Angela Cockayne

The Whale as Muse

No Ecocide Permitted Here

How to make a bitter truth more palatable? It would seem that despite the fact that we are super intelligent apes, we are collectively unwise beings. We appear to have evolved to not worry too much about the future, preferring the low hanging fruit, live now pay later mentality. Unfortunately as our elders and many species innately know that in order to survive we must ‘think like mountains’ into the future, and plan ahead for future generations in order to maintain our presence in the gene pool.

We have known for 200 years the damage we are causing to our environment, the atmosphere, the air we breathe, the water and food we consume, but as yet have failed utterly to divert from our current trajectory of climate catastrophe and ensuing annihilation of all life form, by our ecocidal pursuit of energy, from carbon emitting fossil fuels.

The ‘truth’ we are protected from by governments who have failed to act on our behalf and that of future generations is so overwhelmingly bleak it has become almost bitterly unpalatable and impossible to comprehend. We are now in the desperate situation of a self-made mass extinction event. Climate change is happening, it will get worse and civilisation, social progress as we know it will collapse.

We need courage not hope, to urgently and radically transform our lives if we are to have any chance to limit the effects of famines, wars, plagues, wildfires, flooding, extreme weather events, and mass migration across what is about to become an increasingly uninhabitable world, in the not too distant future.

A terrifying terra incognita awaits us all if we, (and the governments we elect) continue to ignore the climate reality, put growth, economy, and business as usual, and fail to address the science, which predicts uninhabitable rising temperatures and sea levels, that cannot sustain future generations. The planet will become atmospherically toxic for all life form, and the biodiversity on which we all coexist and depend.

To grieve is to love, we must stop, wake up, think, talk, and act on behalf of our children, and their children, or continue to accept our ecological fate, heads in the sand.

Embrace A Film By Angela Cockayne & Raphaella Fearns

Microsoft Word - EXHIBITION newlyn.docxFilm now available on vimeo 8 Mins

Yale Interview On Ark Embrace

macro film

Interview 20 mins

Embrace the Future

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The ‘Ark’ is now empty, you are warmly invited to nominate something, someone, an idea, or a species to preserve. The door is open ready to ‘Embrace’ your nominations in this digital vessel of delight and curiosity.

Preserve today for all our tomorrows in an ethical, waterproof cabinet of curiosity. All creatures great and small welcome on board and ideas worth sharing. Your chance to help fill this wooden /virtual vessel with ideas, favourite and wonderful things that need protecting and safeguarding for the future. Message me to include your nomination.

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#workinprogress  #publicart #ArkEmbrace

live link

Sharkish Talk

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It is now thought that there has been a fifty percent loss of the global population of animals during the last fifty years. This fills me with a sense of shame, sadness, guilt, and grief, knowing it happened during my lifetime on ‘my watch’ and that somehow even only minutely, like everyone else I’m implicated in this.

At the rate we are going (the loss of biodiversity; 30,000 species a year) this will have a catastrophic effect on our own species.

We cannot reverse as yet the Co2 emissions released over the last 100 years but we could try and restrict it’s impact. It is a huge challenge for all humanity to try and live more ethically, responding to the impact of climate change.

Unpalatable truths, but it seems like the ‘Tide of time has come for sharkish talk’ if we are to avoid a looming environmental catastrophe. In the same way we are now beginning to address civil-rights, gender inequality and abuse, we urgently need to stand up on a massive collective scale to form a new global consciousness responding to climate breakdown and species loss; a cross -generational environmental revolution that supports and allows the environment and biodiversity to replenish. ‘Nature’ is incredible, it is also mutable, it will rupture perhaps to become a world we can no longer exist in, if we continue to abuse it. We are hardwired to pick the low hanging fruit but we are also self-aware and need to resist if we want our environment, bio-diversity and our own species to continue to flourish.

It has become morally imperative and we need to elect responsible  governments to take collective action on our behalf. The land is pillaged and traded for fossil fuels; oil, gas and coal which pollutes the air we breathe. The oceans have become an unsustainable larder, dump and sewer. We must collectively respect ‘our’ natural environment and resources, because they don’t belong to us, they never did.

Twenty five years ago scientists signed a warning to humanity claiming it was no longer a viable option to consume on a infinite scale. Mother nature is unwell we to need to protect ‘our’ oceans, ‘our’ soil, ‘our’ trees  ‘our’ water, the air we breathe and above all the fellow species with whom we share the planet.  We have behaved like they belong to us for generations selling them to the highest bidder, so perhaps it’s ‘times up’ to take some moral respsonsibility for them.

As custodians if we owe a debt to the past we can only repay that to tomorrow’s world. It is our moral obligation to try and leave the world in a better state than we found it for our children but sadly this no longer seems the case for my generation. We must embrace the future or forget the future doing nothing is no longer an option.

Collectively we must urgently elect governments who will prioritise environment over profit before the effects of global warming become irreversible. We seem to be throwing the baby out with bathwater, without a safe environment to live in GDP and economic growth are meaningless. The persistence of governments to ignore climate change will be globally genocidal.

Small deeds can form a global consciousness

Protest against government inaction on environment

Vote for environmental policy

Buy clean energy

Think sustainably

Consume less

Reduce Reuse and Repair

Resist Revolt & Rewild

Travel strategically, plan to combine tasks

Save energy, unplug when not in use

Lower your thermostat

Save water

Shop local/Think Global

Eat less protein/ meat /dairy

Grow your own food

Ban the use of pesticides

Incentivise sustainable energy

Recycle more

Avoid plastic

Garden for wildlife

Protect habitat restore ecosystems

Trade skills and produce with friends

Limit population growth (a difficult one, I have three children )

Shower less, we were born to smell

Wear clothes for longer

Alternatively hide under a barrel, go swimming, or dance like there is no tomorrow.



its later mix smThere have been five mass extinctions in the last half a billion years; scientists today are currently monitoring the current. Asteroid impact is believed to account for the last ; dinosaur extinction, but this time evidence suggests the sixth mass extinction could be preventable as the cataclysm is ‘man made’ and caused by our own impact upon our environment.

Scientists now believe that the sixth mass extinction probably began fifty years ago through overharvesting, habitat destruction, pollution, global warming, alien displacement and human overpopulation. After 4 billion years of evolution, human activities and influences are accelerating the rate of species extinction at an alarming rate.

It has been reported that animal population across the planet has decreased by 80% since 1900. 50% of animals have been wiped off the face of the earth in the last fifty years alone. The ‘normal ‘ expected rate of extinction is 200 species a year; a current estimate is 30,000 species a year. At the current rate of deforestation we have ten years left of the Amazon rainforest, and on our current trajectory only 30 years to fishless oceans.

We have known for over one hundred years that carbon dioxide and man made emissions are harmful to our environment yet we have failed to act on this, even the media prefer to fuel the controversy about its ‘potential’ ever increasing devastating impact, rather than confront the scientific evidence. The oceans like the Amazon rain forests, filter two thirds of the oxygen we breathe. Acidification though sea temperatures rising, is harming vital microscopic plankton for the air we breathe.

Unfortunately it appears that we must wait for a catastrophe greater than the famines in Africa, melting ice caps, radio-active fallouts even more dramatic than the post apocalyptic movies, before we are able to face up to the problems our impact and proliferation has caused for all life form on the planet.

We are I believe at a pivotal point in history, nature will address the balance but perhaps to a world with out mankind if we do not face up to our responsibilities on an collective and international scale. The map is man made we must act beyond territories and plan a future that accommodates for biodiversity, sustainability and an environment for all life to flourish.

In the scheme of things, the blink of 100 years, we seem to have plundered the planet, and continue on a course to potentially devastate our own habitat, a paradise that took billions of years to evolve. Our own future like that of many species may hang in the balance if we continue to consume unsustainably in a finite system, our dominion may also be our downfall.

We have a moral responsibility to protect biodiversity, and time is running out. It is imperative we eliminate Co2 emissions the cause of global warming and climate change and act collectively to stop this catastrophe of our own making… before its too late.

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embrace *mute

It is five hundred years since the Wunderkammer housed a united field of interdisciplinary enquiry, in an age before disciplines became separate under museums of science, nature and art. Fifty years ago CP Snow’s lecture on ‘Two Cultures’ mourned such separation; Edward O Wilson’s recent call echoed the desire for consilience of disciplines through a unity of knowledge.

Perhaps through a reunification, of art, science and nature, exploring a curious even subversive gaze we can confront the sceptical and represent the undeniable evidence of our trajectory through wonderment and engaging visual narratives to reflect upon our actions.

A new short film called Embrace will be screened from 7 November-2 Dec at Newlyn Art Gallery based on an ethical wunderkammer which documents some of the 300 objects installed in a retired wooden fishing vessel. Filmed on midsummers day the film has been described by the author Philip Hoare as ‘A Reliquary of our Age’

Using found materials on Cornish shorelines this interdisciplinary mix of objects, drawings and performance explores a consilience of mythological narrative and ecological concerns through our relationship with the sea, the land and the liminal space in between.

‘Angela Cockayne’s chimeric creations entirely from found materials: the only art we can afford to make in the 21st century?  This work is transcendently beautiful as well as being urgently relevant’ Philip Hoare




Beware Thyself

Fear helps us to stay alive, we are hardwired to react to uncertain and fearful situations. Constant anxiety on the other hand is less good for our health.

We do however seem to be living in an uncertain age where the mass media daily feeds our anxieties for political or corporate gain to the point of saturation.

We can become weary to bad news and made to feel guilty about good fortune and our environmental footprint.

We may no longer fear the bogeyman or the stranger in town, we are too busy worrying about perpetual wars, global warming, government corruption, terrorism, cybercrime, economic collapse let alone our own families, jobs, health or injustice.

It turns out perhaps we should stop worrying so much about the things we have little or no control over, and be more aware of own lifestyles and choices. According to the Atlantic, 2015 was the best year in history to be alive.

Recent american statistics show number of deaths daily within ‘self-control’ compared to 43 murders a day.

890 deaths daily caused by obesity, 241 deaths daily caused by drinking, and 1315 deaths a day related to smoking. 129 suicides a day, 129 accidental overdoses, 97 deaths a day by car accidents.

From Herman Melville’s prophetic masterpiece Moby-Dick

Collectively the stakes are much higher with the environment and the threat of nuclear war again. All we can do is individually try and act responsibly and sustainably and hope that the people we elect to govern us do so with self control. Being kind to others, oneself and our environment for our future generations to enjoy seems a better option than to live in a state constant anxiety.

Propensity for self-destruction

After I finally finished reading Melville’s profoundly prophetic, postmodern and brilliant Moby-Dick (which took three attempts) I was left with the after taste of our fallible propensity for self -destruction.   beware mix sm

I wake up daily to the news, and only this morning hear that Trump has been flying his military might again over the Pacific and fear that nothing has changed despite all our centennial memorials to horrific wars and heartbreaking testaments thinking how did we ever let this happen. Surely we must have learnt something??

Only yesterday I visited a beautiful stately home in Cornwall now part of our collective guilt as it is owned by the National Trust. Inside the mournful house and bucolic grounds I counted along with all the wide-eyed children worryingly doing their quiz activity- a tragic collection of endangered species;


Leopard skin rug x 1


Tiger skin x 2 (or was it 3  ask the children)

Polar Bear x1  (infant)


Moose x 1


Chough x4


Trophy heads and taxidermy a plenty. Even stuffed mice left in traps in the kitchen and servants quarters a curiosity for debate and spectacle.



On reading the supplied blurb of the ten children born to inherit the house, the son and heir also succumbed to the bullet and was also shot.. in WW1 and the younger brother never getting over this committed suicide at a later date leaving the stunning pile without an heir (as daughters non-eligible).

The house is sorrowful everywhere you look, beautiful and privileged sad-eyed children stare from their portraits- full potentials never realised. Glass-eyed Endangered Animals scattered in nurseries and lounges for them to play on a testament to our dominion.

Somethings have changed thankfully even the NH Museum no longer shoots and stuffs animals. World leaders might do well to think more like Moby-Dick rather than Ahab. Sperm Whales have the power to nuke each other with the sonic booms by which they hunt giant squid, but with no castles to defend for sixty million years they choose to live a more sociable existence despite our best efforts to annihilate them.

Warmongers likewise would do better to put down their toys and stop showing each other their nuclear might. The chosen few may sleep better at night knowing they have access to nuclear resistant jets, bunkers with shops, hairdressers, swimming pools and sufficient supplies. But they need to seriously consider the incomprehensibly significant consequences of potential nuclear or biological military action.

There will be no winners in the use of Weapons of mass destruction.
A nuclear or biological war would not just eradicate both ‘enemies’ and civilisation as we know it, but also the plants, pollinators, animals, and microorganisms that facilitate our existence – food, clean air and water.

Who would want to live on this earthly paradise without all creatures great and small that enable our very existence?.

Or perhaps the Sabre rattling and the chosen, have an unlimited supply of insects, bacteria, earthworms, plankton and pollinators in rich supply in their underground bunkers.. a grave prospect either way



Is it later than we think?

Scaring people about climate change does not work. My own brain shuts down at the  prospect of the earth slowly dying. Mother Nature is unwell due to our impact on the environment a fact we have known  for over 100 years but have failed to act upon. Pollution, climate change, habitat destruction, over-consumption caused by human population is having a radical impact on our environment and long-term future. Environmentalists are being assassinated – 97 campaigners so far in 2017  Global Witness. America pulls out of the Paris Accord !!? We fight perpetual wars over power  finance, and resources.

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Is it hopeless? – even worrying about the prospects of an uninhabitable earth, famines, economic collapse is paralysing. Our understanding dictates whether we reach for the cookie jar, bury our heads in the sand at the enormity, or choose to act responsibly.

“In pushing other species to extinction humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches” – Paul Ehrlich


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Can humanity and nature be reconciled and work in unison and harmony – not against each other?. The sixth mass extinction may have begun but hopefully we are still within reach of turning the Imperialist vessel that has driven climate change around.

Accepting the damage we are doing is step one to transforming our environment for all our tomorrows. We must embrace the incredible opportunities – think and act long-term to become carbon neutral and employ best sustainable practice so that nature can begin to heal herself.






We have more in common with whales than zebras



Flippers, Pewter, Crayfish and Wool.

10,000 years of “civilisation” cannot offset several million years of evolution and hunter-gathering, perhaps we now live a life that is, in many ways, at odds with our genetic inheritance.

The call of the ocean has dominated much of my life, new scientific evidence suggests our hunter gathering, fishing, seafood craving and water gazing love of the ocean,  may be explained beyond a mere ‘yearning’ for the ocean. Evidence found suggests our early ancestors may have lived a semi-aquatic life in our evolutionary past and we have evolved from an aquatic ape. Archeologists have recently discovered fossil evidence to prove this theory known as the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis(AAH).

When people spend long periods of time in the water e.g. surfers a condition develops where a flap of skin forms to protect the inner ear from water known as ‘Surfers ear,’ evidence of this has recently been found in Neanderthal skulls. This and evidence of marine diets found in the archaeological sites of Homo Erectus may explain how our big brain developed through a shoreline diet and the adaptations required for a life aquatic . Scientists are now acknowledging that our bipedalism may also be associated with a semi-aquatic life rather than the Savanna Theory previously upheld.


Other conflicting factors that may suggest we may not have been designed to suit the Savanna Theory of a fomer existence  as once thought;

  • The development of a large brain like cetacean, undeniably is the main attribute to our success, evidence suggests development of a large brain requires iodine, magnesium, elements found in a shoreline diet of fish and shellfish.
  • (Dolphin 1.8kg                           Zebra 370 g                         Einstein 1.8kg)
  • Vernix a fatty substance on babies at birth also found on seal pups.
  • Babies have an innate ability to control their breathing and can swim underwater from birth and be born in water.
  • Fat babies enable buoyancy, a fat layer would restrict mobility and be a disadvantage in mobility re predation on land.
  • Permanent conspicuous breasts in females help buoyancy re carrying feeding off spring.
  • Difficult births and vaginal prolapses.
  • Sea births in coastal communities (prior to missionaries) children can dive and swim before they can walk.
  • Dive, Swim, float, wide shoulders for swimming.
  • Prone to dehydration, need regular water source.
  • Conscious control of breath found in diving animals and birds.
  • K species predictable environment, slow breeding immature dependent babies like whales and elephants.
  • Big nose but poor smell? Nostrils point down unlike other primates.
  • Bipedalism evolved before a large brain, advantage standing in water to consume a diet, which encourages brain growth.
  • Streamline hydrodynamic bodies, even fine hairs (more per square cm than a chimpanzee) are aligned to be streamline, apes are not.
  • No Fur like other Savanna mammals  ‘hairless’ more vulnerable to heat and temperature regulation.
  • Higher percentage of hemoglobin per cell than primates enables more oxygen for underwater breathing.
  • Bi-pedal,  primates only stand to walk through water.
  • Language, descended larynx like the walrus.
  • Man has comparatively poor location for a land mammal, slow and awkward an ostrich can run faster, easily caught by predatory species.
  • Sweat more than any Savanna mammal.
  • Primates have no body fat, limited language, they cannot voluntarily breathe, they have no vernix layer at birth.
  • Vestigial gills found in humans may be considered a birth defect but indicates a potential for development.
  • Darwin point on ear lobe suggest that a flap of skin could have been hinged to protect ears under water.
  • Coccyx suggests we may have at sometime in our past had a tail
  • Appendix related to the diet of a herbivore.

Elaine’s Morgan’s Butterfly


 Elainus Morganus 

September 2016  Elaine Morgan’s theory on the Aquatic Ape is finally recognised!

An unassuming paradigm shifting woman who swam upstream becomes posthumously mainstream. YAY!

‘Her’ butterfly made from a Gurnards fin, a Lambs tail and Crayfish antenna







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The US and China – together responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions have both formally joined the Paris global climate agreement.

Incredibly Whale oil fuelled the first industrial revolution replaced by fossil fuels in the twentieth century. Hopefully now more clean renewable sustainable energy will reduce our Co2 emissions and may save the lowlands from flooding.

The Heart of the Sea

Ever since its publication in 1851, Moby Dick has sparked the imagination with its prophetic, digressive and dangerous themes. So much so, it eclipsed the true story the novel is based on. This story – that of a vengeful whale taking out a whaling ship – has now been adapted in true swash buckling style by Ron Howard, based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s maritime history book of the same name.

In 1819 the whale-ship Essex set sail from Nantucket. A year into the voyage, 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) west of South America, a pod of whales was sighted by the lookout. The harpoonists set out in their small cedar whale boats to reap their bounty. One boat – that of first mate Owen Chase – was smashed to pieces by a whale’s tail and returned to the Essex, whereupon according to Chase they saw “a large spermaceti whale about 85ft in length heading directly for them as if fired with revenge”. The whale struck the boat. Ramming the ship a second time, it was obvious that it would sink. The remaining crew of twenty men, thousands of miles from land, salvaged what supplies they could and set off in three small cedar boats.12 fishy men 72


Then ensued an incredible tale of maritime survival. The men spent over three months at sea and had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. Captain Pollard and Charles Ramsdell survived in one boat and were discovered gnawing on the bones of their shipmates. In all, seven sailors were consumed. Owen Chase, Lawrence and Nickerson also survived to tell the tale.

Dead Men Dont Bite



While the Yankee whale men of Nantucket were at sea brutally harvesting whales, the first global commodity- illuminating and lubricating the Industrial Revolution, and generating vast fortunes, the Quaker women in their hours of domestic leisure, spent their time lace making. One of the many ‘by-products’ of a thriving whaling industry was its impact on community and family life. Away at sea for up to four years at time the wives of whale men on shore waiting for their loved ones to return also thrived, removed from the constraints of a subservient role in the family. Similar to women during wartime they became very independent and adept in managing both domestic, intellectual and community life.

Like Melville’s Moby-Dick, which followed on from hearing of the survivors account, The Heart of the Sea is a modern parable for our time. When confronted with nature on the scale of a “vengeful” whale we must ask of ourselves: why did a passively shy and intelligent creature attack the boat?

The relationship between humans and cetaceans has long been something of a paradox. We are drawn to their mystery and intelligence, in awe of their size and grace, yet we hunted many whales to near extinction. The most likely reason was not revenge but self-defense, or protection of their calves that where provocatively slaughtered to attract their oil rich mothers to their untimely demise.

Sperm whales are matriarchal; they form strong social groups, babysit and suckle each other’s calves and act collectively to protect their young.         If threatened several females will form what is know as a marguerite pattern (daisy) around a young whale in need of protection to fend off attack. Bull whales are solitary and leave the pod upon maturation returning only to mate.

There is a fifty percent that the whale that stove the boat was indeed a large female.Moby-Doll

For several years now the whale has been a recurring vessel to anchor my own work. In particular a white whale, the ambiguous, mythical  Moby- Dick, an association that has help me to unite my fascination with natural sciences, the rigours of visual culture and contemporary fine art practice. Moby-Dick is a shape shifter, as a work it hovers somewhere between natural history, philosophy, autobiography and fiction. A compendium of cetology, anthropology, obsession, prophesy, self-destruction and morality, it is saturated with both science and metaphor.

Rich pickings-the whale in both The Heart of the Sea and Moby-Dick is a charismatic beast; and seems to signify many contemporary themes – capitalism, religion, colonialism, and gender in her banishment, morality, ecology and racism. Digressive and allusive it prophesises our fallibility. The whale like the canary in the mine is an ecological barometer; in our pursuit and dominion over nature we expose our own flaws and vulnerability.

 The Heart of the Sea regenerates a mythical story. The whale not only embodies philosophical debate and critical commentary, but also is also an emblem, that serves as a barometer of our place in the world and dangers we encompass in our search of resources and our abuse of our environment.

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These unfortunate mariners in pursuit of whale oil – the first global commodity to fuel the industrial revolution – crossed the unutterable taboo of cannibalism (ironically, once stranded they voted against trying to head west to the nearest islands, the Marquesas, due to rumours of cannibalistic inhabitants). And while the good Quaker folk of Nantucket fought for the abolition of slavery, they also continued to pursue the noble domestication of the savages encountered on whaling voyages. Placing missionaries among cannibals they asked them to “eat” the flesh and drink the “blood” of a new god.



Our pursuit of the highly intelligent whale that has roamed the ocean for 60 million years, which we have persecuted, almost to extinction, says much about our own species. Sperm-whales are armed with powerful sonic radar capable of zapping giant squid at sixty paces, yet they appear to live in harmony with no walls or castles to defend, they rely on social cohesion. We have much to learn from their peaceful existence with our ongoing wars over ‘liquid gold’.

The whaling industry has been compared to genocide- over harvesting ‘natural resources’. The modern oil industry likewise exposes our climate to potential catastrophic global warming, and war. Like Ahab we seem to have a propensity to self-destruction.

Whale oil has lubricated our own voyage through an imagined and uncharted space that traverses land and sea, ocean floor to outer space. We engineer what we have yet to evolve, seeing into the unknown, as satellites, telescopes and submarines voyage into a void of freezing black enabled by the oil made from spermaceti, in pursuit of our quest for dominion of nature and resource.


Limited Editions For Sale

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Embrace the future

land sea air low res

Land Sea & Air

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White house

blue whale


More prints at

Grief Quills

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Pipe Smoking Expedition


She was silent, museful, and made no motion to depart.

The inventory assembled consisted of crustacean parts, cloud drawings, ecological blueprints, shoes to walk on water, a box of bluebirds, conspiracy theories, first aid, horns of plenty, bones, dental tools, a surfboard, a sledge, a shooting star, various teeth and claws, a fringed whale fluke and satellite,

Melville a Post Modern Author

The Last Pipe

the moot point is, whether Leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc; whether he must not at last be exterminated from the waters, and the last whale, like the last man, smoke his last pipe, and then himself evaporate in the final puff. Herman Melville 1851 Moby-Dick

‘The Last Pipe’, crustacean joints and ribs mounted on wood.

100 years before animal rights Melville predicted our own extinction linked to the abuse of nature; the pursuit and demise of other species.
Chapter 105: Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?


Madam de Pompadour, the favorite mistress of Louis XV, was a passionate smoker and owned more than three hundred pipes.