A sea of glass: searching for the Blaschkas' fragile legacy in an ocean at risk.

A sea of glass: searching for the Blaschkas' fragile legacy in an ocean at risk. Drew Harvell.
A sea of glass: searching for the Blaschkas' fragile legacy in an ocean at risk.

Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016. Octavo, dustwrapper, colour photographs.

It started with a glass octopus. Dusty, broken, and all but forgotten, it caught Harvell's eye and inspired one of the greatest adventures of her life. From diving for dangerous jellyfish in the Mediterranean to searching for harpoon-backed sea slugs in Southeast Asia, A Sea of Glass recounts the author's quest to document the living invertebrates that inspired history's greatest father-son glassmaking team to spin their likeness into glass more than 160 years ago. The story of these artists, Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, whose menagerie of unusual marine creatures was packed away for decades in a Cornell University storage unit, provides a time capsule of life in earlier oceans untouched by climate change and human impacts. A Sea of Glass takes readers beneath the surface to a rarely seen world, introducing them to the surprising and unusual biology of some of the most ancient animals on the tree of life. On the way, we glimpse a century of change in our ocean ecosystems and learn which of the Blaschkas' stunning living counterparts are indeed as fragile as glass. Harvell and the Blaschka menagerie are the subjects of the documentary Fragile Legacy, which won the Best Short Film award at the 2015 Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit.

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