Beauty, Photogenic Bergs and Ugly Boats

We currently have some icebergs grounded near Fort Amherst I decided to walk over there and take a picture of them before they break up and melt. On the way up the path to the lighthouse I saw a suction cutter dredging vessel coming in. It’s name got me thinking of the complex interplay between design and serendipity that we call beauty.

St. John’s harbour is guarded by majestic, steep sandstone hills.
The small sheltered passage you go through is called, appropriately, the narrows.
Harbour pilots mostly bring the ocean-going ships in through
the sheer cliffs, steering skillfully and straight, their paths resembling arrows.

So on the way to Amherst to see a few grounded bergs
it was no surprise to see the pilot boat steaming in.
But then when I saw its charge, chugging along, just a bit behind
its ironic name gave me cause to grin.

Leonardo Da Vinci -- what an ironic name for such an UGLY ship!

Leonardo Da Vinci — what an ironic name for such an UGLY ship!

A suction cutter is built to shape the harbour bottom to meet a particular need
but no thought goes in to making beauty a part of its design.
How Ironic to be named for one known as a master of paint and stone!
Ugly; squat and asymmetric; covered in rust caused by meeting of steel and brine.

Then cresting the hill by the lighthouse, crafted beauty in mind
I was greeted by a sight you do not see every day.
Some objects laid there by humanity, others through nature’s hand.
A complex web of beauty, where design and chaos interplay.

Some bergs viewed from Fort Amherst

Some icebergs viewed from the lighthouse at Fort Amherst. Cape spear is in the background.

The bergs are constantly eroding. Not only are they melting away, but, from time to time whole pieces will crack and slide off leaving an angular appearance. Bergs can even founder; roll right over. It’s not a good idea to get close to them at all.

That reminds me of two pairs of words that are often misused:

  • Founder vs. Flounder. It is correct to say that a ship or an iceberg founders, meaning it capsizes, rolls over or sinks. People often incorrectly say “flounder.” That’s a flatfish; despite the odd shape, they’re pretty graceful in their own way; no rolling or capsizing! It’s worth noting that the misuse is becoming so prevalent it’s approaching legitimacy. Languages evolve; new meanings are adopted.
  • Scuttle vs. Scupper. To scuttle a vessel means to intentionally sink it. In wartime you’d do this to prevent an enemy from using it. In peacetime you’d do this to fraudulently claim the insurance. These days it’s come to mean much the same thing as performing an act of sabotage. People often substitute the word “scupper” incorrectly, though, as in, “Oh, they’re going to scupper that deal.” intending to metaphorically state they’re intentionally going to end it. To bad it’s just plain wrong. A scupper is a nautical term, yes, but it refers to the opening on the side of the deck that lets excess water run off; thus keeping the vessel from foundering. Ironic, eh?
Pieces of ice that fall off leave an angular sculpture behind.

Pieces of ice that fall off leave an angular sculpture behind. It’s mostly white, indicating that what we see has been out of the water for some time.

So then, I thought as I continued on my way
maybe the beauty is in what it does, not how it seems.
Leo the first had his tools to sculpt and paint
and Leo the second, powerful motors and cutters set out on beams.

Leo the first had brushes and paint  on canvas or chisels on stone
Leo the second, too, has tools that suit his needs
and each, in its own way fashions beauty by design–
marvelous works; no matter whether spawned by love, avarice or greed.

The big guy. This one was in the previous post.

The big guy. This one was in the previous post; around 250,000 tonnes now.  The smaller bits fell off Saturday morning with what sounded like an explosion. The bluish cast indicates that the part we see was recently under water. It probably foundered recently.

But still, for me the greatest beauty of all–
that which leaves us breathless, filled with wonder and awe
seems to be where design and nature meet;
transient works; fusion of thought and nature’s many laws.

Still no whales 😦

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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10 Responses to Beauty, Photogenic Bergs and Ugly Boats

  1. Mary says:

    Yes – that da Vinci ship with all its industrial gears, cranes and rust really does contrast with the pristine bergs!

  2. Nice images … nice word-play. I especially appreciated the etymological digressions. I have heard the first pair turned up-side-down … but never the second, I will watch for it. D

    • Thanks! We’re heading back to rdf (rain, drizzle and fog) for a few days now. I figure I’ll tackle the laundry instead of gadding around ☺. Are you into Sumner mode now at work?

  3. Tiny says:

    The bergs are truly photogenic! Still no whales but beautiful enough! Or ugly. I smiled at the slightly inappropriate name of the ship.

  4. elkement says:

    I think had I just seen the image of the lighthouse and the ice berg on social media – I had figured this must have been photoshopped!!

    Yes – it is an interesting observation that this ship is so ugly. Probably the builders thought of Leonardo’s drawings of inventions….pulleys, levers, mechanics…? Quite far-fetched though.

    I wonder when pieces of ugly machinery finally get “designed” – when there is competition and/or people are considering this thing a personal item to be shown off? I am thinking of the way computers and phones changed and how even internet routers are looking sleek today. There are even some startups who design attractively looking batteries (for solar panels) now – intended to be put up in the living-room like a piece of art.

    • Elke–I think you hit it right on the head. It’s not far-fetched at all, in fact it makes perfect sense; the vessel does resemble one of Leonardo’s drawings and I bet that’s the root of the name!
      And as for how aesthetics creeps in, I believe you are totally right. At first things tend t emphasize function but then, as time goes on and the functional improvements become more and more then teh aesthetics play an increasing role.
      I was thinking of Steve Jobs and how he always seemed to put overall design right down the middle. Most (not all, for sure, Apple and Next had flops) of his designs seemed to put overall stability and usability into a nice-looking package. Too bad not everyone does that.

  5. tw says:

    Beautiful, all except Leonardo Da Vinci… I’m not sure that ship was ever beautiful. Then again I guess it’s meant to be functional and Operational whereas the bergs simply ride the ocean like icy clouds in a sky blue sea.

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