Friday, August 29, 2008

Beautiful Coral

Staghorn Coral with Nudibranch

A few weeks ago I got to go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, on a mid-shelf reef called Mackey about 20km east of Cape Tribulation. I went out with a company called Ocean Safari who do the half-day trip here (the Rum Runner does the full day trip but I'm too fragile a sailor for eight hours on the water). I was very nervous but as soon as I got up close to the coral reef, I forgot to worry about my breathing and floating challenges.

Looking around at the incredible diversity of colours, shapes and textures was utterly entrancing. I was soon reminded of the crocheted coral I discovered at The Institute for Figuring at the beginning of the year. By the time I got back on the boat I knew I was going to have to find myself a crochet hook: I just had to try making some coral for myself.

Fortunately my friend Freya in Cape Tribulation had a crochet hook for her dreadlocks , and plenty of yarn for making gorgeous knitted fairy wings. I borrowed a ball of variagated pink/purple and began. Since it was about 30 years since I last crocheted, it took a wee while to get the hang of it again, but then I was away, trying to imitate what I had seen in the water and at the IFF. Then I discovered wunderkammer's wonderful Sculptural Crochet Primer and my repetoire began to expand hyperbolicly. When I got to town and could get other colours of yarn, my growing collection of coral bits started to look a lot more like the real thing. These photos are just some of my earlier efforts. I'll post some of the current, even spunkier stuff soon.

Crocheting coral is such a fun, satisfying and interesting activity that its hard to tear myself away to take care of other things like blogging, housekeeping, sleeping or even reading. It's the same obsessive passion that I have for making books and letterpress, that I have had for knitting, embroidery, gardening, studying and other pursuits that litter my life story. You could call me a dilatante but in keeping with my usual obsessive behaviour I am also researching reefs and learning as much as I can understand about what they are and how they work... and how they are at risk of extinction from pollution, climate change and other human influences.

One of our guests at the Hideaway this weekend a microbiologist who studies coral and I asked him how much the Great Barrier Reef had changed since he was here in the early 1990s. Unlike all the local people I've talked to he didn't hesitate to express his shock and horror at the degredation of the GBR. The main thing cause, he says, is over fishing. With most of the big fish (including sharks) gone, algae smother the coral and kill it, interrupting the whole complex food chain.

The Reef is still so beautiful, so amazing, that it is easy to think everything is alright. But there are many days when I walk down to the beach and am horrified to see fishing boats right up close to the shore here, in amongst the reefs. Although the Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Area most of it is actually not legally protected from commercial (or any other) fishing.

I'm not sure what I can do to make a difference except stop eating fish altogether, continuing to pick up trash when I see it on the beach, minimsing my personal carbon footprint as much as possible and sharing what I am learning about corals with anyone who looks vaguely interested. Which, dear blog reader, may include you! If you are more than vaguely interested, this site has some suggestions for how to help save coral reefs.

Blue Sea Star and Staghorn Coral


Melanie said...

awesome! I love the blue starfish :)

Carol said...

I'm obsessed by fish and corals and especially nudibranchs so am delighted to see your crocheted versions. I'll be most interested to check out everything you've mentioned on your post.

Anonymous said...

Omigod Meliors - I turn my back for one minute and look what you've done! You're incorrigible - thank goodness!
I'm so impressed with the new look of your site and the Etsy foray.
I don't think I'll ever stop being surprised by what you're capable of or being inspired by what you do...
Hugs from here to there
E x