Ships and Beaches as Arenas
of Entanglements from Below

Remembering the moment he arrived at his first whaling ground on a New Bedford whaler in the mid-nineteenth century, sailor Charles Nordhoff remarked: “I was looking for some peculiarity in the color of the water, the strength of the breeze, or the quality of the atmosphere, to distinguish this from the other parts of the ocean.” Although “so much had been said of ‘good whaling ground’”, the sea of the Mozambique Channel turned out to be “as deeply blue, the breezes as gentle, and the air as hazy as it generally is in those portions of the tropics”. The ocean with its inscrutable surface conceals its mysterious inhabitants from the whaleman as it conceals its mysterious pasts from the historian. However, when explored in the right way, the ocean reveals its secrets and regorges its whales and its pasts. “The Sea Is History,” Derek Walcott entitled his famous poem. It is not only a history of linking together ‘larger’ processes on the land, but a history in its own right, shaped by its own actors, following its own logic. “Where are your monuments?” Walcott asks and gives the answer: “The sea has locked them up.” Seeking material artifacts on the sea makes a historian look like the young Charles Nordhoff awaiting the color of the water to change when reaching a whaling ground…

…weiter bei: InterDisciplines 3.1 (2012): 25–47.


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of Entanglements from Below”

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