Thursday, October 22, 2009

At Length Did Cross an Albatross

Yesterday, I touched on Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," in which a seaman brings a curse upon himself and his shipmates when he needlessly kills an albatross.

That theme leads directly to this powerful new series of photographs by Seattle photographer Chris Jordan detailing the deaths of albatross chicks on Midway Atoll. On these remote islands, thousands of miles from the nearest continent, albatrosses canvas the pacific ocean looking for food for their chicks. Instead of food, they too often find bits of plastic and metal detritus which they feed to their offspring, poisoning and asphyxiating them. Jordan documents this phenomenon as faithfully as possible by moving nothing in any of these tragic photographs. Not a bone, not a feather, not a bottle cap was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These beautiful and terrible images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries.

Coleridge's Mariner kills a single albatross, and that sin results in damnation for all who stood by and let it happen. What happens when we kill generations of these birds? How much will we all suffer for abnegating so much responsibility?

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