By Micaela Cabrita da Palma
The oceans and seas have been a source of fear, inspiration and curiosity for people for many centuries. The majority of the earth's surface is covered with water, after all. It is a world unto itself: a world beneath the waves. In Europe, this has resulted in tall tales told by sailors, detailed maps and scientific discoveries. However, colonialism, violence and exploitation also travelled across these oceans.
Moreover, this water world can itself pose a serious threat. Chronicles of fierce storms at sea reflect the water's power, with countless sunken ships in its wake. Sailors found themselves face to face with gargantuan, monstrous creatures. These can be seen on the nautical maps from the 16th and 17th centuries, many of which are illustrated with the heads of fantastical sea monsters sticking out of the waters. The fear of deep, dark waters was very real, but this did not stop sailors, explorers and scientists from setting sail.
Today, the world's oceans are as enigmatic to humankind as they have always been. Despite ongoing research, less than 10% of life underwater has been studied. Scientists all over the world are working together to unravel the mysteries of the sea.
In addition to new discoveries, the confrontation with the impact of tourism, climate change, overfishing and single-use plastics is unavoidable. Life above water is becoming increasingly noticeable in the world's oceans, and humans are both the problem and the solution. Is there still time for us to turn the tide?
Listen to the accompanying story “the mating rituals of Draco Marinus”, developed by students Laura Köpping and Ilse van der Voorn.
Cabinet beneath the Waves: O2 building, next to the main entrance on the ground floor