Sounding the sea

Mike O’Brien Maryam Maruf Candida Clark
26 September 2004

“I walked about on the shore, lifting up my hands, and my whole being, as I may say, wrapt up in the contemplation of my deliverance … I cast my eyes to the stranded vessel, when the breach and froth of the sea being so big, I could hardly see it, it lay so far off, and considered, Lord! how was it possible I could get on shore?”

--Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, 1719

Safe place, jumping-off point, point of no return? From boat-burning to beach-building, shark-baiting to soul-seeking on the ultimate ride. Lost cultures, vanishing continents, floating islands and lives revealed by withdrawing tides. It’s all right there at the beach.

As we approach the end of openDemocracy’s Shorelines project, we present a selection of some of the images that have charted the journey that began at the water’s edge.

To accompany you on this aquatic voyage, tune in to the music of the sea, with the first of Mike O’Brien’s soundscapes, Just Waves – made exclusively for openDemocracy – to be followed next week by part two, A Very English Seaside.

Click here to listen

“Shorelines are the border between the two worlds of land and sea. Which came first?” In July-August 2003 openDemocracy’s Shorelines series was launched with Caspar Henderson’s “Shorelines: jumping off” – a two-part essay, charting the myths, science and imagination of the shore...

Man performing puja at the Ganges river, Lynsey Addario “Shorelines: jumping off”

“When I was 10 years old I decided that my life’s course would be upon the ocean.” Amy Prinsloo’s stunning memoir of life onboard a Russian trawler ship and the pity, horror and adventure of the world’s fishing industry, “Girl at sea”...

2. Amy Prinsloo Girl at sea

Fish, David Doubilet “Girl at sea”, August 2004

“I spent most of June 2004 working on a project that might help save the world.” In the beautiful photo-essay “A Pacific Odyssey”, Caspar Henderson visits the republic of Palau for a bit of swimming, snorkelling and some serious coral reef building...

Transporting coral arc “A Pacific Odyssey”, September 2004

“Almost all of the world’s beaches are vanishing.” It’s easy to take a shoreline for granted, but what happens when even the brink begins to crumble? Faced with this dilemma, Tom Goreau, Abdul Azeez Hakeem and Wolf Hilbertz haven’t stood still on the beach – they’ve grown their own: “Growing a beach in the Maldives”...

The eroding beach, piled high with sandbags “Growing a beach in the Maldives”, May 2004

In “Bolivia’s big chill”, young photographer Bec Wingrave steps over South America’s lost shorelines and discovers a landscape of ice and salt. Her pictures, plus offerings from poetic fellow-travellers ...

Lake of ice, Chile, Bec Wingrave “Bolivia’s big chill”, July 2004

“We should w_nder more.” In “Wondering, wandering in a mobile world”, the emotional undercurrents flowing between two near-identical English words fertilise Elly Clarke’s imagination...

Waves, Elly Clarke “Wondering, wandering in a mobile world”, February 2004

“Once visited you take the smell of the sea with you everywhere, for the rest of your life”. On the shores of Long Island, Eva Salzman finds the biggest treasure of all: the sea itself. Poetry and fiction from this prize-winning writer...

Brasil Itacare de Bahia Gilles Favier, 2000 “Long Island sound”, June 2004

“Even in his sleep he longed for the ocean”. Shorelines crosses generations in “The last boat”, an exclusive of sound, photography and storytelling. Hear Candida Clark read from her acclaimed novel of grief and redemption, The Mariner’s Star, while her mother, Sally Heywood, evokes the experience of a once-vibrant Northern English fishing community and remembers “the last of the last”...

Out to sea from Staithes, North Yorkshire, Candida Clark “The last boat”, August 2004

“The shoreline is a place of constant change – a landscape in flux.” Dominic Pote’s photographs surf the dynamic flow where seascape and landscape meet in “Time and motion: catching waves”...

Oceansurf, Dominic Pote “Time and motion: catching waves”, May 2004

At the English seaside the girls Harriet and Hindy walk the shoreline between the Caribbean and Britain – between grey tea, grey donkeys and the grey, grey sky and the vibrant, lost colours of home.“A fair amount of sunshine”, an exclusive extract from Donna Daley-Clarke’s novel-in-progress, A Lazy Eye...

Seagulls “A fair amount of sunshine”, November 2003

India’s parched small farmers are digging for water and hope amidst systemic misuse of the country’s water resources. Acclaimed documentary makers Sanjay Barnela and Vasant Saberwal, and environmentalist poet Maya Khosla explore their plight in “Vanishing shorelines: Hunting Down Water in India”...

Rain dance, still from ‘Hunting Down Water’ “Vanishing shorelines: Hunting Down Water in India”, August 2004

“That’s how we saw the world, sat six inches above the waves.” “From the Belly of the Carp: Singapore river voices” is Roger Vaughan Jenkins’s a moving record of the experiences, stories, and longings of the people who worked on Singapore’s tiny river estuary...

View of Johnstons pier and Hong Kong-Shanghai Bank, 1905 “From the Belly of the Carp: Singapore river voices”, July 2004

“Before light comes: three poems”, the work of Pele Cox, a young English poet, presents a delicate, perceptive view of nature and human entanglements...

Nude, East Sussex, Bill Brandt, 1957 “Before light comes: three poems”, June 2004

“Nobody in de world kin dive like we”. Sienna Miller’s life on the edge of The Silent, the lagoon far below her island village, starts to shift with the arrival of two white strangers. “A Different Ocean”, Jacob Ross’s haunting story of belonging and self-discovery...

Sunset, Jacob Ross “A Different Ocean”, October 2003

From reef paths to shining beaches, his native Florida to Canary Islands birthplace, Ryall Mills lives for surfing. Forever “In search of the perfect wave”, he shares the beauty, the passion, and the business of being “inside the tube”...

Lucky man “In search of the perfect wave”, September 2003

“If there is a God / She lives under the sea”. Dip your toes in the South China Sea with Wavelines, a stunning exhibition of life beneath Malaysia’s Perhentian and Redang Islands. With journalist Angela Goh, photographer Ellen Butler and poet Mano Maniam – “The world of sea: underwater photographs from Malaysia”...

In the first phase of the moon, Ellen Butler “The world of sea: underwater photographs from Malaysia”, July 2004

“Most foreigners think that Hungary is a landlocked country”. For Zsuzsanna Ardó, Lake Balaton is a place of remembered pleasures of childhood, motherhood, and national belonging in “A circular shoreline: the Hungarian sea”...

Balaton trio, Zsuzsanna Ardó “A circular shoreline: the Hungarian sea”, September 2004

And that’s not all. Before Shorelines there was Hair, and openDemocracy’s first piece of audio: “Hairiness sounds like this”.

Will COVID break up the UK?

Support for Scottish independence is at record levels. Support for a united Ireland is at record levels. Support for Welsh independence is at record levels.

The British state's management of the COVID crisis has widely been seen as disastrous. Will the pandemic accelerate the break-up of the United Kingdom?

Join us on Thursday 6 August at 5pm UK time/6pm CET for a live discussion.

Hear from:

Anthony Barnett Founder of openDemocracy, he has often written about the need for a progressive England to emerge from the shadow of Britain.

Allison Morris Security correspondent and columnist with the Irish News, and an analyst of politics in Northern Ireland.

Harriet Protheroe-Soltani Trade union organiser for Wales and the south-west, vice chair of the campaign group Momentum, and has written about rising support for Welsh independence on the Left.

Chair: Adam Ramsay Editor at openDemocracy and frequent writer about Scottish independence, most recently in The Guardian.

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