De Vos, “Extinction in a Distant Land”; de Vos, “Inundation, Extinction, and Lacustrine Lives.”, E/V Nautilus, “Marine researchers stumble upon a whale carcass during live-streamed deep-sea dive.”, Mitchell, “Decolonizing against Extinction.”, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. A train driver’s life was saved by a giant whale tale after his train crashed through the barriers at the end of the track. Returning then to the problem of shared ground, I suggest a correlate notion of “suspended ground.” This notion brings together philosopher Mick Smith’s rethinking of an ethics of encounter in relation to unknown soil extinctions16 and Stacy Alaimo’s concept of “suspension” to see how the ethographic approach might be understood as open to encounters with what we might awkwardly call the unencounterable. The carriage is now still suspended 10 metres above a footpath at De Akkers metro station in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam. browser that Instead the focus is on individual species and isolated representatives. On the sea floor, these carcasses can create complex localized ecosystems that supply sustenance to deep-sea organisms for decades. It has been suggested that the extinct species in question are less likely to be specialist scavengers—since these are usually able to eat a range of resources—and more likely to be in the sulphophilic and opportunist stages (Craig Smith, pers. }, author={Craig R Smith and Adrian G. Glover and Tina Treude and Nicholas D. Higgs and Diva J. Amon}, journal={Annual review of marine science}, year={2015}, … Butman, Carlton, and Palumbi, “Whales Don’t Fall Like Snow,” 656. This article developed out of the second workshop of the Extinction Studies Working Group in Margaret River, Western Australia, that was held in 2016. Alternatively, the whale fall may be too recent to allow sufficient time for vesicomyid colonization. Michelle Bastian; Whale Falls, Suspended Ground, and Extinctions Never Known. A subway train in the Netherlands was saved from a spectacular crash when it burst through buffers and landed on an artwork in the shape of a whale tail. Rose, “Connectivity Thinking, Animism, and the Pursuit of Liveliness,” 495. With the increasing interest in thinking more critically about the oceans within the humanities and social sciences, a wide range of scholars have explored how the oceans threaten, rework and re-form Western conceptual frameworks through the different ontologies they offer.77 Given our interests here in multispecies interrelationality and responsibilities that occur beyond knowledge and encounter, Stacy Alaimo’s account of a transcorporeal ethics thought through the deep sea is particularly useful. McCorristine and Adams, “Ghost Species,” 107; van Dooren, Flight Ways, 7; Meier, Frers, and Sigvardsdotter, “The Importance of Absence,” 426. Jelmert and Oppen-Berntsen, “Whaling and Deep-Sea Biodiversity.”. However, far from the lofty goal of curing significant diseases, in an effort to demonstrate the economic potential of preserving these ecosystems the articles I have read so far can end up awkwardly talking about whale-fall bacteria as “a novel source of cold-adapted enzymes of potential utility in cold-water detergents.”91 What this suggests is that the fact of the failure of human knowledge in the face of unknown extinctions does not reliably challenge humanist narratives of progress and economic success and the fragmentation they encourage. Dolly Jørgensen has explored the trope of the “endling” and the mobilization of the “last of a species” to shape understandings of the extinction crisis as well as the way dominant extinction narratives have sought to reduce the uncertainty around “the last” to secure a decision around species absence.3 Extinction stories arising from within de-extinction efforts have also been challenged, and read in various ways including as “narcissistic attachments” or charismatic fantasies.4 Work in “spectral geographies” has been particularly fruitful, with an interest in how processes of extirpation and extinction produce ghostly landscapes of haunting and absence.5, This article arises from my involvement in the Extinction Studies Working Group, which has largely approached the storying of extinction via a further approach, that of “lively ethography.”6 Thom van Dooren and Deborah Bird Rose have described this as “an approach grounded in an attentiveness to the evolving ways of life (or ēthea; singular: ethos) [hence ethography] of diverse forms of human and nonhuman life and in an effort to explore and perhaps restory the relationships that constitute and nourish them.”7 Here the emphasis has been on the need for a storytelling that foregrounds the involvements species have in complex, relational forms of life. The recognition that is central to the ecological animism underpinning the ethographical approach is not possible in any straightforward way here.76 Thus rather than a shared ground, we are brought into a state of not knowing. This line of thinking might help to overcome the argument that extinction is ‘too large,’ ‘unthinkable’ and thus too unrelatable to engender meaningful collective human responses.”104 Responding adequately to processes of extinction may indeed start from the specifics of encounters, however, reading Rose’s work (in particular) through Smith’s suggests that the shared ground that Rose centers in her account is one that brings with it a suspension that escapes recognition and mutual knowing. Smith et al., “Whale-Fall Ecosystems,” 589. A local safety board spokesman told broadcaster NOS: ‘We are trying to decide how we can bring the train down in a careful and controlled manner.’. . A team of researchers stumbled upon a "whale fall," a carcass of a baleen whale, during a live-streamed deep-sea dive. Smith and Baco, “Ecology of Whale Falls at the Deep-Sea Floor,” 329. However, these appearances have rarely—if ever—been accompanied by the recognition that these sites of newly discovered life are also the sites of newly discovered anthropogenic extinctions. Sitting in a hotel room in Gothenburg, preparing for a meeting with this colleague, I read Craig R. Smith and Amy Baco’s article “Ecology of Whale Falls at the Deep-Sea Floor,” and found the following speculation: “both whale-fall specialists and some more generalised components of reducing-habitat faunas may have been driven to extinction due to massive loss of whale-fall habitats over the past 200 yr.”39 So here I was, brought vicariously to an extinction story, via random curiosity, chance meetings, interdisciplinary efforts to build connections across isolated disciplines, and the political economies of new environmental humanities programs that funded these networking possibilities. Many of these calls are framed in terms of the potential uses for humans that are being lost, such as the possibility of a cure for cancer. As mentioned above, researchers working on whale-fall ecosystems have claimed that these proposed extinctions may be “the first anthropogenic species extinctions in the deep sea.”56 While extinction stories that focus on lasts or firsts can be problematic—for example the notion of endlings or the “firsts” hoped for from de-extinctions57—this particular first marks a significant expansion in reach of the processes producing the sixth mass extinction. A whale fall is a phrase used to describe a cetacean's carcass that has settled in the abyssal or bathyal zone, that is, deeper than 3,300 feet in the ocean floor. Whale carcasses create long-lived, ecologically significant habitats that support diverse and highly specialized ‘whale fall’ communities, and which may have been critical in the dispersal and evolution of chemosymbiotic communities during the Cenozoic1,2. When whales die in the ocean, their bodies eventually sink to the bottom. When the whale is reduced primarily to bones, there is a sulfophilic stage where creatures such as Osedax, also known as snot worms or bone worms, participate with their internal symbionts in anaerobic microbial decomposition. There was a blow of two to three seconds. This article thus represents my efforts to wrestle with the problem of whether unknown extinctions can be storied from within this frame. Van Dooren and Rose, “Lively Ethography,” 90. She writes that “dreams of modernization and progress” are frames that “sort out those parts of the present that might lead to the future. A scientist from the University of Gothenburg immediately answered, “whale falls,” and directed me to his colleague, a taxonomist who had a particular interest in deep-sea fauna. The ocean's depths are supplied by nutrients falling down from the surface waters. Further, far from adhering to the punctuating temporality of the death of the last or the cloning of a first, this deep-sea extinction process epitomizes what van Dooren has termed the “dull edge of extinction.”58 Indeed, the process of breaking down the remains of great whales does not happen quickly. While their suggested writing strategies center on particular embodied encounters, they also write that their commitment to an ecological animism “is the cultivation of a kind of openness towards the world,” one where we do not “assume that we know, that we could know, all of the ways in which our world is lively and responsive.”111 Further, in “Slowly,” while Rose emphasizes fidelity to the specific encounter, her conception of fidelity also “asserts that that which is here on earth not only exceeds human understanding but is pervasively mysterious. Mitchell, “Beyond Biodiversity and Species,” 38. What does seem clear though is that, in all likelihood, these ecosystems have been the site of the first anthropogenic extinction in the deep sea due to the loss of habitat caused by significantly reduced numbers of “falling” whales. The difficulty in determining who or what these extinct creatures might have been creates a troubling “unknown extinction.” Unlike many of the creatures discussed in the works cited above, the unknowability of these extinctions does not consist of uncertainties over whether known species have really been lost, as in the recurrent sightings of the Tasmanian tiger, but something else. Whale-fall ecosystems: recent insights into ecology, paleoecology, and evolution. This is because, like the selectivity of known extinctions that have been critiqued for the lack of attention to the “unloved others” that are sidelined in stories of individual charismatic species loss,87 among unknown extinctions there are also some that are loved more than others. This is because “there is a sense in which the Other always calls us out of the world with which we are familiar to insist that there is more, infinitely more, than initially appears to be the case, more than we know, see, or understand.”101 Under this account the ethical event becomes “the appearing significance of an Other that immediately transcends that appearance.”102 An ecological ethics in this case suggests that a community of mutualism and interdependence, must also always be a community that grounds itself within the recognition that “what appears to us is not all that appears.”103 As a result, and as Audra Mitchell argues, this “approach suggests that . As van Dooren writes, inasmuch as this approach helps to “thicken” our understandings of other creatures’ lifeways, this increase in knowledge can potentially draw “us into new kinds of relationships and, as a result, new accountabilities to others.”23 That is, the aim is to expose “readers to their lives and deaths in a way that might give rise to genuine care and concern.”24 Another aspect, emphasized particularly in Rose’s work, is the importance to the story of situated and embodied encounters. This suggests that stories of unknown extinction have important work to do in raising awareness around the complex impacts of industrial whaling and what is at stake in current conservation efforts. Crucially, he challenged the neglect of study of the kind of cascades I had being wondering about, noting that “the excreta and dead bodies of larger animals do not appear to have been seriously considered as food of the bottom fauna.”42 Fifty or so years later oceanographer Craig Smith and his team were able to announce in Nature that through the use of a deep submergence research vessel off the coast of California they had discovered a decomposing carcass of a fin or blue whale which had “produced a microhabitat distinct from the surrounding . Crucially, reconsidering ethographies of extinction from suspended ground can help sensitize us to the ways Rose and van Dooren’s texts already make room for the unknown. . Whale falls thus pose particular questions for the lively approach to storying extinction. whale-carcass implantation experiments, conducted off southern California, to study whale-fall community ecology and phylogenetics (Smith 1992, Smith et al. Drawing on numbers, lists, and population counts, McVay marshaled together graphs of numbers of whales caught in units of thousands, catch records that fall off precipitously, and specimen illustrations drawn to scale. Yet central to the ethographic approach are notions of encounter, recognition, and detailed knowledge, not just for creating the extinction story, but—crucially—for developing a “shared ground” as the basis of the ethical import of these stories—aspects that I will discuss in more detail below. Corpus ID: 82165239. In my own efforts within this area, I have been particularly inspired by Rose’s account of the ethics of writing in a time of extinctions in her article “Slowly ∼ Writing into the Anthropocene.” In it she states that “unmaking is going on all around us these days” and asks “what a scholarly writer might do in the face of all this anthropogenic disaster.”27 Rose argues that resisting this unmaking involves resisting the kinds of thinking fostered by modernity. For Smith, retaining the moment of encounter in our everyday lives is necessary, as it is for Rose, and he emphasizes, in conversation with Max Scheler and Emmanuel Levinas, that beings become “morally significant” not because of the identification of instrumental benefits (whale falls “the detergent edition”) or an abstract frame that requires formally proving that these unloved unknowns fall within a preset category that counts as “significant” (e.g., as animate beings), but because of an experience of what Scheler calls “fellow feeling.” This experience of feeling “noninstrumental concern for Others”—does start from a specific appearance of the other, however he notes that for Scheler in attending to feelings of ethical concern “we also open ourselves to other (potentially unlimited) ethical possibilities that flow within and can change the patterns of significance that constitute what matters to us.”97 Using the example of an imagined encounter with the last wild Lady’s Slipper Orchid remaining in Britain, Smith notes the potential for an experience of being struck by the spectacle and beauty of the flower but suggests that for Scheler, there is then also the possibility of experiencing the flower not only as distinct from us “but also as a being that is never fully comprehensible.”98 Delving into the suspension that remains part of the encounter with the orchid, he suggests we might learn more about rhizomes, mycorrhizal fungi, and the specificities of this soil community, and this landscape, that have enabled a continuing habitat for this particular orchid. 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