Matthew Maury’s Coal Mines at Sea

My daughter and I have been trolling the Gutenberg Project e-books at bedtime, and we just finished Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In the part of the story when the Nautilus travels through the Sargasso Sea, the narrator, Professor Aronnax describes the gyre thus:

“I share Maury’s opinion, and I was able to study the phenomenon in the very midst, where vessels rarely penetrate. Above us floated products of all kinds, heaped up among these brownish plants; trunks of trees torn from the Andes or the Rocky Mountains, and floated by the Amazon or the Mississippi; numerous wrecks, remains of keels or ships’ bottoms, side planks stove in, and so weighted with shells and barnacles, that they could not again rise to the surface. And time will one day justify Maury’s other opinion, that these substances thus accumulated for ages, will become petrified by the action of the water, and will then form inexhaustible coal mines- a precious reserve prepared by farseeing Nature for the moment when men shall have exhausted the mines of continents.”

I assumed after reading this that in modern times the Sargasso must be full of plastic debris, like the more famously known North Pacific trash vortex… And it is as are the other three major ocean gyres on our planet. Of course this led me to thinking that somehow a version of Maury’s predicted “coal mines” at sea could actually be a possibility… And at least at a derivative level, power can be generated from all that plastic.. Fascinating when science fiction authors think up, even as long ago as over a century, stuff that actually comes about like some kind of surreal prediction… Well, almost. So far the only thing produced from all this waste and the action of the water is a toxic soup. Maybe in this case the better future caster is George Carlin…

“if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?” Plastic…asshole.”

That’s right, folks. “The Planet Is Fine”… And no, we are not getting some “inexhaustible … Precious reserve” out of it, we’re just going to get poisoned… And eventually mutate into Morlocks… or even giant crab creatures. (After we fight off the blasted Martians!)

This made me think of a much slower process, an organic gyre on land that I used to look at in it’s intricate complexity. The rental property I lived at somewhat recently had these giant, hundred year old beech trees. The gnarled roots had broken the “lawn” (not lawn under the massive shaded spaces under those trees) up into a series of spiraled nooks which collected organic matter that in the central part of each small basin had become a deep brown slurry to feed the tree. I took some photos of these that I hadn’t used and were some of the few that actually survived my recent hard drive disaster. Seemed to be the perfect subject matter for EBSQ Roots, Bulbs and Rhisomes Exhibit

However, this is such a detailed undertaking, I don’t know if I will be able to finish in time for the deadline. I snapped a photo of the w.I.p. after the first go at it, though it has progressed much farther at this point than shown here. Ground gyre wip

Speaking of undertakings… I was able to post all of this from my iPad, so I have made some progress interfacing with my tech… At this rate my decendents may wind up being Cylons instead of giant crab creatures.

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