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uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

sea bed,” says Andamowsky. However, an aquar- ium is not a miniaturized ocean but an artificially created cosmos: “The keepers have to feed the fish, make sure they reproduce, that they don’t gobble each other up – but life in nature consists of just that: eating and being eaten.” The second interesting thing about William Beebe’s accounts is that they reveal how contra- dictory the exploration of the seas was: The more mysteries researchers explained during their expeditions, the more they were confronted with new unexplained phenomena. Discovering a new fish was a relatively straightforward process, but explaining how it reproduces, what it feeds on, and what feeds on it were questions that Beebe dove 923 meters into the depths of the sea in a spherical iron vessel. But his lamps couldn’t throw light on what the bottom of the sea really looks like. Photo: Steidl/Fotalia Fangtooth, football fish, and black seadevil: Naturalists discovered new fish but every new discovery raised more questions. Photos: Traenkner/Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum were not so easy to answer. “It will never be pos- sible to unravel the mysteries of the underwater world completely through sight and discovery,” concludes Natascha Adamowsky. From the End of the World to the Bottom of the Sea The researcher made especially curious find- ings while studying historical technical maga- zines and textbooks. It makes no difference whether the text dealt with trains, telegraphs, or electricity: “Even in the modern age, at a time when clever contemporaries professed to have explained all miracles away through the power of the intellect, people still talked about things in terms of miracles.” What Adamowsky discovered is that what had changed was only the places in which people expected to find miracles. In the Middle Ages people had assumed them to be at the end of the inhabited world – in jungles where cannibals devoured their enemies and monstrous dragons ripped people to shreds with their claws. However, in the 15th century the blank areas of the map started to disappear: Christopher Co- lumbus discovered America by accident, Vasco “Even in the modern age, at a time when ­clever contemporaries professed to have ­explained all miracles away through the ­power of the intellect, people still talked about things in terms of miracles” 30 uni'wissen 04