The Lessepsians / Moving photocollages / 2019

The Lessepsians illustrate the function of the Suez Canal  as a man-made corridor for invasive marine species. Known as “Lessepsian migrants” — named after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French engineer in charge of the Suez Canal’s construction. These Lessepsian migrants that originate from the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea are supposedly harmful to the Mediterranean ecosystem with some marine biologists describing them as “the largest irreversible ecological disasters of our time.”

The Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps erected at the entrance to the canal.* When President Nasser decided to seize ownership of the canal in 1956, the statue was removed, thus symbolizing the end of European domination over the waterway. A Silver-cheeked toadfish (Lagocephalus sceleratus), moves across the frame, an extremely poisonous pufferfish, which is native to the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, has recently spread across the Mediterranean and has been recorded as far as the south of France.

*Found footage produced for Magazine Illustration no 2961,1899
Flagship of the British Battleship Pacific Fleet, passing through the Suez Canal en route to the Pacific Ocean in 1944.*Twospot Cardinalfish (Cheilipteriatus Novemstriatus) native to the Indian and Western Pacific Ocean have now established themselves in the Levantine Sea swim across the frame. Their nocturnal capabilities may have facilitated their successful invasion, as few indigenous nocturnal competitors exist.

Image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum ©TR2619.