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Ocean Investigations: Chasing Glass

May 8, 2013

Over the past 25 years, C. Drew Harvell has meticulously recovered more than 200 models in a mostly forgotten collection of 570 glass sculptures created by a pair of father-and-son glassmakers, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, in the 1860s. (Photo: Jeffery DelViscio/The New York Times)


A very cool effort to find and film oceanic hundreds of oceanic species that were captured in exquisite detail by a family of 19th century glassmakers:

I’ve been a marine biologist my entire professional life, spending more than 25 years researching the health of corals and sustainability of reefs. I’m captivated by the magic of sessile invertebrates like corals, sponges and sea squirts — creatures vital to the ecosystem yet too often overlooked in favor of more visible animals like sharks and whales.

The filmmaker David O. Brown and I want to change that. To make a documentary, “Fragile Legacy,” we are on a quest to lure these elusive and delicate invertebrates in front of the camera lens.

Our inspiration springs from an unlikely source: a collection of 570 superbly wrought, anatomically perfect glass sculptures of marine creatures from the 19th century.

These delicate folds and strands of glass make up theBlaschka collection of glass invertebrates at Cornell, of which I am the curator — enchanting and impossibly rare jellyfishes of the open ocean; more common but equally beautiful octopus, squid, anemones and nudibranchs from British tide pools and Mediterranean shores.

How many will be thriving? How many will be impossible to find? It’s an interesting snapshot of what has happened in the oceans over the past 200 years.

Make sure you check out the spectacular multimedia presentation that compares the glass versions to the real thing.

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