V.L. – Heezen + Tharp + Berann

The scientific advancement that the World Wars introduced, though particularly involving flying, swimming-killing machines, was a catalyst for some of the most productive and important developments of Science with practical implications.

A crucial scientific innovation was the use of sonar-imagery that allowed the depths of the oceans to be mapped, partly hypothetical but significantly visual realisations from Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp – their’s was the first true, scientifically deducted images of the sea bed.

When talking about the depth of water, old language named the units as ‘fathoms’. Essentially two yards or rather the distance between your finger tips outstretched, when Shakespeare says “full fathom five thy father lies” it was to imply that once you are within the fathomless depths (or just 30 feet) of the sea, you are in unchartered territory. Heezen sent Tharp all the data to draw from and first, she drafted in fathoms, then in corrected fathoms, and finally, in the metric system. Realizing no doubt that irony in fathoming the fathoms.

This is her. She used Physiographic* techniques to make a more detailed map of the North Atlantic. Her goal – “to present it as if all the water were drained away”. Unlike contour maps, physiographic maps show the lay of the bed as if they were being seen from a low flying plane.

The eventual map of the whole world was produced in 1977 in collaboration with Heinrich Berann. Master mountain painter. How he came to be part of Team World Ocean Floor in Tharp’s own words –

Inspired by the International Indian Ocean Expedition, the National Geographic Society wanted to commission a map of the Indian Ocean to illustrate an article on it.Some time earlier, National Geographic had received a letter from a little girl in Austria who wrote, “I’ve been looking at your maps and my father can paint better than you can.”Intrigued, National Geographic editors sent their chief topographer to Innsbruck, Austria, to meet the girl’s artist father, Heinrich Berann.

The most excellent mountain painter of all time say I. Some context to expand on at a later date –

The use of rays or emmisions outside of our sensory range to generate visual images opens up the possibility of mapping phenomena which do not lie within the physical aspect of ‘seeable’ form and space.

Martin Kemp in Seen, Unseen.

He said this in context of creating maps, derived from scientific tools or methods of deduction that may relate to forms and structures but which are not, strictly speaking, records of them.

Anyway, Kemp described the use of sonar imagery as a quinntessencially 20th century. Along with many other discoveries that replaced our human capabilty for seeing, like electron microscopy, the high frequency sound waves and electron beams have become an analogy for light its self.  When applied they deal with the reading of things that cannot be seen. He puts it better when he says that the imagery “relies upon transmission other than the visible wavelengths of light that we normally use for looking at the world”.

It would probably be worth talking here about a point made in my notes concerning the earlier notion of visual thought –

The number of instances in science where a set of images derived from the world of sense perception has been replaced by ‘artificial visual images, and even more so by models, which go on to generate their own reality’ … geological maps, at a macroscopic level… have come to exert extraordinary explanatory power precisely because they are easier to deal with than nature itself.


One Response to “V.L. – Heezen + Tharp + Berann”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    AMAZING AMAZING! Very excited for Save our Souls!

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