Mudlark No. 63 (2017)
Notes to Tidal Flats

Section 1

Panthalassa: the Panthalassic or Panthalassan Ocean (from the Greek, meaning “All Sea”). It was the superocean that surrounded the continent of Pangaea, occupying 70% of the earth’s surface 250 million years ago.

Aeduella blainvillei: a paleoniscoid fish from the Lower Permian. It was a mid-sized predatory fish, with a laterally compressed body, very large eyes, and rectangular scales. The paleoniscoids were the first ray-finned fish.

Section 5

get two for one, starting at 69 pounds: advertisement on the side of a Swansea bus.

Section 10

Rocky Flats: a former nuclear weapons production facility near Denver, Colorado. The plant made plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads, operating from 1952 to 1992. There were numerous accidents throughout the four decades of its operation (leaks, release of plutonium into the atmosphere, fires).

In 1967, 3,500 barrels of plutonium-contaminated solvents were stored on Pad 903. Many were found to be leaking, and low-level contaminated soil was becoming wind-borne from this area. The pad was covered with gravel and paved over with asphalt in 1969. This was the concrete pad full of cracks, with mullein growing from it, referred to in the poem.

The site of the plant now consists of two areas: the “Central Operable Unit” (including the former industrial area), which remains off-limits to the public as a Superfund site; and the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The tour described in the poem was conducted before the Superfund site or the Wildlife Refuge were fully established.

Section 12

Euglena: a genus of single-celled flagellate Eukaryotes.

red spot organelle: also called “eyespot apparatus” or “stigma.” It is a photoreceptive organelle found in the flagellate cells of organisms such as euglenids. It allows the cells to sense light direction and intensity and respond to it by swimming either towards the light or away from the light.

Section 13

“We’re sorry...”: quote from BP CEO Tony Hayward on May 30, 2010, during the first month of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Section 16

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: Homo habilis, one of the first early human species, occupied Olduvai Gorge 1.9 million years ago; followed by australopithecine 1.8 million years ago, and Homo erectus 1.2 million years ago. Homo sapiens is dated to have occupied the site 17,000 years ago. The site shows increasing developmental complexity in the earliest humans, revealed through the production and use of stone tools.

Section 18

kajape: a shaping spoon used in Pueblo pottery.

hellfire missile shot into the funeral procession: reference to a drone strike on a funeral for a Taliban fighter in South Waziristan, Pakistan (reported by the NY Times, June 23, 2009). The attack targeted a funeral procession of militants killed earlier in the day in a similar strike by drones. Reports describe between 45 and 83 dead, including civilians and children. It is a CIA tactic to target those who attempt to rescue victims of drone strikes or target those attending funerals of strike victims.

Section 20

Paviland Cave: the skeleton of a boy, bones painted with red ochre, was found in this cave on the Gower peninsula in Wales in 1823. Originally thought to be a woman, the bones were dubbed “The Red Lady of Paviland.” The body has been dated as 33,000 years old. The bones in the poem, located in the Welsh National Museum in Cardiff, are a facsimile. When the body was discovered there was no museum in Cardiff and so the bones were taken to Oxford and remain there to this day. Subsequent excavations of the area in which the skeleton was found have yielded 4,000 flints, teeth and bones, and needles and bracelets, also on exhibit at the National Museum in Cardiff. The cave was originally called Goat’s Hole Cave.

Section 25

Tsunami 1607: originally called “The Bristol Channel Floods.” The floods are now thought to have been caused by a tsunami, resulting in the drowning of an estimated 2,000 or more people. A BBC program exploring the tsunami theory, The Killer Wave of 1607, was made as part of the Timewatch series.

Laver: an edible seaweed with thin sheet-like fronds. It becomes black when dry. Laver typically grows on exposed shores. Laverbread is a traditional Welsh delicacy made from laver. It’s made by boiling the seaweed for several hours, then minced or pureed. The gelatinous paste is either eaten as is or rolled in oatmeal.

Christien Gholson  | Contents
Mudlark No. 63 (2017)