Time Pressed

Seaweed collection circa 1850 Source: Collector's Weekly
Seaweed collection circa 1850
Source: Collector’s Weekly

The Victorians liked collections of all kinds, but those of objects of nature were among the most popular. The bit of the glamour and glory of the great era of exploration could be had in gathering one’s own seashells, or taxidermied animals, or skeletons, or in a version previously unknown to me, seaweed.

Seaweed collections apparently became popular with Victorian ladies around the same time as scrapbooking.

Three pressed seaweed specimens were likely collected near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, by Mary A. Robinson, circa 1885 Source: Collector's Weekly
Three pressed seaweed specimens were likely collected near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, by Mary A. Robinson, circa 1885
Source: Collector’s Weekly

In Fukishima today, work begins on the extraction of over 1500 nuclear fuel rods from the destroyed nuclear power plant there, two-and-a-half years after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the area. The rods have been sitting in storage pools of water – they’ll be removed by crane and robot, and transferred to a more reliable storage facility.

And while the Wikipedia page on ‘Radiation effects from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster‘ cheerfully explains that health and environmental risks from leaked radiation really aren’t all that dire (the page is flagged at the top with a note questioning the neutrality of its content), reports of spills and ongoing leaks don’t inspire much confidence.

And so, 150 years after the samples shown here were collected and pressed for posterity, gathering seaweed along the rim the Pacific Ocean takes on a less picturesque significance, namely that of testing for radiation exposure.

Two identification diagrams from David Landsborough’s “A Popular History of British Seaweeds,” which was first published in 1849. Source: Collector's Weekly
Two identification diagrams from David Landsborough’s “A Popular History of British Seaweeds,” which was first published in 1849.
Source: Collector’s Weekly