Author Archives: felicity picken

About felicity picken

Felicity is a researcher interested in exploring the social life of the blue planet including tourism, leisure and pleasure encounters, the increasingly vexed issue of aquaria, oceanic mythology and 21st century mermaids, conservation, the acceleration of scuba, snuba and other undersea ventures, undersea architecture and design and permanent living habitits.

A New Semiotics of Aquaria?

Banksy’s work gains social media attention as critical gaze continues to be focused on Sea World’s practices with marine life. Central to this criticism is the Blackfish documentary about Tilikum, a captive at Sea World, Forida, who killed a trainer during a public show, shocking a nation in which ‘Shamu is a lovable national icon’ Zimmermann, 2010 . Even if this icon is a fish (aquatic mammal) out of water.

Image: Banksy ‘Anti-SeaWorld Art’

Questioning of the moral, ethical, public and ecological value of aquaria increases with each gallon of seawater on land. Now able to host entire ecosystems on land, it is particularly the large charismatic species who are raising awareness of the inherent trouble with aquaria – it is an oceanic birdcage.

The ‘better good’ assumed of proximity to aquatic life, particularly in childhood, is countered by a volume of captivity that now speaks to incarceration for some. Never is this more the case than in aquaria that push the limits of entertainment and commercialisation.


Writing about Whales

I have recently stumbled across a fabulous post and this recollection of a geographer using sound, and precisely whale sound, to make a contribution to attempts to rethink oceans in ways less dedicated to the older ‘resource extraction model’.

Depths by Ture Ekroos Illustrations

The post also tells about the people who are attempting to do this. I found it inspiring to read, I hope you do too.

“Angel Azul: Casting for a New Generation” The movie that documents the work of eco-artist deCaires Taylors living undersea sculpture museums

de Caires Taylor’s work is one of a kind, innovating ecological relations with the blue planet, ticking all the boxes of eco tourism and then some.

Synopsis of the Film:
“Angel Azul explores the artistic of Jason deCaires Taylor, an innovative artist who combines creativity with an important environmental solution; the creation of artificial coral reefs from statues he’s cast from live models. When algae overtakes the reefs however, experts provide the facts about the perilous situation coral reefs currently face and solutions necessary to save them. Peter Coyote generously provides insightful narration that leaves viewers pondering our connection to this valuable and beautiful ecosystem.”


Undersea Sculpture Angel Azul. Image from 

Timely visit? Attenborough to return to document the Great Barrier Reef

As the Barrier Reef in Far North Queensland continues to come under controversy through mining and port activity in the adjacent areas, it seems timely, perhaps not unintended, that Sir David Attenborough is set to return to make a three, one-hour documentary on the Barrier Reef with the BBC. 

“As I entered the water I remember suddenly seeing these amazing multi-coloured species living in communities – just astounding and unforgettable beauty. So I’m very excited to be returning to the reef with all the latest technology and science to see one of the most important places on the planet in a whole new way” (David Attenborough on the Great Barrier Reef). 

Is this what scientists strongly opposed to the current activities need to increase awareness of the unique and inherent value of the worlds largest reef system? Further details at:  

Below Image 

Whales, Aquaria and Disturbia

The film Blackfish, described as a psychological thriller, spearheads the increasingly vexatious issue of Whale keeping in Aquaria. Taking aim, specifically at SeaWorld, but applicable to the aquaria debate more generally, the film is described as: 

Telling “the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry” (Official site). 

Image from: