Posted by: bluelanternstudio | April 18, 2013

Herring spawn inspiration

There’s something about herring that I’m drawn to, over and over again. Maybe it’s the silver flash of their bodies in the water, maybe it’s the fact that they’re essential to our coastal BC ecosystems (food for pretty much everyone else) and yet in public consciousness largely overshadowed by the sexier wild salmon. Regardless of what it is, for a few years now I’ve been longing to see herring in action. You know, the actual SPAWN.

Herring (detail of painting by Robi Smith)

I came so close this year. In mid-March, I dragged my family to Parksville (under the guise of a family reunion, but the real driver for me was getting to the Brant Wildlife Festival and seeing those herring do their thing). In my ignorance, I thought the spawn itself (where the females birth their eggs in the eelgrass and seaweed, and the males ejaculate their sperm all over to fertilize them) would last a good 10 days. Instead, I was told by some very kind scientists that the spawn, though momentous, actually is a very brief and unpredictable event that is pretty much over in a night. So I missed it by about 5 days.

What I didn’t miss, though, was seeing the miracle of the herring roe—tiny, glassy balls clinging to seaweeds and rocks in the ocean and strewn along the  beaches at low tide.

Herring roe clinging to seaweed, Rathtrevor beach

Herring roe clinging to seaweed, Rathtrevor beach

I also witnessed the thousands of gulls, brant geese, scoters and other seabirds who descend to feast on the roe.

Seabirds on the beach at Fanny Bay, BC (photo: Steve Hodder)

Seabirds on the beach at Fanny Bay, BC (photo: Steve Hodder)

And the sea lions  who journey south from Alaska and north from California to partake in the incredible buffet. All that was deep, and rich, and satisfying.

Sea lions battling for dominance (photo: Steve Hodder)

Sea lions battling for dominance (photo: Steve Hodder)

But what was most mesmerizing for me was the herring roe:

roe_seaweed

glass_roe

herring_roe_closeup

Now that I’m back in my studio, I’m working with all of this to create new work. Stay tuned!

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