Hayley Brazier: Illustrating the Seafloor: Visualizing History at the Bottom of the Pacific

The ocean floor is commonly overlooked as an environment outside of human history. Although hidden from the human eye, explorers, governments, and industrialists alike have worked to imagine and plot the seafloor over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The seafloor along the American Pacific Northwest coastline, in particular, has become a space of competition during the previous century. In this region, groundfish fisheries and fiber optic cable companies have found their industries at odds when cable companies wish to lay lines through prime groundfish habitat. Variations on this type of territorial dance for the ocean floor are similarly unfolding around the globe from the Arctic to the Persian Gulf. These fiber optic cable lines are Transpacific technologies that convey data across state, federal, and international borders. In considering the history of the coastal seabed along this stretch of Pacific coastline, this paper also provides illustrations to help scholars visualize how human history has unfolded under the surface of the ocean. Developed in Adobe Illustrator, these illustrations incorporate depth, color, and artistic interpretation to make a serious intervention into how we imagine oceanic history. During the Transregional Academy, I will rely on these illustrations—which are works in progress—to open a dialogue about how scholars can envision the Pacific seafloor as a historical space across which technologies have transferred power and knowledge.

Hayley G. Brazier is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Oregon. Her dissertation focuses on marine environmental history, with a particular emphasis on the influence of the Pacific seafloor in North American society. Since 2017, she has also worked for the Digital Humanities initiative at the University of Oregon, which provides training on digital tools and pedagogy to humanities scholars across the University. During her PhD program, Hayley has taught courses on race and ethnicity in US environmental history, the national parks, and most recently, a course on oceanic history at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, MA. Before coming to Oregon, Hayley received an MA from Colorado State University and a BA from the University of Kansas. Between 2012 and 2015, she worked as a researcher for the Public Lands History Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. In addition to her research interests, Hayley has a background in public history, including museum studies and historic preservation.


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