Capturing the Aurora Borealis on Welsh Summits

Photographer Daniel Alford shares this guide to capturing the elusive aurora borealis, which he was fortunate to witness in the wilds of Wales. 

Photo by Daniel Alford

Photo by Daniel Alford

SHOOT FOR THE STARS

To avoid light pollution, get as far away from the city lights as possible by heading out to the coast, the mountains or countryside. If you’re looking to capture a frame full of stars or the Milky Way, you should check the moon cycles to ensure there will be little to no moon light. You want the sky as dark as possible to ensure the only light your camera is capturing is ancient star light. It can be quite tricky to ensure a sharp image, so select manual focus and put your camera into live view mode so you can see the image from the lens on the back of the camera. Then use the digital zoom function to isolate the brightest star you can find and zoom in as far as your camera will allow; manual focus on that. Zoom back out, get out of live view and you’re ready to shoot.

CAMERA SETTINGS

Shutter speed: Ensure your shutter speed is very low. As a standard, I use a shutter speed between 25-30 seconds to ensure I let as much light into the lens as possible.

ISO: As a standard I set my ISO to 1600 and go from there. Most modern DSLRs will have very little grain at this number but be flexible as every camera is different.

Aperture/lens: Use a lens that has a very low f number, anything below and including f2.8. This is to make sure you let in as much light as possible.Tripod/camera remote For astrophotography of any kind a tripod is essential. To avoid any extra blur, use a remote shutter.

THE AURORA  BOREALIS

The above settings are also a good base for photographing the Northern Lights, but do try adjusting your shutter speed up and down depending on how quickly the lights dance across the sky. The Aurora season in the northern hemisphere is most visible from September to the end of March. Your best chance to see them will be in the far northern countries, but if you’re lucky they can be spotted in the UK. There are plenty of websites and apps that can alert you to the amount of solar activity hitting the upper atmosphere. The Kp-index represents the amount of activity and how far south the lights can be seen. For the UK there needs to be a lot of activity, so look out for a Kp value of around 5 to 7.

To discover more about Dan Alford's unexpected encounter and for more tips on capturing lights in the night sky turn to Issue 6 of Ernest Journal available in store

 

THE NEW CROSSMODALISTS

What is the effect of texture on flavour, how does sound impact on our experience of taste and what happens when you enhance virtual reality by dropping rain water on participants’ heads? Welcome to the wonderful world of Crossmodalism, a fertile ground for experimentation in which people have titles such as ‘neurogastronomist’ and ‘wine poet’, and others study ‘gastropolitics’ in the hope of solving world food problems. Aspen Glencross, Chris Lloyd, Charles Michel, Daniel Ospina, Nadjib Achaibou, Janice Wang and Carlos Velasco tell us more about this fascinating field of rediscovery.

Food Painting, Daniel Ospina and Chris Lloyd, photograph by Isadora Lima de Oliveira

Food Painting, Daniel Ospina and Chris Lloyd, photograph by Isadora Lima de Oliveira

It all started when pianist Chris Lloyd was watching Masterchef in Adelaide and came across The Sound of the Sea, served in the Fat Duck  – Heston Blumenthal’s exclusive Berkshire restaurant. It was a dish that used sonic design to enhance the food’s flavour. In creating an immersive experience of taste, sight, sound and smell, the dish captured his imagination. Intrigued, Chris realised that the world of haute cuisine had been using sound to enhance dining experiences for years. He quickly became obsessed with exploring the potential of taste (and other sensory stimulation) to enhance our classical musical experience. While studying at the Royal Academy of Music, Chris began a collaboration with the Oxford University Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology, chef-in-residence Charles Michel. The Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford studies the integration of information across our various different sensory modalities (hearing, taste, touch and smell). Charles had been working on experimental performance concepts for years, and the two entered discussions on the best way to merge the gastronomic and classic music worlds.

Their first collaboration was ‘Taste of Iceland: Art, Science and Exploration’, a multi-sensory experiment in November 2013, which was immortalised in film by Tereza Stehlikova. The event brought together sound artists, perfumers, set and lighting designers, florists, food historians and performers in order to lead diners on an imaginary journey based on William Morris’s trips to Iceland in 1871 and 1873. Together, the team evoked elements and landmarks from the land of ice and fire. Diner Annabel Huxley later described such delights as, “salty John Dory nestled in medicinal sponge mushroom”, “white truffle and black squid ink blended on a brush to reflect Icelandic grey skies”, finished off with “a chocolate pudding made with cocoa from volcanic lands, sooty, and sweetened with rowan berry jelly.” (cinestheticfeasts.wordpress.com)

Perfurmer Nadjib Achaibou and PhD research student and ‘wine poet’ Janice Wang joined the Crossmodalists in 2015, bringing the core team to five. By mid-2015, like-minded performers, scientists and artists started getting in touch from around the world. The team realised that the best way forward was not to compete with these groups but to embrace the universality of their concepts. To support the growing movement, they formed an open volunteer organisation and today Crossmodalism has 400 practitioners across Europe, North and South America. Ernest caught up with the core team to find out more... 

ERNEST: Who was the first Crossmodalist?

CROSSMODALISTS: Where to begin? The term ‘Crossmodalism’ was first coined by Chris, Charles and Daniel to describe our original collaboration, in homage to the work carried out by the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. Crossmodalism as an aesthetic principle, however, can be traced as far back as Ancient Greece and the Quadrivium, or the four arts: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, when Plato claimed in The Republic, “The eyes are made for astronomy, the ears for harmony; and these are sister sciences.” 

Since then, GF Telemann composed tafelmusik – ‘table music’ for feasts and banqueting; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe claimed, “Music is liquid architecture, architecture is frozen music”; Wagner’s operas combined dance, set design, music and libretto; Kandinsky evolved the Wagnerian concept of Gesamtkunstwerk (synthesis of the arts); Aleksander Scriabin used synaesthetic process in the conception of Prometheus: the Poem of Fire, and currently there are baristas in Sydney carefully selecting the music they feel creates the best atmosphere for an espresso. 

Synaesthetic painting by Anna Kolosova, Nadjib Achaibou  and This Is Why (Berlin), photograph by Joe Sarah

Synaesthetic painting by Anna Kolosova, Nadjib Achaibou  and This Is Why (Berlin), photograph by Joe Sarah

ERNEST: What’s your manifesto?

CM: It is a statement that allows artists, scientists and entrepreneurs to understand the founding principles and motivations of Crossmodalism. Inspired by the artistic and revolutionary manifestos of the Futurists, Dadaists, Surrealists and others, the Manifesto aims to unite the international practitioners under one banner. Additionally, members of the community regularly publish their own manifestos, which include musings on a wide variety of topics. You can read them at crossmodalism.com

ERNEST: How do you collaborate internationally?

CM: While Crossmodalism has its origins in London, the movement has spread throughout Europe and the Americas in the past year. We have practitioners based in Sweden, Norway, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Argentina, Colombia, and the USA. Crossmodal scientists collaborate between Buenos Aires and Oxford, while composers in Philadelphia are working with musicians in London on developing a Crossmodalist opera. Somewhere right now a businessman is learning about creativity from a chef. We also host monthly gatherings in London, which evolved as a way to bring all our interesting friends and collaborators together in discussion. They started as informal barbecues and parties, then developed into the current lecture and performance format. Previous presentations have involved guided meditations, world premiere performances of new music, an edible art exhibition, perfume making workshops, lab-grown meat experiments and a call-to-arms for a dance party with narrative and sensory design. We’ve had presenters travel from as far as Toulouse and Amsterdam, and we offer the platform to everything from basic concepts to well-developed projects. The purpose is simply to bring interesting and passionate people together.

Sacrament of the Gourmand, Maeva Barriere (France), photograph by Joe Sarah

Sacrament of the Gourmand, Maeva Barriere (France), photograph by Joe Sarah

ERNEST: How can Crossmodalism benefit food politics and neuroscience?

CM: Science gives rise to evidence-based design, and aesthetics can accelerate the impact of science. If we can design experiences that affect millions – think food industry, restaurant chains, supermarkets – with, for example, cognitive science and psychology at its heart, we can focus our efforts to create experiences with more impact that shape behaviour and consumption patterns that will benefit the planet in the long run. Also, art can illustrate new discoveries about the brain, allowing those who would otherwise never contemplate something as complicated as charting neural connectivity to visually understand its workings, such as the iridescent brain maps of the Human Connectome Project. 

ERNEST: Food seems to be a major focus. What other fields are Crossmodalists drawn to?

CM: Crossmodalists are sensory scientists, cellular agriculturalists, musicians, dancers, perfumers, tech industrialists, architects, innovation designers, synaesthetic artists, film makers – the list goes on. A Crossmodalist is any person who embraces collaboration, curiosity and creation.

ERNEST: What is the ultimate Crossmodalist aim?

CM: To build a society where curiosity and collaboration are fundamental values, and serve to reinforce meaningful connections. A society where it is as equally possible to deepen one’s knowledge of a narrowly defined subject as it is to explore diversity of thought; where both practices coexist and reinforce each other. Crossmodalism is both a creative and social movement. A Crossmodalist can be a practitioner who focuses their creative outputs using Crossmodalist aesthetics, or it can involve simply approaching everyday moments from a Crossmodalist point of view. The Crossmodalist utopia embraces internationally recognised artistic and scientific exploits, and a larger positive social impact on thought process and appreciation.

Discover more about the Crossmodalists and their upcoming projects online at crossmodalism.com. Read on to delve into just a few of their current explorations in multi-sensory experience…

GATHERINGS (UK) A mixture of monthly lectures and performances with different presenters delivering unique concepts and trials to an intimate and engaged crowd in London. crossmodalism.com/xmgathering

Future Farm Lab, photograph by Joe Sarah

Future Farm Lab, photograph by Joe Sarah

FEED (UK) A platform of discussion about our relationship with food. There will be curated workshops around themed topics, such as the Poetics of Food, ‘gastropolitics’ and ‘gastrophysics’. feed@crossmodalism.com

FUTURE FARM LAB (UK) A combination of lab research and experimental food workshops, collaborating with agroecological groups in the food chain, and creating exhibitions to regain transparency and trust in our food system. It’s all about stimulating discussion and investigating solutions for building an ethical, sustainable and nutritious future! Futurefarmlab.com

SEX&CHOPIN (UK) This project explores our visual relationship with classical music, and aims to portray the sensuality and sexuality of music. It also highlights issues of gender equality in the classical music industry with an exhibition at the London Design Festival. chrislloydpianist.com

SCIENCE MUSEUM LATES (UK) In September 2015, Chris Lloyd and Nadjib Achaibou hosted experiments with Science Museum Lates, alongside Prof Barry Smith and the Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes). These experiments explored how the senses can manipulate each other. 

ACROSS THE UNSEEN SEA (UK) A short documentary by Royal College of Arts lecturer Tereza Stehlikova. It documents an event curated by Stehlikova and Charles Michel in 2013 – an immersive experience based on the travels of William Morris in Iceland. The event paired artists across fields as diverse as classical music, perfume, food and theatre. vimeo.com/86343476

BITTERSUITE (UK) Imagine being blindfolded and led through a powerful sensory experience in which gourmet tastes, bespoke scents, choreographed touch and movement have been designed to enhance music. BitterSuite are a company exploring how to re-imagine the classical concert through the senses. bittersuite.org.uk

CRISPINESS (UK) The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispiness and Staleness of Potato Chips is a Ignoble Prize winning study that shows how people perceive crisps as fresher and crispier when the sound of mastication is played back to them more loudly as they bite. crossmodalism.com

FOOD OPERA (USA) Composer Ben Houge, a lecturer at the Berklee College of Music, Boston, is the creator of Food Operas, which pair real-time generative soundtracks to accompany multi-course meals. Benhouge.com

ALSO FESTIVAL (UK) Also Festival hosted two Crossmodalist performances in 2016. Audience members swam around Chris Lloyd performing Ravel, Liszt and Debussy on a piano floating in a lake, surrounded by scented origami lilies. The Crossmodalist Triptych Meditation explored sensory stimulation to transport the mental and spiritual self. Also-festival.com

TASTE OF SOUND (Sweden) An immersive experience that helps communicate a message to dinner guests. By composing music with the same characteristics as the dishes, the taste experience of a three-course dinner is enhanced by up to 60 percent. fanky.se/taste-of-sound

THE FEELIES (UK) Inspired by Aldous Huxley’s descriptions of futuristic cinematic experience, The Feelies is a concept devised by scientist and production designer Grace Boyle, originally for the 2015 Shuffle Festival, London. Using virtual reality technology and sensory practitioners, The Feelies uses virtual reality to explore social issues and personal stories via the full multi-sensory range of stimuli. 

HASSFEST (Armenia) The International Art and Music Collaboration Festival – Hearing Art Seeing Sound or HASS Fest – produce events, music and collaborations that transcend borders by exploring the concept of art as a universal entity, which can touch all people.

This is an amended version of our feature 'The New Crossmodalists' in issue five of Ernest Journal, which contained a number of inaccuracies and failed to credit the photographers

A Birdsong in the Hand

Drawing inspiration from 18th-century collectors, Elisabeth Pellathy's latest work explores themes of conservation and preservation. Recently showcased at the ONCA Gallery in Brighton, Visualised Bird Song explores an innovative method of preserving sounds disappearing from our natural world. Matt Iredale caught up with Elisabeth Pellathy to talk translation.

When we hear the sounds of morning birdsong, we seldom think of it as something disappearing – or that it might be possible to hold in our hand – but these thoughts are integral to Elisabeth Pellathy’s new exhibition, Visualised Bird Song. As a professor of New Media at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Pellathy’s art encompasses a variety of techniques, ranging from 3D printing to lithography. As a result of her exhibition at ONCA, Visualised Bird Song is soon to be displayed at Brighton and Hove’s Booth Museum of Natural History. 

Where did the idea for Visualised Bird Song originate?

It originated in two places. Firstly, I was listening to Peter Cusack’s work, Sounds from Dangerous Places. Cusack’s recordings highlight the vibrancy of life - be it human, insect or bird - in politically dangerous or environmentally damaged locations. My second source was Melody Owen. She was about six years ahead of me in graduate school and she makes these beautiful birdsong chandeliers. They are quite large and have a different quality to my work. I was thinking more about 18th-century taxidermy, collection and ‘wonder cabinets’. I wanted to infuse the bird song with this idea of preserving moments in time.

Preserving the ‘disappearing’ has been integral to a lot of your work over the years. Could you tell me more about the issues that you are trying to focus on?

I don’t want to clobber people over the head. The idea that ‘if you use plastic you're the enemy of the environment’ often ends that conversation. What I’m trying to say, hopefully, is that through technology and communication we can be empowered to think about endangered species and the environment more critically. Maybe there will be some animals of which you've never heard, but seeing them on a timeline will show you what’s still there and what’s not. It’s the same with indigenous languages. Maybe not to the daily speaker, but they embody a long history of expectations, sounds and humour. 

The homogenisation of language and culture is an important issue today. Is translation and conversation at the heart of your work then, or is it based in nostalgia?

I love translation. When you do a 3D print the file format is an STL (STereoLithography). This file format was invented by Charles Hull, who created the first SLA machine in 1983, later this file format was patented in 1986 and when that happened it democratised 3D printing as an industry standard, opening up new avenues for everybody. It’s actually made up of hundreds of triangles. So, I took the ready to print STL file and put it back into the software to make the 2D prints.

I have a problem with nostalgia. I have no nostalgic memories for these birds. I’ve heard them, but I’ve never done my own field recordings or seen them. There is a disconnect. I think my work is about forming a connection with something that you would be unable to experience, like in a natural history museum. You look at a cross section of time in the glass cases and are blown away. It’s about the poetic slippage of natural history and art, and forming a dialogue. I think crossing timelines through the discussion of the 18th-century collector of curiosities is more appropriate. At the time, those people were conservationists, leading voices in the categorisation of natural history.

Has your social position as a first generation American influenced your work?

I think this was the catalyst for preserving the rapidly disappearing because both my parents are Hungarian. My parents immigrated to the United States in 1946 and 1951, respectively. My grandfather was actually working for the Hungarian government as a naturalist, categorising mushrooms and wild edible foods. I think that’s where this idea of preservation comes from. People ask why I don’t use my family’s story as a more direct inspiration for my work. I say that’s what has made us, it’s our heritage, but it is not necessarily what I want to dig into with my art. I take the idea of my family and then move it 5 degrees. 

Can you tell me about the ornithological theme that pervades your work?

[She laughs] I’m going to be that crazy bird lady. I try and move my work away from it and I always come back. I went to China for an installation. I had this huge space that I could do whatever I wanted with and I ended up printing birds - 9ft banners of extinct birds! When I drive to work, I think I’m going to do something new, but I just keep coming back to birds. Maybe I could do something on insects; I mean they fly too. But I have a one-track mind. I’m a birdbrain.

Well, the one place birds don’t appear is your collaborative work with Lee Somers, could you tell me more about the SanLun Yishu project?

We were living in China at the time. The SanLun Yishu are three-wheeled vehicles made for short journeys from the store to your home. Funded by BlackRock Arts Foundation, we renovated one, so people could get a free ride and an art exhibition. Inside, we had prints and a video playing. It was a kind of reprieve from the busy Beijing streets, which was the initial catalyst, as it is very hard to find any sense of peace in the city. 

Do you still have the SanLun Yishu?

I wanted it but when we returned from China, our luggage was too heavy. I put everything I could from two years in there, including lots of rocks from the edge of Western Tibet.

Did the SanLun Yishu project influence your later work in any way?

Not really, it was a project that we did and then we went our separate ways. He’s a ceramicist and I’m a digital artist, although he’s my partner we got tired of each other; [she laughs] I mean artistically. I’m sure he would have a much kinder take on that. We’ve collaborated since. We did a show in August of 2016 on landscapes and the environment, which went really well, but artistically we did our separate works and then came together, rather than one big project. Lee and I  have now been invited to participate in another collaborative project with artist Scott Stephens at The Institute for Electronic Arts - a research studio facility within the School of Art and Design, NYSCC, Alfred University, New York.

The homogenisation of language and culture is an important issue today. I mean language literally changes the structure of one’s brain, which is quite a tactile idea. Considering the techniques you have used in many of your works, is there a desire to engage with concepts that are more tactile and tangible?

I think it’s just my training. I’m a professor of New Media, so I teach film and animation, but I used to be a print maker. At heart, I draw. It’s where art started for me, so that tactile experience translates to all of my work. I regularly scratch onto 16mm film and I even do rotoscoping. I think the hand mind aspect is very important to me as an artist, I don’t think it was an intellectual choice. I do a lot of stuff on the computer, but having the result from digital translating to analogue is a beautiful conversation. 

To experience more of Elisabeth Pellathy's beautiful preservations look out for Visualised Bird Song at Brighton and Hove's Booth Museum and explore her website at mothandmountain.com.

A History of Formal Footwear

To celebrate the launch of Loake's exclusive premium range 1880 Export Grade, emulating the way the company first manufactured its fine, handmade shoes more than 130 years ago, Ernest explores a history of the formal shoe.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that no English gentleman's wardrobe is complete without a pair of handcrafted formal shoes from one of the country's traditional shoemakers. Northamptonshire being the spiritual home of the Goodyear welted formal shoe it seemed rather fitting that we explored its history with our friends at Loake. 

Loake has been making fine footwear for five generations and their new range reflects a celebration of the styles and elegant understated designs for which they have become known. Loake's latest limited edition 1880 Export Grade range, sold exclusively offline, offers both Oxford and Derby styles, brogues, semi-brogues, toe-cap and wing-cap designs.

Made by their very best shoemakers, with an unmatched level of precision, all styles in Loake 1880 Export Grade range feature a fitted fiddle-back waist for a more refined and elegant shape. This has the added benefit of providing further arch support whilst feeling lighter and therefore more comfortable in wear. The fitted appearance is complemented by extra fine stitching using a higher number of stitches per inch. Full leather soles are intricately hand-decorated and reveal a hand-painted two-tone stain. The shoes are hand-burnished and finger polished for a deep shine and fitted with premium flat waxed cotton laces.

Buckles and Business

You may have heard your grandfather say ‘never do business with a man in loafers’. The introduction of the lounge suit saw a stark decrease in the number of clothing changes a gentleman was expected to make in one day and with this came a heightened significance on footwear. The loafer was considered a more leisurely shoe as it didn’t require lacing. It could be slipped into, out of formal dress shoes, for increased comfort later in the evening - probably not the best time for negotiating fair business transactions. Neither perhaps was it thought best to wear the buckling Monk shoe. As the name suggests, it was originally a dressier more durable version of the sandals worn by European monks. Rising up the ranks, above the slip on and the buckle, laces were considered the true mark of a gentlemen's formally presented feet. 

Going Full Brogue

Originating from footwear worn in the wilder reaches of the Highlands and Ireland, the brogue was initially punched with holes to allow water to drain away after working in or walking through boggy terrain.

The brogue's punched detailing first created for wear in boggy terrain.

The brogue's punched detailing first created for wear in boggy terrain.

Edwardians popularised the modern brogue and the shoe became a favourite of the Royal family at Balmoral. The Duke of Windsor particularly helped to boost the shoe’s reputation as elegant by wearing full brogues to play golf. During the jazz age, the two-tone style of the brogue was worn by the likes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire during their dance routines but by the 1930’s brown was the most popular colour for the brogue having become essential wear for the modern gentleman and conventions ‘no brown in town’ and ‘no brown after 5 o’clock’ were being increasingly defied. 

Today, the punching on a brogue is purely decorative but winks back to its rags to riches story. Loake encapsulates the essence of this rising history in Warwick, a sleek wing cap ‘austerity’ design brogue, made using Onyx Black, Smoked Teak or Black Cherry calf leathers, for when you're after the elegance of the brogue without that distinctive punch. 

Warwick, Smoked Teak Semi-brogue, Loake 1880 Export Grade

Warwick, Smoked Teak Semi-brogue, Loake 1880 Export Grade

Semi-brogue

If the shoe has a ‘wing tip’ cap and detailed punching you're going ‘full brogue’ but the term Oxford is normally used when the shoe has a plain toe-cap. The straight toe-cap and other parts of the shoes can be decorated with some punching but this is known as a ‘semi-brogue’ or ‘London brogue’. The Loake 1880 Export Grade Trinity offers a stylish and versatile semi-brogue shoe in an Oxford design, available in striking Onyx Black, Deep Mahogany, and Burnt Pine calf leathers.

Trinity, Deep Mahogany Semi-brogue, Loake 1880 Export Grade

Trinity, Deep Mahogany Semi-brogue, Loake 1880 Export Grade

Straight Laced Oxford

Although the term ‘straight laced’ is thought by some historians to come from the ways different people tied their Oxfords, the style has a flavour of rebellion in its origins. It seems likely the classic English dress shoe originated in Scotland and was originally named after Balmoral Castle (‘Balmorals’ or ‘Bals’) and evolved from a popular style of boot with side slits. Over time the side slit shifted into a side lace that then traversed to the top of the foot. This lighter-weight shoe became popular with students at Oxford University, who rebelled against the more traditional boots of the day opting instead for the Oxford’s sleek silhouette. A lace-up shoe, the eyelet facings are stitched underneath the vamp, with a closed lacing system for an altogether formal finish. Loake’s 1880 Export Grade Hanover is a sophisticated Oxford shoe, available in Onyx Black and Smoked Teak calf leathers, with a classic plain toe cap. 

Hanover, Onyx Black Oxford, Loake 1880 Export Grade

Hanover, Onyx Black Oxford, Loake 1880 Export Grade

The Derby 

Worth waiting for, Loake’s 1880 Export Grade full brogue Derby style shoe, Grosvenor, will be available in Spring 2017. A lace-up shoe, the Derby was popular as a sporting and hunting boot in the 1850s. However, by the turn of the 20th century, it had become regarded as appropriate for wear in town. Slightly more casual than the Oxford due to its open lacing system the Derby is still a formal shoe, make no mistake. The source of this shoe may trace back to the 12th Earl of Derby, a man with unconventional feet, who had difficulty getting into his boots. As a result his bookmaker designed an open lace boot style for greater ease. A Derby, with its open front, allows more adjustment by pulling the laces tighter, which means that it will accommodate a wider range of foot shapes while still presenting that polished formal foot look, effortlessly.

For more of Loake's elegant, sophisticated and classic designs in footwear visit their website at www.loake.co.uk or seek out one of their stores for the exclusive 1880 Export Grade range. 

EXPORT GRADE BOX AND BAGS B RET.jpg

We Remember the Japanese River Otter

Remember back in November when we brought you a tribute to extinct creatures inspired by Remembrance Day for Lost Species. This month ONCA is remembering the Japanese river otter. Volunteer researcher Matthew Stanfield tells us why.

 

Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) as depicted on a stamp issued in 1974, via StampCommunity.org

Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) as depicted on a stamp issued in 1974, via StampCommunity.org

 

Generally considered a subspecies of the Eurasian otter, Japanese river otters were plentiful until the mid-nineteenth century. Fur hunting, combined with habitat destruction & degradation during the Meiji period of Japanese history, rendered them vulnerable. In the 1930s, their population crashed. After WWII only a handful of confirmed sightings were made, with the last of these coming in 1979 when a single animal was spotted.

In 1989, a study using preserved genetic material from the Japanese river otter suggested it was distinct enough from the Eurasian otter to be considered a species in its own right. During the 1990s several searches were undertaken in the hope of finding surviving otters. These were unsuccessful and the Japanese river otter was officially declared extinct on 28 August 2012.

 

For a reminder of our featured tribute by Lela Tredwell published on Remembrance Day for Lost Specices click here. For more information on the day and the leading souls behind it follow @lostspeciesday, check out lostspeciesday.org and get involved on Facebook