Queer Seaweed: Oeuvre on the desires and inclinations of Basin Head’s Chondrus crispus

Alix Villanueva

 

Oeuvre on the desires and inclinations of Basin Head’s Chondrus crispus

 

Prologue[i]

 

 

 

Chapter 1. The Dance

 

mid eulittoral[ii]

we float, my siblings and I,

wedded to

mussels blue

adjoined in byssal lace

 

in buoyant phototropic[iii] dreams, we dream

of our open-watered cousins

slender and sporesexual

in delicate robes of dichotomous branching

while we content ourselves with
broad                           flat                               fronds

 

each season, my cousin

blushes a different colour

red, yellow, green

encrusting and encrusted

to precious rocky substrates

life is different out there

salinious

kinetic

 

in Basin Head

lagoonlife is “suboptimal”[iv] they say

too hot[v]

not salty enough[vi]

yet here I sit, fleshiest bit

rotund even, weighing             a          wet                  half                  kilo

dancing a deep purple tango

with a sweet depressed mollusc

 

 

Mytilus edulis

a dulcet name for a “soft unsegmented body”[vii]

molle

cocooned in a “calcareous shell”[viii]

elsewhere

sessile and bedbound

here

my anchor, my mainstay

she dances in my skirts and clings to me tightly

filtering our waters for a bite-sized snack

 

//and there are times where my fronds brush up against her protruding syphon, or my

thick purple flesh slips into her unlatched shell//

 

her statocysts[ix] tell her I’m here

she feels me more than I feel her

and we dance,

bobbing along the Mere sludge bottom.

 

 

Chapter 2. The Green Crab

 

emerald pincers on a thick carapace

exo

skeletal cutlery

for inquisitive probings

she maps                                 diagonally

Basin Head’s estuary

 

Carcinus maenas

Carcinoid menace

the colon – iser

invading the flesh, the tight space between shell and plant cell

tangled in our fabrications

her nippers clamp open the mussel’s shell

 

mandibles

sucking on succulent flesh

on the tender yellow mantle nestled within

delighted and delighting

 

entwined in this predatory caress

the pair sink and I with them

a triad of corporeal relish

 

in this knot the crab savours my flesh too[x]

– gelatinous aftertaste –

 

clunky and gauche, claw caught in mesh

she pulls on threads

unravels the work of the bysall weaver

 

and with this I am released,

I slip, a glissade

on the evasive edge of where air      meets       water       meets       sand

and

song[xi]

***

she joined the dance some seventeen springs ago[xii]

and found it so jolly

that she decided to stay

in ten years grew                                 to a seventyfold sum[xiii]

 

 

some voracious predator,                                trapezoidal[xiv]

not pre-dating

our symbiosis, my mussel and I

 

but becoming part of

something different.

 

Chapter 3. Bloom

 

there have been springs

where the green was

too sage, too verdant

 

our fronds below the runny veneer

that pulsed towards sunlight as days got longer

 

//phytochromatic[xv] fixation//

 

no longer felt flickers within

for chlorophyllic bloom obscured all we knew

 

new tensions of disorientation

(Where shall I creep and meet? To which compass point? Where is MY sustenance?)

 

ulva, sweet green screen, remove your slender body from mine

eutrophied is this thick water—                       I choke on sour growth

and excessive nutrient[xvi]

 

encapsulated

in Basin Head’s estuarine lagoon[xvii].

 


[i]  “Queer Seaweed.” Bruce Herald, vol. 31, no. 3175, 22 June 1900, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BH19000622.2.6.

[ii] Rayment, W. and P. Pizzola. “Carrageen (Chondrus crispus).”MarLIN, The Marine Life Information Network, http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1444.

[iii] Chamovitz, D.What a Plant Knows: a Field Guide to the Senses of Your Garden – and Beyond. Scientific American Books, 2012, p. 13.

[iv] “Ecological Assessment of Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus) in Basin Head Marine Protected Area.” Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, Science Advisory Report 2008, no. 59, Department of Fisheries and Ocean Canada, Gulf Region (DFO), 2009.

[v] ibid, p.4. According to the DFO, the optimal temperatures for Chondrus crispus growth (10 to 15 degrees celcius) are “exceeded by early July”.

[vi] ibid, pp.3-4. Chondrus crispus can live in salinity levels of 10 to 58ppt, but “growth is significantly reduced below 30 ppt” (3). The salinity of Basin Head varies between 9 and 30 ppt (4).

[vii] “Mollusk.” English Oxford Dictionary.

[viii] ibid

[ix] Zagata, C. et al. “Mytilus edulis.” Animal Diversity Web, 2008, http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Mytilus_edulis/.

[x] There is evidence of Chondrus crispus found in Carcinus maenas’ insides- proof of “direct herbivory.” “Basin Head Marine Protected Area: 2014 Operational Management Plan.” Basin Head’s Management Series 2016, no.1, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Gulf Region (DFO), 2016, p.11.

[xi] A direct reference to the Singing Sands which make up Basin Head’s geography- “Singing Sands at Basin Head, PEI.” Youtube, uploaded by Melissa Secord, August 9, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaW2goy2Sbw.

[xii] Carcinus maenas  was first found in Basin Head in 1999, according to the DFO. “Basin Head Marine Protected Area: 2014 Operational Management Plan.” Basin Head’s Management Series 2016, no.1, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Gulf Region (DFO), 2016, p.11.

[xiii] ibid, p.11. “Trapping efforts in 2000 netted 600 crabs; and by 2010 the annual number of crabs trapped increased to 42,949.”

[xiv] “European Green Crab.” Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, 21 Apr. 2016, http://www.inter.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Maritimes/AIS/European-Green-Crab.

[xv] Chamovitz, D.What a Plant Knows: a Field Guide to the Senses of Your Garden – and Beyond. Scientific American Books, 2012.

[xvi] Note that Basin Head’s Chondrus crispus has been found to have a good bioremediation potential, because of its capacity to absorb high levels of nutrients. See: Corey, P. et al. “Bioremediation potential of Chondrus crispus (Basin Head) and Palmaria palmata: effect of temperature and high nitrate on nutrient removal.” Journal of Applied Phycology, vol. 24, 2012, pp. 441-448. However, eutrophication due to the surrounding agriculture has been found by the DFO to be one of the large contributing sources of this seaweed’s decimation.

[xvii] According to the DFO, estuarine lagoons are particularly sensitive ecosystems “due to the vulnerability of single narrow openings” and the subsequent “lower flushing rates.” “Basin Head Marine Protected Area: 2014 Operational Management Plan.” Basin Head’s Management Series 2016, no.1, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Gulf Region (DFO), 2016, p. 2.

 

 

Alix Villanueva is an Edinburgh-based artist, interested in the tensions between the human and the non-human, where we fit and sit, how we tangle and assemble. Her work spans across the fields of installation, drawing and poetics.

%d bloggers like this: