//
you're reading...

Biology

Deep Blue Reads: Preparing the Ghost, by Matthew Gavin Frank

 

Preparing the Ghost is almost certainly one of the strangest books about giant squid out there.

Of course, I say that fully aware that there may not be many books about giant squid in existence, and fully unaware of the content and style of those books, having never read another book about giant squid. And I say that fully aware that while Preparing the Ghost may purport to be “an essay concerning the giant squid and its first photographer,” it is also much, much more than that – and that while it may be concerned with the giant squid, it may or may not be, technically, about the giant squid.

PreparingtheGhostCoverLet me back up. Preparing the Ghost is about one man, Moses Harvey, who was instrumental in the first (bizarre) photo taken of a giant squid in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1874. And accordingly, the book is also about the giant squid itself, and Frank doesn’t shy away from exploring the squid’s biological niceties. The giant squid, he explains, “is an umbrella classification that may encompass up to eight species”; has “tentacles [that] are adorned with subspherical suction cups, each of which can be five centimeters in diameter, posses a sharp serrated lining, and are responsible for the ring-shaped scars that are commonly found on the heads of sperm whales”; and has “blood [that] loses its ability to carry oxygen in warmer waters, resulting in suffocation.”

But Frank is interested in more than the biological details. He also ventures that the giant squid “is a Web design company based in St. Paul, Minnesota, with this motto: ‘Your goals could be giant squids—things that you thought were imaginary, but are in fact quite real’”; “doesn’t make for easy prey in any language”; and, “while real, can best be captured in theory.”

Which is to say that while Preparing the Ghost is about the squid as locus of scientific inquiry, it is also about the squid as myth, as story; it is about Architeuthis harveyi, but also the kraken, or as Moses Harvey termed it, the “devil-fish.” It is a book about the giant squid but also about Frank’s own uncertainty as he explores St. John’s and attempts to reconstruct Harvey’s experience turning the squid from myth into reality (through photograph) and back into myth again (through storytelling), and also about Frank’s own experience with mythmaking through his own family history.

At its heart, if Preparing the Ghost makes an argument – and Frank himself seems ambivalent as to whether it does – it is that the line between what we know and what we yearn to know, whether we call it science or myth, is a blurry one, and that ultimately, we rather seem to like it that way.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 1 year ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com