How a Philadelphia Artist Finds Inspiration Illustrating the Ocean Floor Aboard E/V Nautlius

by Owen James Burke


Screenshot: E/V Nautilus’ YouTube video.

The E/V Nautilus is in the midst of a mapping the ocean floor from the Galapagos Islands to San Diego, California. As the Nautilus plugs along mapping an area of the seabed 7 miles wide and 4,000 feet deep(watch live here), Rebecca Rutstein, an artist-in-residence from Philadelphia, is occupying a small room aboard the vessel where she paints abstracts of the high-definition topography 3D maps produced by hundreds of sonar sensors relaying realtime data from the deep, dark abyss below.


Floating in the Sweet Abyss of Denial III, Rebecca Rutstein.

Robert Ballard, Nautilus’ expedition leader, illustrates the importance of having an artist aboard the ship:

“Imagine standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon in pitch dark, and that’s most of the underwater world,” says Ballard (whose many contributions to underwater exploration include the discovery of the Titanic wreck in 1985), “And what an artist is able to do is turn the lights on and show us what we can’t see.”

Working on a ship at sea, Rutstein has had to make certain concessions, even letting the rocking ship mix her paints. Let her walk you through her process below, aboard the E/V Nautilus:

Listen to an NPR/Philadelphia Newsworks report here, and visit Rutstein’s website to see more of her work.

Also, read more about the Nautilus in a Scuttlefish interview with Expedition Leader Dr. Katy Croff Bell.-OJB


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