C. Drew Harvel (CURATOR. BLASCHKA INVERTEBRATES COLLECTION): I think it's important to realize that when you first see them, they're unusual.
They're soft-bodied marine invertebrates that you might not see very often, such as sea slugs, or an octopus, or a squid--you might not see them alive, in all their colors, all their shapes.
When I first saw this collection, it was in boxes, in storage at the Corning Museum of Glass. Many of the pieces were damaged, tentacle’s broken off, pretty decrepit, and yet, so spectacular. Created by a father and son team, Rudolph and Leopold Blaschka, in the 1860s, in Dresden.
And the enchanting part about what the Blaschkas did is they captured exact replicas in their--in the postures in which these animals actually live.
David O.Brown (PHOTOGRAPHER): Trying to get people to think about the ocean: something like a whale or a shark, these large, dramatic creatures. It’s an--it's fish in a barrel if you will. It's easy. People--a 40 ton whale breaches, people pay attention.
But there's all these incredible, subtle, little things in the ocean and they're mind-blowing, they're otherworldly, they're fantastic, and most people just ignore them completely.
C. Drew Harvel: We'd like to use the time capsule of the Blaschka invertebrates created in 1860 to go back and compare with the live invertebrates of today. So our quest is to go back into the oceans to find the exact matches for the Blaschka pieces, find out if they're still there.
We did our first work in Hawaii, looking for octopus, and they're nocturnal, so we needed to do the work diving at night, and, first place, I was just shocked that we even found these octopus so easily at night.
Um, and secondly it was just--it was mind-blowing and startling to find an ornate octopus, this brilliant orange with dashes and dots all over its arms, um, hold it and look right into its eyes. So for me, that was a little bit life-changing.
A lot has happened in the oceans in the last hundred and fifty years ago. We do a lot of research on climate warming impacts on coral reefs. There's been an average of 30% change in the acidification of the oceans, and that's just average. And of course there's the, you know, change in coastal pollution as well.
Things are changing so fast that I don't know for how much longer we'll be able to find living representatives of the Blaschka' invertebrates. So I do feel pretty urgently that this is the time to do this project, that we need to look now.