The Short-finned Eel 2020

A commission by the Melbourne City of Literature, to illustrate an animal of choice.
I chose the short-finned eel partly because eels are perhaps the most elusive animal known to science.

Still today, we do not know where these species go to breed, spawn and die, as they travel from Victoria's rivers to the Coral Sea, fasting for miles into the middle of the ocean, and any boats seeking to observe the journeys (of any eel spawning) are repelled by thrashing seas and thunderstorms. 

In his book ‘Eels’ James Prosak regards the mystery of the eel with eloquence;

'where not knowing is something quite different from ignorance-

where the unknown is tangible and sacred, whether it be the force

of a water guardian or the spawning place of the longfin eel'.
 

Science has been considered to have replaced mythology (Blotkin,

Ecology of Freedom), forming our cultural framework. 
I hope that science can illuminate the mystery, the unknown,

sparking reverence (and respect) for the world we are a part of.

Eels connect the ocean with fresh water streams, moving between

water bodies with the course of the moon.

For this reason, I decided to make pigments from river rocks,

where the short-finned eels
live. 


 

Rocks were collected from various rivers in Victoria, crushed, and made into watercolours using ground Acacia gum, honey and clove oil.

Yellow-tailed black cockatoos are eating grubs from an acacia tree, and farming for grubs by boring into the trees, making cracks so moths can lay their eggs easily inside.

Swimming to a fallen grub is a short finned eel, who typically migrates upstream in the same season as the moth larvae appears, and eat the fallen grubs.

Bordering the page are silver wattles with small insect eating birds hidden amongst the brush; (left to right) brown Thornbill, Scrubwren, new holland honey eater.

Small insect-eating birds often follow each other like a parade, so that can catch the insects which are stirred by the birds before them.