Series: Waterworld

Title: The Sentinel on Lake Agassiz

©Richard Mark Dobson

I call this image The Sentinel on Lake Agasizz.

Sentinel is an English word that has it’s origins in the late 16th century: from French sentinelle, and Italian sentinella. As a noun it means a soldier or guard, whose job it is to keep watch. Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss-American biologist and geologist recognized as an innovative and prodigious scholar of Earth’s natural history.

I recall with much fondness, the The Sentinel in Cape Town. A peak with a shear cliff dropping towards the sea marking the western end of the mouth of Hout Bay harbour, it’s great hulking presence hewn from the sedimentary rock that comprises the Cape fold and thrust belt of the late Paleozoic age. It looked like a large hunched figure. I can easily imagine how it got it’s name.

(Hout is a Dutch word for wood, and when they established a colony in Table Bay in 1652, good timber was required for construction and shipbuilding. There was no large forest in the immediate vicinity of the settlement, due to low rainfall, but it soon became apparent, the wood they needed was to be found in the wetter valley that lay on the other side of a low pass, Constantia Nek, in a place they eventually called ‘Wood Bay’).

The Sentinel in my Waterworld series is not made of rock, but of living cells. It is a juvenile mangrove pencil root. We see it protruding from the grey blue mud, that is common along the inter-tidal zone of the north east corner of Phuket island.

However when I looked down upon this lone organic root surrounded by tufts of shaggy hair green seaweed through the viewfinder of my camera one day, a whole different story came to mind.

The root reminded me of something else. A watch tower or light house perhaps. A structure that appears to stand high against a surrounding terrain of low rounded hills, that rise gradually from and a shallow liquid veneer. The water snail trails to the left of frame remind me of a road or path that ends abruptly at the edge of the lake.

The Sentinel here in Waterworld seems to offer safety in an otherwise denuded and hostile environment. I imagine the peoples of Waterworld, lost and adrift. Not adrift as one is at sea, but rather they wander aimlessly across this bare and water sodden landscape, seeking shelter, and one day, like an apparition, this tower rises up before them, from a seemingly infinite horizon. The Sentinel draws them towards it, like a beacon of hope.

The greeness (chrolophyta) at the base of the sentinel set against the expanse of grey blue sludge, pulls at their senses. They cannot help but feel a yearning, for the greenness represents life. Food. Sustenance. Salvation. And yet this is the Sentinel. It is here to guard. Not offer respite. They would be delusional to think the Sentinel was a place of welfare. No. As a watchtower which is a type of fortification, the Sentinel is a bulwark of warfare…..


Waterworld can be seen in it’s entirety at the following link. Prints can be ordered directly from the artist Richard Mark Dobson

Imagine what The Sentinel willl look like on your wall.

Richard Mark Dobson

Written by

“There is light and darkness, everything and nothingness”. The Existential Artist.

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