Hanuman’s Ocean: Land and water at Rama’s Bridge

On the poet John Keats’ grave in Rome are the words ‘here lies one whose name was writ in water.’ First reading Keats in my late teens, I have always held a mental picture of those words as his name traced on the surface of the sea. It is a wonderful image, the letters written in water, the dark mobile surface swirling and closing over each momentary mark.

Rama’s Bridge, NASA image

My second Asialink Arts writing project with EarthCoLab takes as its focus Rama’s Bridge, a shifting line of sandbanks, reefs and islands traced across thirty kilometres of ocean between India and Sri Lanka, connecting Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar. Continue reading

The Sacred Conch: multi-species explorations in Palk Strait

‘For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,

And went all naked to the hungry shark;

For them his ears gush’d blood.’

(John Keats, Isabella. 1818)

 

At the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, seven war conches are named as their owners sound them at the start of the climactic Kurukshetra battle, including warrior Arjuna’s Devadatta, and his charioteer Krishna’s Panchajanya. War conches are shankha, the same sacred or divine conch that is used in Hindu and Buddhist ritual, Ayurvedic medicine, Indian marriage ceremonies and numerous other occasions.

The conch seems an unlikely candidate to reach the level of reverence it does in India, and in fact in numerous other cultures. It is a large marine gastropod, a big sea snail. The specific animal revered as shankha is Turbinella pyrum, and is common on the southern coasts of India and Sri Lanka. In its living form it is not obviously attractive, the shell being covered by a dark brown mantle of soft tissue. Once processed, it is a shining white symbol of the divine. Continue reading

Spirit horses

The next minutes are completely mesmerising. The two stallions fight, fifty metres from me. Dust hangs in the air around them, their screams echo off the hills, the impact of their hoof strikes reverberates in my belly. They rear, scream, snake heads out to bite, whirl and kick.

Stallion, Kosciuszko. Image: Dr Andrea Harvey

This week The Conversation published my ‘Friday Essay’ on wild horses in Australia, and the excerpt above describes one of my many wild horse encounters. Horses are the most recent of the main species humans domesticated, and the least different (with cats) from their wild counterparts.

Australia has the largest wild horse herd in the world, 400,000 or more, spread across nearly every landscape in the country, and their presence is deeply controversial. Six thousand of them are in Kosciuszko National Park. The polarised reactions and accusations in the comments thread to my essay demonstrate entrenched views on both sides. Unfortunately, the comments often also demonstrate fairly unthinking responses, with little attention to the substance of the essay. Continue reading

The very Australian camel

Just in time for Australia Day, AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs talks with award-winning radio producer Michael Schubert of Soundminds Radio on the subject of the very Australian camel.

Their conversation challenges the ideas of ‘feral’ and ‘invasive’ species, and questions what it means to belong in Australia.

Tune in to the Community Radio Network at 10:45am EST on Thursday 26 January, or listen here.   Continue reading

“It is time to move beyond kill-based strategies”: Rethinking shark hazard management

Photo credit: Paul Jones, UOW

 

‘Catch and destroy’ has been the Western Australian Government’s most recent policy approach to reducing human-shark encounters. The 2014 controversial policy was implemented following five deadly shark bites along Western Australia’s (WA) coastline within a ten-month period. However, a new study by AUSCCER’s Dr Leah Gibbs (pictured) and Dr Andrew Warren has shown that the majority of ocean-users in WA oppose shark nets, drumlines and culling, and would rather see the state government fund research and education. Their study has recently been published in the journal Marine Policy.

Continue reading

‘Camel country’: on radio 3CR & Geoforum

Camels are the focus of this week’s ‘Freedom of Species’ program on 3CR Independent Radio. AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs will be talking with 3CR’s Emma Townshend this Sunday, 17 May, at 1pm on 3CR (855am). You can also catch the show later as an MP3.

The interview comes on the back of a paper recently published in Geoforum, by Leah Gibbs, Jennifer Atchison and Ingereth Macfarlane, titled: ‘Camel Country: assemblage, belonging and scale in invasive species geographies’. Below is a taster of the published paper.

Invasive species and their impacts have become a focus of global environmental policy and action. Invasive, alien and in Australia ‘feral’ species have come to represent categories of destructive animals and plants that do not belong. They are frequently pitted against ‘native’ species, which are deemed good and do belong. But in the context of contemporary environmental change and uncertainty, established categories such as ‘invasive’ species need to be examined more closely.  Continue reading

Oceanic matters: Call for papers, AAG 2015

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, 21-25 April 2015

Session organisers: Catherine Phillips (University of Queensland) c.phillips2@uq.edu.au; Leah Gibbs (University of Wollongong) leah@uow.edu.au

This session aims to advance oceanic geographies that push in directions less ‘landlocked’ (Steinberg 2001; Anderson and Peters 2014) and more lively (Lambert et al. 2006) to examine the materiality and politics of oceans. Despite the flourishing in recent years of ‘more-than-human’ and material approaches, oceans and associated creatures have only recently come to the fore in a selection of analyses (see Bear and Eden 2008; Probyn 2011). Likewise, ocean geographies have largely neglected the materiality of the sea. This inattention to human-ocean relations and ocean materiality is puzzling given that oceans are central to so many pressing debates, including biodiversity protection, food security, climate change, water pollution and scarcity, and invasive species control. Such ocean crises highlight questions about cultures of living with/in marine environs, and processes of governance. Continue reading

Shark cull begins

Post written by AUSCCER’s Leah Gibbs and Andrew Warren (University of New England)

Australia Day began badly for sharks. The day before, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett rolled out the lines of large baited hooks along parts of the WA coast that he’s been promising as part of the state’s Shark Mitigation Strategy. Within 24 hours the first shark was caught and killed. A 3m long tiger shark. The lines of hooks – known as baited drumlines – are anchored 1km off the shore. Their purpose is to kill sharks deemed to pose a threat to people. Continue reading

Ocean-users and sharks in Western Australia

Do you use the ocean in Western Australia?

If so, we would really appreciate your help with our research. Please click here to fill out our survey. It should take about 15 minutes to complete.

Source: theconversation.edu.au

Over the past couple of years encounters between people and sharks have received a huge amount of public attention. This is particularly true in Western Australia, where five reported fatal encounters tragically took place in a 10 month period during 2011 and 2012. In response to the fatalities, the Government of Western Australia has introduced new measures in shark management, including enabling Department of Fisheries to ‘track, catch and, if necessary, destroy sharks identified in close proximity to beachgoers’ (Gov. of WA, 27 September 2012).

We are two researchers working at the University of Wollongong (Leah Gibbs) and University of New England (Andrew Warren) interested in learning more about the views of ocean-users on this topic. We want to better understand the WA government response to recent events, and the implications of the new approach. We’re particularly interested in hearing from you – as an ocean-user – about your ocean-based activities, your sightings or encounters with sharks (if you’ve had any), and your attitudes towards sharks and shark management.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Leah Gibbs (leah@uow.edu.au).

Thanks in advance for your help with our research.

Leah Gibbs & Andrew Warren