This post celebrates a young man called Leopold Blaschka who was very unhappily becalmed on a sailing ship in the Azores in 1853.
The ship was carrying European migrants to a new life in America. Everyone was upset at being stranded in mid ocean but Leopold was also struggling with grief; his wife and child died in 1850 and his father in 1852. To amuse the bored passengers the sailors let down buckets and hauled up deep sea creatures. Leopold, who was an artist and glassblower, was fascinated.
Later he returned to Europe and, with his son from a second marriage, he became famous for making anatomically correct and beautiful glass models. These scientific artworks can be seen in museums around the world. Here are some in Cardiff Museum
I’ve lived in Wales all my life so my first blog is about Wales, my motherland. I love Wales, I relish the soft rain that sweeps over its hills and valleys and the sun that shines over its wonderful beaches. It’s a land full of heroes like Llewellyn the Great who fought English attempts to dominate this small Principality; it’s a land full of stories and music: the mediaeval stories of the Mabinogion and the adventures of Gavin and Stacey, endless songs sung by ancient bards and miners’ choirs. I could go on and on about Wales but I’ll spare you the rugby champions, the ancient language etc. and tell you the disturbing story of my dear old motherland’s youth.
My temperate motherland has a torrid past. The Fossil Swamp, an exhibition in Cardiff Museum https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/10676/The-Fossil-Swamp/ shows that 300 million years ago Wales basked in the heat of the equator, and there she gave birth to monstrous club mosses as tall as oaks and outrageous insects: dragonflies as big as daggers and immense crawling creatures with a disconcerting number of legs. I find it hard to imagine my motherland as a swamp lashed by tropical storms and know the children she bore were so different from those she nurtures today. The evidence is overwhelming though, and has been dug up in Brymbo in North Wales www.brymboheritage.co.uk. Here, under the surface, are the fossils of the plants and animals that once populated the lump of land that is now Wales.
Where will she be in a few million years, what alien creatures will she nourish in a future where all the heroes of Wales will be forgotten, where sheep do not graze and even the familiar hills have been swept away?