Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A gallery of natural horrors

Carlos I is the one with the royal belly
Portuguese king Carlos I (1863-1908) was known all over Europe for his research works on Ornithology and Oceanography. He organized 12 nautical expeditions for studying the ocean fauna along the Portuguese coast. Many of the specimens collected were either preserved in formaldehyde in glass vessels or embalmed, for future study and scientific dissemination among the general public.

The Vasco da Gama Aquarium, close to Lisbon, holds a large number of sea animals that belonged to the king's collection. The preservation techniques avoided decomposition, but the creatures now look discoloured and ghostly. The visitors wonder along the exhibition rooms with a mix of fascination and horror.

These photos were taken hand-held with apertures around f/2, using only available artificial light. I must say I quite like the results. If you happen to visit Lisbon, don't forget to take your camera to the Vasco da Gama Aquarium Museum. Other sections of the aquarium include regular displays with live animals. Interesting, but not as entrancing.

Olympus E-P2 + Panasonic Lumix 20/1.7

As a final historic note, I may add that king Carlos I and his older son were shot dead on February 1, 1908, when riding an open carriage in Lisbon. The assassins were two monarchy opposers, possibly connected to Carbonaria - a secret and revolutionary society that existed in Southern Europe in the beginning of the XXth century. They were killed on the spot by the royal guard. The king's second son, Manuel, ruled for two years, until the republican regime was finally implemented in Portugal, on October 5, 1910. That was one hundred years ago.

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