Siphonophores are wonderous marine creatures. They are made up of individual parts, known as zooids, each of which perform important functions. Last week, from the 21-24 September, the northern side of the United Nations Secretariat building was illuminated at a height of over 150 meters. Between 8 and 11 p.m. a Siphonophore projection performed a unique and graceful dance called “Vertical Migration”.
The aim was to draw attention to the Siphonophores´ global importance in its contribution to removing carbon out of our atmosphere. During the night, when these animals hide from their predators, they rise to the ocean's surface and bite off carbon-rich organisms. When the sun rises, they return to the twilight zone, taking the carbon with them into the deep.
This so-called mesopelagic zone is highly underestimated. Even though the creatures inhabiting this zone are popular feeding grounds for Tuna and Swordfish, their activity in consuming and thereby removing carbon from the atmosphere is crucial.
Estimations suggest that this activity captures between two and six billion tonnes of carbon in the twilight zone annually. Peter de Menocal, director of the Institute of Oceanography was quoted as saying: “ if siphonophoric activity were to disappear, atmospheric carbon dioxide would increase by more than 50 percent. These organisms make Earth habitable!”
This visual projection was created by the Danish art collective “Superflex” for the United Nations Climate Week of 2021.
In 2019, artists from Superflex found these unusual creatures in the Coral Sea near the northern coast of Australia during a campaign organised by the TBA21 academy. The goal of this academy is to explore the ocean through art in order to protect it and raise public awareness.
The animation lasted 20 minutes and lured the viewer in to watch a mesmerizing dance. The screening of this short film coincided with the meeting of the international delegates of the UN, in which human-accelerated climate change was discussed.
Parallel to “Vertical Migration”, Superflex hosted another exhibition which took place in Central Park, New York. They called it “Interspecies Assembly”. It depicts a circle of pink marble upon which the words of a contract are engraved. This engraving states that, “by entering the circle of stones, you accept the contract which is to stay idle for at least five minutes”. The pink marble represents the coralline algae, which coral polyps feed upon thereby endowing the reef with its beautiful colours. Upon entering the circle, it is a prerequisite to be still and quiet, and in the midst of this peaceful stillness, listen and mentally connect with the many faceted and fabulous inhabitants of our ocean.
Let us have faith, that by raising enough awareness, the public will be able to motivate global leaders into taking action to end global warming and preserve our planet Earth!