Adriaen Coenen's Fish Book (1580)
This research examines an interspecies confluence in the context of the River Thames and its estuarine environment. We have focused on the role oceanic trade has played on the estuary, and examined how its infrastructure acts as a transportation mechanism and node of global connection. Referring specifically to the presence of the Chinese Mitten Crab, a species endemic to China, we have traced how it established itself in the river through accidental introductions connected with Global shipping. Transported through ballast water exchange, the species' arrival and subsequent abundance highlight the unplanned spaces that are tied to, and occupy global logistics and capital flows.
We first present an archive of materials that show the history of Ballast Water as an integral mechanism in global shipping and logistics. Its technologies, architectures, governance structures, and legal frameworks have developed over the 20th Century in order to manage new international currents of water and the species carried with these flows.
Further on, we present material tracing the history of the species - the Chinese Mitten Crab - and its introduction in UK water systems. It is thought to have arrived by ballast water in the River Thames during the first half of the 20th Century. Today it is a thriving species in the river. Recognising this, our research points towards how to imagine alternative futures that acknowledge these negative spaces, entangled within logistics, finance and changing ecosystems. It also considers how to acknowledge the River Thames, and all riverine systems, as complex hydro-social agents, that constantly move material, capital and ecological relations beyond their watersheds, and displace previous nature-culture ideologies in the process.
Agnes Catlow, Drops of Water: Their Marvellous and Beautiful Inhabitants Displayed by the Microscope (London: Reeve and Benham, 1851)
The "Thames 2050 Vision" report by the Thames Estuary Growth Commission features very little content over the ecological composition and alterations that will inevitable take place int he next 30 years. Instead it promotes a form of development that relies upon and is constructed by existing financial frameworks. The role of ballast water and the Chinese Mitten Crab not only provides an example of how these structures are being disturbed but also offers speculation in how to accommodate for these changes, and incorporate indeterminacy into architectural development.
How might the River Thames and its existing inhabitants learn to live with introduced species and build worlds together that embrace Hydro-sociality and new multispecies assemblages?
How does Ballast Water play a role in a new global current? A current that enmeshes water with material and financial trade, and creates a new ecological-economic flow.
How can these international currents be acknowledged and incorporated into the planning and development for new hydrosocial relations? In the context of the River Thames, how can the Mitten Crab species provide an example of the entangled relations of ecological and financial disturbance on a global scale?
How can governmental policy and planning accommodate for these disturbances across the global hydro-social environments and develop architectures that can accommodate porosity and indeterminacy?
Canary Wharf swans