brilliant sort of presentations, I think there’ll be a lot of echoes and of your fairing to those just really excited to also hear all the discussions and questions that will happen. Bringing here now today more questions actually answers. So I hope there’ll be a lot of interest in questions and or even answer from the audience. But quite interesting, interested in elements that a lot of you have mentioned already, issues pertaining to deterritorialization of the sea and how we talk about the seabed and the ocean, which was mentioned by Jimmy shine lines. But also Alex, as you talked about the surface, and now, there’s a flattening there. And the question I’m interested to think through today, and I don’t think I’m bringing an answer, but think through with all of you today is what does the seabed have to say about the future of the seabed when it comes to deep sea mining, something that Lawrence has already fully sort of laid out in his introduction, so magnificant to the next slide, please. So I’d like to talk about the International Seabed Authority, this body that I mentioned, which is a un like body, whose headquarters are in Kingston, Jamaica, in the Caribbean, where it’s quite a complex body, from how it’s organised, I won’t go into details in depth but happy to answer some questions or directly to where there’ll be even better answers to you unlike body that essentially has authority over all the sea and seabed that is outside of any country’s jurisdiction or what is called also the area. We can go to the next slide please. Which in the Law of the Sea, the convention of the Law of the Sea is defined as the area means the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil there are beyond the machine national jurisdiction. So deep sea mining can mean many things and can often also quote unquote, territorial waters, so people’s own water, but I’m interested specifically, in the deep sea mining that was also mentioned in the Clarington Karen Clipperton zone, which you can see there on the map on the slide, which is we’ve seen the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Hawaii. And there in particular, to kind of mining the the mining of polymetallic nodules. There’s a really interesting video, if you go on YouTube and type MIT deep sea mining, you will find this video that is supposed to show us what deep sea mining would look like, once the technology will fully be terminated or finished or developed. And essentially, a machine will come and suck all of these polymetallic nodules that lie on the floor. And what I’m interested is out and the language that is happening in this regulatory framework that the International Seabed Authority is putting together specifically tells us to see as being a specific territory alized space. So could we please go to the next slide. A lot of it is based on these ideas of what is a territorial water, a territorial sea or a economic exclusive zone and where the high seas begins. Throughout all this language, there is an aeration of the ocean and the land, specifically separated spaces, which is already something that doesn’t really work online, or we think of under the soil or the atmosphere, but it becomes even more complicated in the sea, or different movements. Or as Alex told us turbulences and friction mean, move around different things, the sea doesn’t really stop at a certain point. And in these discussions, could we please go to the next slides? Where all these different country representatives meet in a room that could be anywhere in the world? There are a lot of discussions of how do we create this planning code? How do we mind how do we talk about what do we do when we mind? And interestingly, recently in first in March, and then June 2023, the new PB and J treaty, biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction was developed, which talks about the ways in which marine life should be protected in the sea outside in various jurisdictions. And one would expect that that kind of discussion would be sort of brought in in the mining code, because obviously, we’re talking about the same space and then certain way beyond national jurisdiction. In usually international treaties have a tendency to harmonise or should because countries fine are signatories of both of them. But interestingly, as the bng treaties room sometimes mentioned, And by the people in this room that you see in the picture, other countries reply, well, that’s not really relevant. It’s about the watercolour. And we’re talking about the seabed. So we have this really interesting divide between the bottom the seabed, and what happens above it as if they were separated. And so this kind of territorialization brings in other issues that are related to how do we understand the sea and the limits, we have things that Jimmy were talking was talking about with the language around the sea, and how our own language is limited when we tried to talk about. And, really importantly, Sharon concluded, and I’ll go along with that those seem important words that other languages other ontologies of their beliefs can help us understand to see differently. And so I’m going to conclude by thinking about this room that you see in the slide where all the countries are sitting in a semi circle in front of the ISA Secretariat. And you might notice that the back further down at the end of the picture, there’s a line of people and those are the known state delegates. So they can be activists, they can be scientists that come with different groups. A lot of them sometime represent countries will never seat at the table, including our E, which will be the closer country to declarative and Clipperton zone. But because it has been invaded by the US, it does not sit at the table and does not have a voice. So really, interestingly, we have all of these colonial underpinnings that support how we continue to divide to see in different spaces. And so I’d like to finish on my next slide this thing, where outside of that room, there was an activist kind of event that was led by on the left hand side, different Pacific indigenous leader from our ie, the Cook Island, but also our Terra to use New Zealand and Australia. And others are more Maori or other kind of Pacific indigenous assets to just asking for permission to be on the soil of Kingston in Jamaica, to a troupe of Jamaican maroons traditional dancers coming from the north of the island eSports. And in their request to be there, they asked to be there to take part in this discussion, something that none of the people in the room have done. So some of the questions I’d like to ask people hear as well, but also that we need, I think, to ask ourselves in the future to think with the seabed is who gets to think and talk for and on behalf to see that and what kind of traditions and and practices should we embed into policy that is making these these decision for us essentially, because the area and seabed are what they call the quote unquote, sort of legacy heritage of all mankind. Historians know that. So what does it mean for mankind? Or all kinds of voice? And what could that look like if we think differently? Insurance is not. And


thank you all so much for those really fantastic talks. I didn’t keep stopping on the way through to say thank you. So I thought that worked well. But now can I just say a big thank you to all six of you. That was just wonderful. We’ve actually got some really good questions already in the q&a. So I think that in order to make sure we do get to respond to them, or we should probably move straight to those at this point, even though we already have you’ve all raised some questions, which I think one another, other people on the panel might answer very effectively. But I think maybe we start with the questions that are coming from the audience. So we have a question from rose, which I think Jimmy and then possibly Shawn might want to respond to. And Rose is asking, do you think the seabed would benefit from a cute figurehead in the way that the panda has benefited regions of China? Which brilliant question. And she’s added, rather than focusing on that alien weirdness, which, as you’ve all been say, this is our emotional connection. So Jimmy, did you want to say something on that one?


Yeah, I did want to say something, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily an answer. I just really like it as a question because it I think it raises lots of sort of interesting, further questions that sort of proliferate ripple out ripple out perhaps, from it. And I think it got me thinking about a paper that I read only only recently, also by Alan Jameson, who Shang mentioned, called fear and loathing of the deep ocean. Why don’t people care about the deep sea which I think also riffs on that car too. And one of the animals that it speaks about in this piece is the blobfish the die Think is familiar to all of us. We’ve all seen that sort of Google image of the blob fish, this deep sea creature that that looks sort of very forlorn and sort of slightly shocked to be having its photo taken and, and in his article, the author’s speak very evocatively, I think about that. This is a sort of, I suppose, might be considered one of numerous kind of figureheads of, of the deep sea, right? It is a creature indelibly associated with that region, that this image we have of it doesn’t do justice to the kind of elegance of the creature as it exists in its natural habitat. So I suppose one of the questions one of the things that that roses question got me thinking about is the sort of relationship between surface and depth that a creature like that blood fish is raising that it becomes this figurehead, but also by being raised out of its element sort of completely changes its shape and form and perhaps also the emotional kind of resonance of that, of that creature. The other, the other thought I had in response to roses, kind of yeah, really great question was a sort of coming at this as a gothic scholar now is why why can’t we sort of emotionally connect with embrace the kind of ugly, weird alien creatures as well? It raises some really intriguing questions about kind of cuteness. And kind of the politics of cute, I suppose that, that are really interested in the conservation movement and in kind of ecological movements more generally, as well. So yeah, like I say, no real answer there. But perhaps a good chance to hand over to Sean who might be able to talk a bit more on that front. Rhodes, unfortunately,


put me to the post, she mentioned the Dumbo octopus as a potential candidate. And I do think that’s a killer option. Dumbo octopus is an extremely cute option. However, the one that might be the best. I mean, obviously, we’re talking hypothetically, very much here, but the one that might actually be a really good candidate for the cute and relatable fish of the deep sea is the snail fish, which is really just found in shallow water and in deep water. And it’s pretty sort of silly looking, but not terribly scary. So it’s like, I have a tendency to think, well, you know, the angler fish would be great, because it’s so horrifying and awesome and intriguing. Maybe that generates interest in the DC, but something that that demonstrates the the fact that the deep sea is not that different, really from the rest of the sea, and the rest of the world is something like the snail fish. And it’s, it’s reasonably cute, not as cute as the Dumbo octopus, but it goes really deep.


Just also to jump in. And this partly gets to Donald’s question about deep sea mining, which we might sort of turn to more fully in a moment. But I suppose you know, one of the arguments made in favour of deep sea mining and you’re not really destroying habitat. So of course, polymetallic nodules, as has now been demonstrated our habitats for octopus. So you know, the fact that that we will be destroying our habitat is kind of, I guess, one way of making an argument against deep sea mining. But it also makes me think of, I guess, that common heritage principle, and exactly whose common heritage we’re talking about, and whether that common heritage might extend beyond the human world. And I’m thinking here of a book written by one of Julia’s colleagues recently, a guy called Chris Armstrong called the Blue New Deal. And I’m just gonna quote briefly from it. This is from page 91, because he was taking notes, he writes, the notion of common heritage does not imply that we own the ocean, or that human interests are the only ones that ought to count in ocean oceanic politics. It simply states that we possess a common stake in the oceans future, it will be better, I believe, to say that the seabed is part of the common heritage of all life on Earth, rather than humanity in particular, this is an adjustment that the notion of common heritage seems capable of making. And I think, you know, to get also to Julia’s question of, you know, who speaks for the deep and so on, you know, perhaps there is a way of kind of bringing creatures of the deep, non human animals into that conversation as we think about it as a common heritage, which is enshrined in the EU in the UN.


Thank you. Excellent. This is a good question, indeed. And I think I will just move on to the question of this deep sea mining create more or less environmental impact and mining on land from Donald, which does seem like a really crucial one. And I think Alex is off to start off on that and maybe Julia afterwards. So yeah, thank you.


Thanks. Very, I’m also going to just bring in Fiona’s question about the disposal of future rigs as well because I think combined together this this to me, this is just a question about transition and energy transition and the ways in which the ocean is kind of in many policy documents, and particularly the EU vision, I think 2021 2020 We’re throwing around dates, the image of the blue revolution, as its so called, you see this often that the ocean is being figured as somehow a sort of silver bullet for climate change and Net Zero targets, right, where the ocean is kind of, interestingly, being reconfigured away from terrifying narratives of sea level rise and flooding towards a hope site for the continuation of quite frankly, on my capitalism, Patrick capital formation is that we currently have, but there’s a real problem. So what I think both these questions already touching on is the suppose greenness of turning towards the blue, right, and trying to critique that quite clearly. And quite cleverly, I think, because there is a real problem with how we are transitioning in terms of technology, but not necessarily transitioning in terms of our cultural representations and cultural understandings of energy usage, or carbon emissions. And I was speaking with a community energy cooperative last week, where apparently even the UN itself is starting to move away from carbon zero, or net zero as a narrative for their policymaking. Because Net Zero, with it’s kind of very kind of terrifying and strict time regimens, we must achieve net zero by X or Y D, puts a massive, almost like frontiers attitude into how we’re perceiving green transition, right? It’s like we need to achieve net zero now. Therefore, it excuses modes of critical mineral extraction that actually have quite a big carbon footprint or massive justice issues. Right. So the the, the recent finding of huge phosphate deposits in Norway, or near and adjoining to Sami territory. There’s a lot of problems here in terms of how critical minerals are being presented to us as a quick and easy fix for the transition that we all need. But actually, what’s being continued is just the same relations structures of all time effectively. Yeah. That’s how I wanted to kind of frame those two questions together about a basically just a question of, I guess, I guess, the narratives and the ways that we think about energy transition and the solution ism that the ocean provides to us. But I feel like Julio has thoughts on this for sure.


Yeah, no, I think from what Lawrence has already sort of noted. And Alex, the ways in which we talked about bringing transition is really crucial here to the idea of a green adjust green transition is something that I’m really interested about, because we often forget to ask just for whom, I think often with mining, we also think that it will just be this, you know, grabbing a few polymetallic nodule far away from everybody’s land really deep in the ocean. But it’s not that simple, right, you need to have a ship that goes all the way there, you need to build all the equipment, as the modules get picked up. You also release sediment nodules are habitats for a lot of species, micro, microscopic species, and all the sediments that travel depending where you release it at the surface or in subtitle zones, may travel very far in in depositing itself on different sea mounds or spaces might kill other species. So there’s all these scientific issues that we don’t really know as much about, but we also need a ship to travel there. And we know that, you know, shipping, the noise and actual pollution to the petrol pollution, that we then also need to bring these polymetallic nodules somewhere, open them up and get all the metals inside. And that is extremely energy, efficient energy costly. So we have all these different elements, who is going to build these batteries and who is going to transform them. And all of these issues also sort of add their own pollution. Now, we don’t really think about I think when we think about the mining impact, there’s these we don’t know about and then there’s those that are so very specific to all this no link in the chain. And I think so that’s a really good question, Donald, that you brought up because the science part of it doesn’t fully know. And that’s what I’ve been told by scientists when I go to the International Seabed Authority, that it’s hard to have the proper thresholds to decide what is dangerous now, because we just don’t know as much about the seabed. And I think that’s an interesting question that can also link back to what Lindsey was asking about the cultural representation of the seabed and cultural popular culture I think deep sea mining itself is that it’s interesting representation in various me in a movie called underwater with a crew member who made the movie The producer, but Kristen Stewart, I think is the main actress which has this really interesting echo with all the Alien movies, because there’s the ship like space where your blockchain and then they have to walk on the seabed and walked in, in these suits that look a lot like astronaut suits, and obviously, anywhere you would go in the seabed outside of a proper submarine would crush you I would pressure so there’s all of these different issue. But very interestingly, I think this movie, as Jimmy might have more to say about really is part of a traditional Gothic representation of the ocean where abiding by mining too much too deep, then a monster has been released that is destroying the mining space. So that’s kind of the these ideas that then come back. So there is a certain also anxieties or these, these discussions that are very just be there, because we’re not sure what it means and how it will happen. So I think there’s just many elements that are hard to pinpoint.


I’m just gonna jump in again, because I realised I didn’t actually talk about wind turbines for Fiona. And I have I have thoughts on wind turbines and a book recommendation. So Fiona is asking the disposal or future you’re talking about disposal of oil rigs reminds us that there will soon be a great many wind turbines being replaced, what will happen to all of them? Will the disposal of them be green? As you answer is no. Sadly, again, in this kind of discussion with energy community projects last week, wind turbines are made from really quite almost like on the level of asbestos, so kind of a mixing of different materials that when you cut them up, release really terrible, small micro fragments that are incredibly lethal. Wind turbines also have a current shelf life of around 20 to 25 years. So they have an even shorter lifetime cycle than other energy forms, which is really problematic. And a big question. And again, I think this is all tied into, in some ways, the narratives and obviously, I’d say that I do literature, but the ways that we frame crisis, there’s too much of a an easy solution ism, and not thinking about long term ism around these things. So the novel I was going to recommend for people to think about, or Fiona, in particular, is called doggerland, by Ben Smith. And it’s essentially a kind of like Waiting for Godot meets the road, but in an offshore wind farm, which is really interesting, with a young boy and an older man who just constantly rode rotate around a massive offshore winds, wind for on site, constant repairing broken turbines, you’re not really sure for what or for whom this power is going to. But they just it’s a kind of a really interesting reflection on renewable infrastructures, and the supposedly ease in which renewability translates to a kind of utopian imaginary. It kind of pushes against that. But I think really what this question of disposal raises for us is this kind of need to think about transition or renewable technologies in a more circulatory function, right, rather than sort of like, what is this the immediate thing that they’re supposedly solving? What is the lifetime cycle of the solution? What is the actual kind of longer temporality of the solutions that we’re providing? And I think that’s actually one thing that the humanities in particular is really good at. We’re not necessarily great at creating wind turbines. But we’re really good at actually creating or thinking about the way to formulate problems, and to ask questions in a way that can provide, I think, a different type of solution that doesn’t end up with Windows best sauce. Right? So what happens when you think about energy transition are technologies that you need to develop by thinking and prefiguring waste or by thinking about the disposal at the very beginning, rather than the end of the lifecycle? So yeah, that’s just some reflection. That is a really good novel. I hope people enjoy it.


Thank you, Alex. But before we move on from this question, I just want to actually be something else that anonymous person in the audience has commented, he’s coming from a perspective, different from ours in terms of expertise. And he says, I work on an industry that works with and on the seafloor, and I see proposals from deep sea mining, I’m sure that deep sea mining will be magnitudes more terrible from an environmental perspective than online mining, there’s already so much out of sight out of mind, or you can’t see or more realistically, you can’t verify or stop what we’re doing. It’s going to be environmentally catastrophic, and driven by greed. So yes, that is very sobering and something that we’re going to agree with. And although we’re coming at this from these more cultural perspectives, I think it’s extremely valuable to have insight there for someone who’s actually working in this industry. So thank you very much for that, even though it’s over. But yeah, I think this this question, several people’s questions have related to this point. And thank you for those rich answers. I’m just going to shift on to a, a slightly different question that is about submarine cables, which I’m thinking that Jimmy might want to take up. This one is from Malcolm who says there are over 495 in service submarine cable systems with another 70 planned how do we deal with security vulnerabilities to these critical seabed elements of our communication Ship networks. Yes,


thank you, Malcolm, for getting that out, as well. I don’t know how we deal with the security vulnerabilities of the deep sea cable network. But people are supremely anxious about it. And the reason I suggested I want to offer some answers to this is really just an opportunity to relay some of the sort of most wonderfully, I suppose, exuberant and hyperbolic prose that that I’ve encountered, and I know Lawrence has read it as well, around kind of anxieties about submarine cable security. And it comes from an essay written in 2017, for the think tank organisation policy Policy Exchange, written by Rishi Sunak, who before being Prime Minister was getting himself in it is about deep sea cables. And I think he just chimes really nicely with the with the kind of ideas underpinning Malcolm’s question. So in 2017, Sunak wrote, it is difficult to think of a threat that could be more justifiably described as existential, than that posed by the catastrophic failure of undersea cable networks. And he asks later, in the paper, could civilization recover from the failure of a technology that has been so rapidly adopted without a backup plan. And this, this paper draws in commentary from other sources, including a former US Admiral, who says that the security vulnerabilities of deep sea cables should worry us all, presumably, all of the time. So I don’t know how we deal with a disease. But I find this sense, I suppose, both have an acute awareness of that vulnerability, and a kind of flapping about unable to kind of do much about it, either in terms of preventing what we might think of as kind of international espionage or international or concatenations, tapping into severing deep sea cables. But also, as we saw, as we’ve seen over recent years, right, Tonga is deeply capable being severed through natural disaster, as well. And those security vulnerabilities that open up when the kind of workings of the natural world or the nonhuman world sever those cables, I find them really, really interesting for the way that the discourse around them develops. This kind of being plunged into a into a barbaric, sort of Mad Max style wasteland that will happen when these deep sea cables get severed. There’s, there’s I think, again, this, this emergence between this space that as a couple of comments, both from panellists and from people asking questions have raised around this kind of out of sight, out of mind, quality of the of the seabed is sort of out of sight, and also kind of out of reach as well, you know, this sense that everything could potentially be much worse, because we seem to have so much less control over it so much less presence, even as we have kind of situated ourselves there in various ways. But I don’t know, Lawrence, if you want to kind of pick up further on on this. I know you’ve read it slightly more than I have on the security question. I was


assigned to the chapter on DC cables. And in the book that Jimmy and I are writing. Yeah, just very briefly, I mean, I’ve got a colleague at Bristol called Tim Edmonds, who is head of the wonderfully named global Centre for Global insecurity. And, and he ran a conference on kind of maritime security, to which he kindly invited me and this was a question that came up a lot at that conference. And also the question was, was sort of pitched as, why haven’t they been subjected to terrorist attack, given how vulnerable they are? And given how effective such an attack would be, and bringing down global financial systems as well as military technologies? And so on? And it’s a question that’s kind of stayed with me and I’ve been trying to think about for a while, I mean, I think kind of sort of hybrid warfare, so kind of more sort of state on state actors, it is used quite often, I suppose, all kind of the attack on underwater infrastructure as a way of kind of weakening an enemy, particularly in wartime occasionally, beyond. But I suppose perhaps the reason and I’m you know, perhaps it’s gonna happen today, who knows, but perhaps the reason it hasn’t become a sort of subject of a terrorist attack is because although it should have this kind of huge symbolic valency as the sort of nerve centre of Global Capitalism, it doesn’t, I suppose and this comes back to that, you know, thing that was mentioned by another have a question isn’t the Jimmy just quoted that kind of out of sight out of mind saying, I think although our lives are dependent on this infrastructure, it’s not an infrastructure that’s kind of sufficiently well known as a symbol too big to be a kind of viable or attractive target for some spectacular attack. So yeah, it kind of opens up all sorts of sort of interesting questions. And I suppose I mean, just to finish the point, like Jimmy, I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t work in security studies. So I guess all the stuff I’ve read in security studies, people are panicking, as Jimmy said, not usually not quite so much as Rishi Sunak. But sort of about the fact that this isn’t on the agenda of policymakers. But what I find so interesting is when they kind of talk about us, and you know, we should be worried they should worry all of us again, this kind of comes back to the question that I feel a few of us are touching on his, who is included in that us? Why might it be a target? And you know, who, who might benefit for it to be sort of destroyed or at least weakened or temporarily put out service?


Thank you very much for those. I will turn to a different question. From Astra which is why has the water column not received attention from the historical investigators? I know Shawn, had some ideas on this, and possibly Ross might have some as well. But could you also just say what a water column is to begin with? Just in case anybody doesn’t know that? Yeah,


thank you. And I also wanted to link this to the another question that came up quite a bit earlier, which is where do you think the schematic maps of heesen and thought fit into the story in terms of understanding what the deep sea floor looks like? Those maps were published in National, National Geographic in the 1960s. And were they revelation? I think there’s something very interesting about the putting those two questions together, because one maps the seabed in its contours. It’s a very beautiful map, very aesthetically pleasing map of the, of the sea floor, produced by Mary thought that along with his and so it’s kind of got this feminist history. It’s quite a strong feminist history of deep sea exploration and science. So that map is the kind of contours of the bottom of the sea that look a little bit like the contours on land, familiar territory realisable, where’s the water column is the full volume of water that rises above the seafloor to the surface of the sea. And one of those gets much more attention than the other, you know, this panel, we are talking about the seabed. When mining companies named things like deep green and other green washing style names, want to mine the seabed, what they do is to try and say, okay, look, we’re gonna mine this seabed, but it’s kind of far away from us, it can’t hurt any people. And we won’t use dodgy labour practices like they do in Africa, but often ignore the water column. So the effects on the water column, or don’t draw attention to that the water column is mostly is a lot of what’s affected by deep sea mining, through noise through plumes of sediment through just being mixed in ways that it’s not, you shouldn’t, shouldn’t be or isn’t used to be mixed. So the water column gets kind of intentionally overlooked, I think, to a large extent, but but by players that want to emphasise the kind of two dimensionality, the pleasing and relatable two dimension ality of the sea floor. And I think things like the he’s an in thought might feed into that. Or even though it’s, they also it was a sort of speaks in a different to do it at a different angle to the importance of aesthetics, in what in how we represent the Deep Sea and the end the deep ocean and to Lidsey corals question about both bad and good representations of the deep sea and popular culture. So just one more thing is that is an analogy with marine biology that that it’s much easier to catch samples of creatures on the seafloor, because it’s again, two dimensional, you can kind of track them against something. And there’s a only one layer of space in which they can be it’s much, much harder to catch animals as samples in the water column. And so there’s just a lot more knowledge actually about what is called benthic ecologies, as opposed to pelagic. So things that float around in the water column. And there’s something I mean, Steve ments the a lot of other scholars have written about this, that that we find it our land locked human brains find it much easier to approach questions of the seabed, then we do have the three dimensional turbulent, borderless environments of a good sea and air. So those can to three dimensional spaces are really hard first to approach, I think, and then does make them potentially vulnerable because of the out of sight out of mind. Native of the water column that we’ve all talked about a bit.


Did you have anything on that one? Ross? Well,


I can’t really add anything. It’s, it’s the first I’ve heard of the water column, to be honest. So it just goes to show how much you’ll learn in this job. But what I think is adding to that, in terms of like, the oil and gas industry, I suppose, was just a barrier to the export exploitation of the of the seabed, particularly from the oil and gas side of things. When, you know, the, when the UK offshore oil and gas industry started in the 70s, a lot of the companies were American, and they were taking a lot of workers from Cuba used to drilling for oil and land in Texas. So it was like, it was a bit of a wild west kind of environment out there. And the the engineering engineering skills that were being developed were, were quite complex. And it was just, it was a case of like, yeah, the the war was just that body or two, and it was just a body or to the Enter engineering. And so there was a lot of engineering ingenuity happening in the North Sea. Because it’s like a really hostile environment, I suppose people from the Northeast or Scotland or the UK, as a whole and around the North Sea. Fishermen, for example, they’re used to that, and they know the power of that sea. But a lot of people, you know, that was the first experience of working out in those conditions. But fundamentally, that the material that was needed and extracted was on the seabed. And the sea was just a barrier to that. And it still is, I suppose


that’s, that’s really thought provoking out here. I’m just pausing on that for a minute. Yeah, thank you. You need to think some more about this one. So we have got another question from an anonymous member of the audience who’s asking, do you think the idea of the deep sea being conquered a race for how deep you can go ends up dominating too much of public discourse, versus the reality of what is ongoing on the seabed? And we seem to hear more in the media about these sort of expeditions from the industry side or environmental side? I think that is a really excellent question, which is very topical at the moment, which probably any of you could answer. But does anybody want to jump in on that one?


I have a little a little, I kind of feel this as a slight question that’s hinting towards the the incident over the summer. With the private submersible, which actually is intricately tied to industry, people have come out that there’s actually the reason that they were going so quick and so fast and so cheaply with trying to create small managed submersibles is precisely for the expansion of undersea and deep seabed mining. So one of the one of the problems again, with this kind of question of timescale and crisis, the framing of crisis is something that needs immediacy. And can actually really drive this idea of like blue frontier ism, in a lot of kind of scary ways. So yeah, the idea that every company who’s going to be driving for minerals and critical minerals is going to be investing in these small submersible pods, there was actually a bit of a tester, which went catastrophically wrong. And, you know, of course, a great range of various memes of which, you know, people can have their own opinions on. But ya know, there’s definitely interesting thing about this, this ideology, I mean, that there’s a lot of stuff written out there about I think, was it or both. But who was talking about about space, everybody’s been talking about so many great things like merging all together. But the space race, right is actually modelled on the ocean, and then the oceanic space race in lots of ways. So I don’t know maybe someone else has some thoughts about that. But the idea of the race of the deep is always in some ways, mapped against a race for other kind of like technological superiority


for sure. Yes, I just wanted to just add a couple of things to what Alex was saying. There’s actually an oceanographer called John Copley. Some people might know about from his sort of science, nutrition work, but he’s also at Knox in Southampton. He actually wrote a piece so short article with an online journal called the conversation. So people are interested about that. It’s a really good one to look at where he talks about this idea of what this is this story over the summer. My influence in what we understand is an exploration of the ocean quote unquote, exploration of the ocean, which is very different from what science sometimes does, and I think what Alex is really, really pointing towards is a so very different scale of science versus industry to the speeding up that industry requires for these questions of emergency, but also because that’s how money is made. And I think one thing that’s really interesting in that is that we sometimes forget that a lot of these speeds and emergencies, this course also very much related to market shares and market fluctuation. So a lot of the company you really push for deep sea mining, like deep green that Chardon mentioned was now called the metals company to company that’s changed in three times, and it’s gone back, bankrupt every time as it changed it. And a lot of the, the rhetoric to me really tells us that it’s a game of speculation and through the speculation, you earn a lot of money, and much more money that you will make with actual deep sea mining. So whether the actual weather, these exploration need to actually take place is also secondary to what the stories that can be told about them does in the market share space. And the second time science takes much more time to collect samples and study them and go through them. So we have all these different temporalities that I think are quite interesting in this conversation that the person the anonymous attendee mentioned, when they said, conquer conquering, right, which is itself come from a much longer history of colonial practices of conquering a space, a space that is empty, and as Alex said, can be a frontier, rather than being full of life and complexity.


Thank you. We have only got a minute or so left. And I’m just going to mention one last question, which we really like, which is, I’m going to ask Shawn to respond very briefly, from Alessandro, who says, I wonder if anyone has thoughts about geological time in the story and in culture, deep seabed was once land and mountain peaks for once the seabed cities feature in various cultural forms and stories.


Yeah, it’s really pertinent that I’m actually sitting in this incredibly landlocked place in Pretoria, near Johannesburg in South Africa. And this is like in the middle of the continent. And it’s it was one to see. So that’s why it’s actually a place of lots of land mining, partly because of the the impact of the geology. But But if amas have Ghosh has written about the fact that we struggle, culture struggles to understand the scalar, like just massive scales of climate change, because of like the function, the way that the forms of realist fiction work, for instance, I think in similar ways, we, we struggle to see the deep to understand the deep sea and its kind of scalar implications. I think it has those similar temporal scales. And I do think that that is partly why there is an absence of cultural forms about about the sea and the sea bed.


Great novel that thinks a bit about this as JG Ballard’s the Drowned world, which I highly recommend.


Thank you. I’m going to have to finish the discussion here, which is very sad. There was one other question which we didn’t quite get to, I think might have taken us into a whole other realm, but I’ve just been apologising to the person about but otherwise, we got to all of our questions. So I really want to thank the people who have attended this session, especially for these fantastic questions, which I’ve just been writing down keeping this up. And also for your fantastic artists, panellists. And I do want to say thank you very much to each of you for presenting as part of this and also for all the work that went into organising it on the part of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, especially Jess and Hannah, but also on the part of all of you. And I do want to mention as well that there are lots more events coming up between now and the 17th of September. Thank you very, very much. It’s been great to have, you know, 60 people attending this session. It’s been really exciting, stimulating, so I know that though, we’ll all suddenly disappear in a second in a cloud of smoke. Thanks very much, everybody.

Professor Faye Hammill
Dr Laurence Publicover
Dr Alexandra Campbell
Dr Giulia Champion
Dr Charne Lavery
Ross MacLennan
Dr Jimmy Packham
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