63°06′N 021°37′E

Vaasa is a city in Finland on the west coast, on the Gulf of Bothnia. Its population is almost 70 000. Vaasa is a bilingual municipality with Finnish and Swedish as its official languages. The population consists of: Finnish speakers = 65%; Swedish speakers = 23%; People with other mother tongues = 12%. Surrounding municipalities have a clear majority of Swedish speakers. Thus, Swedish maintains a strong position in Vaasa. This makes it the most significant cultural center for Swedish-Finns.

Industrial Art

Industrial art means different things to different people. I use it in a general sense to refer to products made through industrial processes that result in something attractive, not necessarily beautiful. Textures produced by industrial processes are an example. Thus, in Vaasa, I decided to document the variety in textures found on the streets.

Maintenance hole = manhole covers are another example of industrial art. These are removable lids over the opening of maintenance holes, that are access points large enough for a person to pass through. They are designed to prevent anyone or anything from falling in, rainwater excepted, in some cases. I take photographs of them, but expand my collection by collecting photographs taken by others.

A weblog post on industrial art is being prepared, for publication on 2024-09-21.

Nieminen Valimo = Nieminen foundry, was founded in 1928 by Väino Nieminen (1879 – 1958), in Harjavalta, in south-west Finland. Its location is strategic for production: on sandy ground, next to the Kokemäki river. It is the only maintenance hole and cover foundry in Finland. It is now owned by the Norwegian Cappelen group.


Three statues are presented, along with a comment about a fourth work not included.

Street art is not always appropriately labelled, or even labelled at all. Such is the situation in Vaasa, with the following three works. It took time, measured in hours, to find the title of each work, its constructor/ sculptor along with birth and death dates (where appropriate) year it was made, and other details about each work. This is one reason encountering street art is so much fun.

Erkki Kannosto (1945 – ), Varjoja metsässä (Finnish) = Shadows in the Forest. Unveiled 2006.
Erkki Kannosto, Syvä jano (Finnish) = Deep Thirst. Unveiled 2005.
Hannu Leimu (1969 – ), Auringon Lapsi (Finnish) = Child of the Sun. Unveiled 2010.

Political comment 1: Centaurs are mythical creatures, part human and part horse. This composition has led many to treat them as liminal = intermediate beings, caught between two natures. Like all mammals, they come in both male and female = centaurette, varieties. I see Leimu’s work as being in direct opposition to the centaurettes appearing in Disney’s film Fantasia (1940). Originally, the animated centaurettes had displayed their breasts, but that was deemed too offensive for audiences, so these were quickly covered with garlands of flowers. Finnish sauna culture means that the human form, in both of its common varieties, is frequently seen and accepted as natural.

On two occasions, and for several minutes both times, I contemplated photographing Suomen Vapaudenpatsas (Finnish) = Finlands frihetsstaty (Swedish) =The Statue of Liberty, a monumental bronze sculpture. I decided against it, but would include an appropriate link. The height of the work with its pedestals is 14 m, the bronze statue at the top is 6 m. The sculpture was designed by Yrjö Liipola (1881 – 1971) and Jussi Mäntynen (1886 – 1978). It was unveiled in 1938.

Political Comment 2: I find the celebration of war distasteful, and this statue is a tribute to the Whites in the Finnish Civil War in 1918. This work is an adulation of one person, General Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867 – 1951), who is displayed three times life size. The Red Guards, composed of industrial and agrarian workers, controlled the cities and industrial centres of southern Finland. The White Guards, composed of land owners and those in the middle and upper classes, controlled rural, central and northern Finland. The offensive part of this work is that is fails to unite the Red and White factions after the end of the war, but focuses on one side’s victory.


65°00′51″N 25°28′19″E

Oulu is located on the northwestern coast of Finland, at the mouth of the River Oulu. It is the largest Finnish city with a sub-arctic climate: cold and snowy winters; short and mild summers. The name Oulu derives from the Finnish dialectal word oulu, meaning floodwater, related to the southern Sami åulo = melted snow, åulot = thaw.

Oulu has a large population (215 000). It is also important as one of Europe’s living labs, where residents experiment with new technologies, such as near-field communication (NFC) tags and ubiquitous computing (ubi) screens on a community-wide scale, often involving thousands of users.

Street furniture

Yes, there are four of these units, all in a row: green, yellow, pink and blue. None of the stalls were in use, so it was not possible to know, with certainty, the intended use. One suspected use is a place for mooring/ hitching a bicycle.
Some bicycle hitching posts were in use. At the far left of the photograph, one can see Tiernapojat = Star Boys sculpture. It is discussed at the end of this weblog post.
It is suspected that these two components could provide seating, but only if some other components, including a back and seat, were installed.

Corporate Identity

Alasdair and I ate our second sushi dinner of the trip at Luckie Fun’s Sushi Buffet.
I have managed to survive the first 75 years of my life without a tattoo, and have no intention of enduring one now. However, I find tattoo parlor names and signs interesting. I collect images of the signs.


Kaarlo Mikkonen (1920 – 2001), Toripolliisi (Finnish) = The Bobby at the Market Place, Oulu. Unveiled in 1987. Photo: Tve4 (2006-05-26). The translated title is a bit too British for a north American. I would have preferred it to have the title: The policeman at the market place.
Yes, an image of birds, possibly four herons. However, I have not been able to discover the artist, or time period for its construction, or even its title.
Sanna Koivisto (1955 – ), Tiernapojat = Star Boys. Unveiled 2014, moved to its permanent location 2016.

Tiernapojat, or star boys, is a song play based mainly on the Gospel of Matthew. It tells about the journey of three wise men from the East to the baby Jesus and about King Herod, who orders his soldiers to kill all the little male children, hoping to then also kill the newborn Jesus, the King of the Jews. The performance is estimated to be a centuries-old tradition, but the first reliable written record of the Oulu tiernapoika tradition is from 1873. The song came to Oulu from Sweden.

Haparanda – Tornio – Kemi

Haparanda, Tornio and Kemi are three municipalities in Bothnia Bay, the northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia, which is in turn the northern part of the Baltic Sea.

During winter it is possible to get around the gulf with: ice skates, sleds, skis, snowmobiles as well as by car on the ice roads over the gulf to the larger islands. There are 4 001 islands, with an island defined as a landmass surrounded by water, larger than 20 m².

Freshwater rivers mean that the bay has brackish water with extremely low salinity levels (0.2-0.3 %). This can be compared with the world’s oceans where the salinity level is around 3.5 %. Most salt-dependent sea species cannot survive in the bay. Ringed seal, grey seal, cod, herring and salmon are found here, along with freshwater species such as the pike, whitefish and perch.

Further south is Merenkurkku (Finnish) = throat of the sea (literal translation) = Kvarken (Swedish) = Quark Ridge (English) a narrow region separating Bothnian Bay from the rest of the Bothnian Sea. Here, the distance from the Swedish mainland to the Finnish mainland is around 80 km. The maximum water depth is about 25 m. Land is rising at 8 to 10 mm a year. Within 2 000 years this will create the largest lake in Scandinavia to its north. There are 5 600 islands in Kvarken.

Summers are mild for a coastal location so far north, and winters are normally not extremely cold in spite of the relative proximity to the Arctic Circle. Trish and I first visited this area ca. 1979-12-10. Alasdair and I visited it almost forty-five years later on 2024-05-12.

Haparanda 65°50′N 024°08′E

Haparanda, for historical reasons, is often still referred to as a city despite its small population, about 5 000 people in 4.43 km2. It is Sweden’s most easterly settlement.

Anna Jäämeri-Ruusuvuori (1943 – ) Separation. Unveiled 2005, 60 years since the end of world war II. A memorial to the approximately 80 000 Finnish children who were sent to Sweden during the war. The artist was herself one of the war children in Sweden. They were sent to Sweden to be spared the suffering that the war brought to Finland. Most war children returned to Finland after the war, but several thousand remained in Sweden.
Bo Holmlund (1935 – 2013) Broar = Bridges. Located in the marketplace in Haparanda. It was erected in 1992 on Haparanda city’s 150th anniversary. Until the border was drawn in 1809, Sweden and Finland were a common country. After the Finnish war (1808 – 1809) between Sweden and Russia, Russia took over Finland. Bridges were broken and the countries went their separate ways. Sweden has had a relatively stable history, while Finland has suffered from both world wars and civil wars. Now it is a new time, the border is increasingly disappearing.
Hanna Kanto (1981 – ) with Oday Shalan, Yazan Jbour, Mamoon Al, Diamond Eagle, Masoud Karimi. Strandad = Stranded (2016). The sculpture is made of old boats that have been used on the Torne River. It visualizes old traditions and contemporary events in the Torne Valley.
Victoria Andersson (1971 – ) The Struve Triangle (2012). The Struve Geodetic Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through ten countries and 2,821.853 ± 0.012 km, which yielded the first accurate measurement of a meridian arc. The chain was established and used by the German-born Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve (1793 – 1864) in the years 1816 to 1855 to establish the exact size and shape of the earth. The Struve Geodetic Arc was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 2005.
Map of the Struve Geodetic Arc. The 34 red dots are places registered in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Wilhelm Struve was appointed European Surveyor of the Year 2014 by the Council of European Geodetic Surveyors (CLGE). Image: Badock, Wikimedia commons.
Along the Torne river one finds numerous unusual crosswalk signs (but no crosswalks). There is a person displayed, but walking does not seem to be appropriate. In the future, I intend to replace this sign with a composite that merges at least four signs. I will also attempt to find the person, or people responsible.
Anja Örn (1972 – ) Transit: Brevduvor på bord = Transit: Homing pigeons on the table (2016). A small aerial lift (zipline) was built in 1916 over the river to transport mail, because during parts of the year the ice was too strong for boats and too weak or too split up for walking. This artwork celebrates the zipline. Note the culture vulture eying the pigeons from the background.
Mats Wikström (1954 – ), Järnvägsbrons beskyddare = Protectors of the Railway Bridge (2012). These squirrels protect the bridge, and perform spiritual actions according to various religions.

Tornio 65°51′N 024°09′E

The delta of the Torne River has been inhabited since the end of the last ice age, 16 settlement sites have been found in the area, similar to those found in Vuollerim (c. 6 000 – 5 000 BC).

Tornio is unilingually Finnish with a negligible number of native Swedish speakers. Large numbers are bilingual, speaking Swedish as a second language, with an official target of universal working bilingualism for both border municipalities. Much of the economy is related to stainless steel products.

The Torne River Railway Bridge is 405 m long, and was built as a swing bridge in 1919. It was converted to a fixed structure in 1985. It is a dual gauge railway bridge between Haparanda, Sweden and Tornio, Finland; the bridge can be used by the 1524 mm broad gauge trains, usually Finnish using rails 1 and 3 counting from the left, as well the 1435 mm standard gauge trains, using rails 2 and 4. While we were visiting we could see the bridge being modified to increase its height. It will then be electrified together with the railway line from Laurila in Finland. The electric railway will be in operation by the end of 2024. The bridge is painted white from the Finnish (near) side to the international border, and is blue from there to the Swedish (far) side.
Nina Sailo (1906 – 1988) The Aino statue (1959), Located in Aino park, is a belated representative of classic handicraft style. Unveiled in 1959. Alasdair is standing with his left foot (on the right of the photo) in Tornio, Finland, while his right foot (on the left) is in Haparanda, Sweden. There is no physical infrastructure at the border, showing just how free the movement is between countries.
Niilo Savia (1898 – 1977) The Jaeger Monument. Unveiled in 1965. At Helsinki University, many Finnish students wanted Russia out of Finland. However, it had no army of its own. Finland pleaded with Sweden to train its troops, but Sweden used its neutrality, to deny this request. However, Germany as an opponent of Russia, agreed to train Finnish troops. The German government financed the journey of recruits to the Lockstedt training camp.
Pekka Isorättyä (1980 – ) and Teija Isorättyä (1980 – ) Särkynyt Lyhty = A broken lantern, unveiled in 2013. It shows cult figures from Tornia, such as the priest of Kalkkimaa and the album cover of the band Terveet Kädet. The work uses local steel and steel objects collected from individuals and companies in the area.
Pekka Isorättyä and Teija Isorättyä, Kojamo = Shed. It is a steel salmon statue commissioned for Tornio’s 400th anniversary in 2021.


About 10 km south of Tornio is Kemi. It is a deepwater port for the north of Finland. Known for its ice and snow. Famous for its winter ice castles, rebuilt annually, and regarded as the largest in the world.

Kemi is world famous, at least in Finland, as the home of the snowman, with this concrete example living outside Kemi’s city hall. Part of the reason for this focus on snow people is that Rovaniemi, located 117 km further north and closer to the Arctic Circle in the northern interior of Finland, has become the home of Santa Claus, since 1985. The city hall was first completed in 1940, but expanded in 1965–1969. The building also serves as the water tower for Kemi.
A Martin’s type anchor from the Russian cruiser Asia, left in Kemi in 1905, in front of Kemi’s City Hall. Height = 3 m, mass = 3 500 kg. It was unveiled in 1969 as a memorial to the city’s founding in 1869, by a regulation issued by Alexander II (1818 – 1881), giving it the rights of a staple town, which allowed overseas trade, the collection of tree/ merchant charges, property taxes, port, bridge and load charges, as well as port and weigh house taxes. In addition, the city had to build infrastructure for the port = a bonded warehouse, a weigh house, a storage warehouse. This privileged right was cancelled in 1995.


65°35′4″N 22°9′14″E

Luleå is considered the world’s largest brackish water archipelago with 1 312 islands, several rivers and vast forests.

The Luleå region has become the Node Pole, because of its northern location, and its role as a data traffic hub in Europe. The region offers stable, low-cost electricity that is 100% renewable. In addition, because the region is one of the coolest in Sweden. This means it is easier and cheaper to keep server centres cool! Sweden’s long political stability is cited as another long-term benefit of the location.


All of the cities in Sweden resemble each other. There seems to be an architectural standard for each type of structure, that lasts about a decade, before it is replaced.

Umeå University School of Architecture, The Waterfall that went silent (2023)
Foodora Market, delivery unavailable.
Taco Bar since 1983
Drinking water: 20th century
Drinking water: 21st century
Sculpture, repurposed as grafitti


Plastic seals.
Cement bears.
Playful monster.
Playground giraffe.


67°50′56″N 20°18′10″E

Kiruna, a short, practical name that could also be pronounced by Swedish-speaking inhabitants, means rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), a type of grouse, in Sámi and Finnish.

The area around Kiruna has been inhabited for at least 6 000 years. For centuries the presence of iron ore at Kiirunavaara and Luossavaara had been known by the local Sámi population. Despite finding large amounts of ore, no mining was started because of the remote location and harsh climate. Some ore was extracted in the 19th century.

In the 1880s plans were made to construct a railway from Narvik to Luleå. It was built by 1903. Mining started in the early years of the 20th century. It provides 80% of Europe’s iron ore.

In 2010-06 Kiruna municipal council decided that the town would be moved eastwards (to 67°51′1″N 20°18′2″E), in the direction of Tuolluvaara, because the Kirunavaara mine undermines the existing town centre. A denser city centre with a greater focus on sustainability, green and blue infrastructure, pedestrians and public transport rather than automobiles, is being constructed. We are using this last opportunity to stay in the old town.

In the old city, abandoned buildings have their windows covered up with original works of art. Some are by unidentified artists.

God Jul! = Merry Christmas! (Jul is pronounced exactly like Yule.)

Many works are by Kena Kriström (1953 – ), born in Östersund. She is especially noted for her ice sculptures in Jukkasjärvi, 20 km east of Kiruna.

Some works are by Carina Kero Esberg (1990 – ) originally from Kiruna, now living in Luleå.

Some parts of the old city have been taken over by wild animals!

Note: Today, we had to take a train replacement bus about 72 km = 1h 10m from Narvik to Björkliden. From there we took a real train about 104 km = 1h 30m to Kiruna. On the trip Alasdair used his Blue Square app. This used his Samsung phones GPS system to tell us the speed of the train. At one time it showed 99 km/h, at another 112 km/h. We also had to wait for iron ore trains to pass.



Tjeldsund Bridge in Troms county. Opened 1967-08-22 after 30 months of construction. Photo: Alasdair McLellan.
Coordinated public transport is not a priority in Norway. This was our shelter from the drizzle, after the first bus from Harstad, in Troms county, dropped us here. It remained parked until after the arrival of our connecting bus to Narvik, in Nordland county, 70 minutes later. The first bus is part of the Troms county bus system. The second bus is part of the Nordland county bus system.


The distance from Narvik to other places in the world, including the north pole. The old coat of arms with an anchor is shown at the top. Cliff Cottage is not listed, but it is 810 km south of Narvik.
City Hall wall.
City Hall coat of arms
City Hall anchor, formerly on the coat of arms.
A Hotel we didn’t stay at.
Syglede = the joy of sewing. All around the world, including Narvik, people like to sew!


Lille Petter = LIttle Petter/ Peter by Jozef Marek (1922 – 2020). Acquired in 1961.
The sculpture Fred er løfte om fremtid = Peace is the promise of the future made by Håkon Anton Fagerås (1975 – ) was unveiled on 2006-08-06, 61 years after the USA dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Narvik Freedom Monument, Liv opp av kaos = Life out of chaos made by Gunnar Olaf Finn Eriksen (1909 – 1970). Unveiled in 1956.
The relief is a copy of the relief that was unveiled on 1960-05-28 at Place de Narvik in Paris. As a tribute to the French war veterans’ association, Paul Landowski (1875 – 1961) made the relief. French veterans from the battles at Narvik handed over a copy in plaster to Narvik 1960-07-17. Narvik municipality had the relief cast in bronze and placed it on the front wall of Narvik City Hall on 1962-08-20. The relief has the following text: In memory of the allied forces who in May 1940 succeeded in the first landing in Norway, in the Narvik area, where they won a victory which they were ordered to renounce.Town
Jenter i vinden = Girls in the Wind, by Tone Thiis Schjetne (1928 – 2015).

Background: 68°25′14″N 17°33′36″E

Narvik began as a bronze age settlement. In the 1870s the Swedish government began to understand the potential of the iron ore mines in Kiruna, Sweden. Port facilities were Kiruna’s one major challenge. Luleå, the closest port, was: covered with ice all winter, far from the mine, suitable for only medium-sized bulk freighters. Narvik was developed as an all-year ice free port for the Swedish iron ore mines at Kiruna and Gällivare. Gällivarre Aktiebolag, a Swedish company, built the 298 km iron ore railway line (Malmbanan) in Sweden to the Norwegian–Swedish border. The 43 km Norwegian Ofotbanen railway line connects Narvik to the border.

On 1940-04-08, Britain attempted to lay anti-shipping minefields around Narvik in Norwegian territorial waters. On 1940-04-09 Germany invaded Norway. The Battles of Narvik were fought from 1940-04-09 to 1940-06-08, as two naval battle in Ofotfjord and a land battle in the surrounding mountains. Although the Germans were defeated at sea, lost control of Narvik and were pushed back towards the Swedish border, they eventually prevailed because of the Allied evacuation from Norway in 1940-06.

Since then, Narvik has called itself the city of peace.

This is an example of a snubblestein = trip stone, found all over Norway, but in this case on a street in Narvik. Each commemorates an individual killed in the Holocaust. This one reads: Here worked Jacob Caplan, year of birth 1903, deported 1942 Auschwitz, killed 19.3.1943.




The hotel we are staying at, is the tall building on the left.
A room with a view.
Cityscapes for seagulls and children


Windows at the local medical centre.
Architectural wonders
The port authorities (1904)


Mechanical relics 1
Mechanical relics 2
Repurposed energy/ gasoline station


To rom = Two spaces, made by Harald Oredam (1941 – ) in 2003. On the Norwegian Arctic University campus.
At the harbour.
Skarven = The Cormorant,, a sculpture made in 1976 by Hans Gjertsen (1917-2006).

Background: Harstad at 68° 48′ 0″ N, 16° 32′ 45″ E is in Troms county, on the coast, in the north of Norway. The surrounding area has traditionally been among the most productive agricultural regions in the county. Isostatic rebound, after the last glaciation, has caused the old seabed, now dry land, to rise up to 60 to 80 metres above sea level. This creates fertile soil, well-suited to farming.

Guerilla Art

Keri Smith’s The Guerilla Art Kit (2007) is providing people with everything they need to know to put their message out into the world, for fun, non-profit and world domination.

2023 is the year for guerilla art. It is not really a matter of choice. The world is burning, and the insanity of fossil fuel consumption has to stop. This weblog post is the second of two parts. It is about the hows, developing skills to become a guerilla artist. The first part was about the whats, supporting Tuvalu’s call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

Guerilla arts #1

Yet another of my favourite books is The Guerilla Art Kit (2007). Keri Smith, the author, taught conceptual illustration at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, in Vancouver. She then went on to live in NYC. She is a street art enthusiast, and regards guerilla art as free, accessible and for everyone. She then encourages everyone to find their inner guerilla artist, quoting Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948): “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The Guerilla Art Kit is about leaving your mark. Yet, all of the exercises in Keri’s book/ kit are meant to be temporary/ transitory. She challenges readers to make pieces that embody impermanence. The biggest hurdle in creating guerilla art is deciding what ideas a person wants to promote.

Guerilla arts #2

Approaches to guerilla art:

1. beautifying: altering surroundings.

2. questioning: challenging the status quo.

3. interacting with people or the environment.

4. Reflect on the three things you want to put into other people’s heads.

Essentials: small toolkit, paint, wheat paste, brushes, gloves, something to carry leave-behinds and/ or stensils, clothing with pockets, that doesn’t signal deviance. Consider high-vis clothing, they can make you anonymous day or night.

Guerilla arts #3

Why is advertising in public spaces (billboards, bus shelters, etc) considered acceptable, but free personal expression is regarded as damaging, if not illegal? It may be preferable to post things on temporary construction walls, than on privately owned buildings.

Scouting is a preliminary step to producing guerilla art. Look for potential locations (Keri suggests: temporary walls, empty planters, objects that could be turned into characters) but based on the project a person wants to do. Avoid: security cameras, signs prohibiting posters/ signs, police.

Start small. Choose a familiar place. Suggestions: quiet alleys or in the woods. Decide the time of day that feels right. Work quickly. Bring a lookout.

Guerilla arts #4

My 2023 Guerilla art project will support Tuvalu and demand an international fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, which would phase out the use of coal, oil and gas.

I am especially critical to the greenwashing of hydrogen. The various colours of hydrogen were discussed in a weblog post, nominally about Toyota.

To begin with, everyone loves hydrogen because, when it burns, it combines with oxygen to create energy = heat, with water as the resulting end product: 2H2 + O2 → 2H20. That means there is no production of carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, some methods used to create hydrogen produce carbon dioxide.

Blue hydrogen is hydrogen produced from natural gas using steam methane reforming, where natural gas is mixed with very hot steam = water = H20, and a catalyst. A chemical reaction occurs creating hydrogen and carbon monoxide: CH4 + H20 → 3H2 + CO. More water is then added to that mixture, turning the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and more hydrogen: CO + H20 → H2 + C02 , or as a combined equation: CH4 + 2H20 → 4H2 + C02. If the carbon dioxide emissions are captured and stored underground, the process is considered carbon-neutral. The resulting hydrogen is labelled blue.

This is controversial engineering. One challenge is methane emissions from fugitive leaks = leaks of methane from the drilling, extraction, transportation and processing. Some estimates place these at between 10 to 20% of the gas extracted.

Methane does not last in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, but does more damage as a greenhouse gas. Over 100 years, one gram of CH4 is equivalent to 28 – 36 g of CO2. Even if the amount of methane that escapes into the atmosphere is 10% of that extracted, it represents, somewhere around three times the damage as the CO2 produced from burning methane.

In Norway, Shell, Aker Clean Hydrogen and CapeOmega are going to produce hydrogen at a Hydrogen Hub using natural gas (mostly methane) from a local processing plant on the island of Aukra, near Molde. The gas would come ashore from the Ormen Lange field in the North Sea, to be initially processed at the Shell plant at Nyhamna.

Shell is also an owner of the Northern Lights Joint Venture, a CO2 transportation and storage partnership, which it claims will provide emission-free hydrogen to consumers, because all the emissions will be captured and stored. I have serious doubts about their capability to achieve this.

The guerilla art project about this situation, will start life just behind the workshop facing Trondheim fjord. In particular, it will look at evocative but non-descriptive names, such as Northern Lights, that lull people into accepting damage because of a cute name.

Mother of Biology

Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis of the silkworm, from Studienbuch (Book of Studies).

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-04-02 – 1717-01-13) was born in Frankfurt am Main, she is notable as an entomologist and scientific illustrator. She spent much of her life living in what is now Germany and the Netherlands, where she died, but also two years in the Dutch colony of Surinam, in South America. Today, it is 375 years since she was born.

After her father, Matthäus Merian der Ältere (1593 – 1650), a Swiss-born engraver/ publisher, died when she was three, her widowed mother, Johanna Sybilla Heim(ius), remarried Jabob Marrel (1613/4 – 1681), a still-life painter, in 1651. Merian received her artistic training from Marrel.

Many Dutch dissenters also moved to Frankfurt, seeking refuge from persecution in the Netherlands. They turned their attention to silkworm breeding and the silk trade towards the end of the 16th century. Maria Sibylla Merian’s earliest nature studies had their origins in this context. She started to collect insects as an adolescent. At 13, she raised silkworms.

In 1665, Merian married Johann Andreas Graff, an apprentice of Marrel. In 1668, her first child, Johanna, was born. The family moved to Nuremberg in 1670. In addition to painting and other artistic activities she gave drawing lessons to unmarried daughters of wealthy families, which helped her family financially, and gave her with access to private gardens, where she could collect and document insects.

She published her first book of natural illustrations in 1675. In 1678 a second daughter, Dorothea Maria, was born, and the family moved back to Frankfurt am Main. In 1679 she published the first volume of a two-volume series on caterpillars, opening with a presentation of the silkworm’s life-cycle.

Merian’s marriage was unhappy, and she moved in with her mother after her stepfather died in 1681. The second volume on caterpillars appearing in 1683. Each volume contained 50 plates that she engraved and etched. These documented the process of insect metamorphosis, and recorded the plant hosts of 186 European insect species. She also included descriptions of insect life cycles.

In 1683, Merian travelled to Gottorp, in Schleswig-Holstein, where she became attracted to the Labadist community, founded by Jean de Labadie (1610–1674). He originally came from the Bordeaux region of France. Later, the community moved to Walta Castle, at Wieuwerd in Friesland.

In 1685, Merian moved with her mother, husband, and children to Friesland. The Labadist community generated income from farming, milling and craftsmenship. Children were tutored communally. Women had traditional roles. A printing press was set up, to disseminate writings by Labadie and others, including Anna van Schurman, (1607 – 1678) painter/ engraver/ poet/ scholar and defender of female education. Another member, Hendrik van Deventer (1651 – 1724),[skilled in chemistry and medicine, set up a laboratory and was regarded as a pioneering obstetrician.

Here, Merian studied natural history and Latin, used as a scientific language. On Friesland’s moors she observed frog development, collecting and dissecting them. Merian’s mother died in 1690, and Merian moved, with her daughters, to Amsterdam in 1691. In 1692, her husband divorced her, and her daughter Johanna married Jakob Hendrik Herolt, a successful merchant in the Surinam trade.

In 1699, Merian and her younger daughter, Dorothea Maria Graff (1678–1743), travelled to Surinam to study and record the tropical insects native to the region. This was financed by selling 255 paintings. For two years she travelling throughout the colony, sketching local animals and plants, recording local/ native names and describing local uses.

Merian criticised the colonial merchants for their obsession with sugar. She took a broader interest in local agriculture, especially the vegetables and fruits that could be grown in Suriname, such as the pineapple. She also condemned their treatment of slaves. One such enslaved person assisted her in her research, and allowed her to interact with other Amerindian and African slaves.

In 1705, she published Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Merian’s Metamorphosis has been credited with influencing a range of naturalist illustrators. In Metamorphosis, she writes: “I have been concerned with the study of insects since my youth. I started with silkworms in my native Frankfurt. Later I realized that other caterpillars developed into much more beautiful diurnal and nocturnal butterflies.”

Because of her documented observations of butterfly metamorphosis, she is often considered to be the founder, and a significant contributor, to the field of entomology. Through her studies, Merian discovered many facts about insect life, earning her the title of mother of biology.

Maria Sibylla Merian from 1679, possibly by Jacob Marrel

More information about the life and work of Merian can be found in an article by Tanya Latty.

Ada Lovelace Day
A portrait of Ada Lovelace, based on an original watercolour portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon (1780 – 1860), that has been modified into a woodcut-style graphic by Colin Adams, for the Ada Initiative. It has been converted into SVG format by Fred the Oyster then colourized by Kaldari. The original artwork is in the public domain, and this final Creative Commons derivative has been available in this form since 2011-10-15.

Today is Tuesday, 2021-10-12. Because it is the second Tuesday in October, it is Ada Lovelace Day.

The micro-story behind this posting is that Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852) collaborated with Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) on his Analytical Engine. In 1843, she was the first person to publish a computer program. It generated Bernoulli numbers. Lovelace is also considered the first person to foresee the creative potential of the Analytical Engine, especially its ability to create music and art. The date selected for Ada Lovelace day is arbitrary. This day is one that could be one used by people with programming skills to serve humankind in various ways. In many places, it is also a school day, although not this year, and many other years where I live, as a week long autumn school break is being held.

For those wanting more information about Ada Lovelace, one place to begin is her Wikipedia article. In additional to a biography, it also provides other sources of information about her, including books, plays and videos.

At one level this day attempts to raise the profile of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Some want to use STEAM, by adding Art. In my time as a teacher of technology, Ada Lovelace day was an opportunity to encourage female students to investigate STEAM, where they might be able to bypass some of those headstrong members of another, weaker gender. This day does not supersede or in any way compete with the International Women’s Day on 03-08,

In terms of the more technical aspects of computing there are many other days that can be celebrated, World computer day is 02-15. It was first celebrated in 2021, with a focus on 75 year old Eniac, described by some as the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer. At a more practical level, the second Monday in February, is designated the (American) National Clean Out Your Computer Day. Many people have issues regarding the storage of data on their computers, including the taking of regular backups. However, there is also a World Backup Day on 03-31, which could be a better day to focus on such issues.

For those who need more computing days: (Apple) Macintosh Computer Day = 01-24; World Password Day = 05-05; System Administrator Appreciation Day = 07-30; Computer Security Day = 11-30; Computer Literacy Day = 12-02, and National Download Day = 12-28.

Dates in the weblog follow International Standard ISO 8601 formats. Generally, of the form YYYY-MM-DD, however in this specific post there are many in the MM-DD format. ISO 8601 is the only format that the Government of Canada and Standards Council of Canada officially recommend for all-numeric dates. It is my experience that about half the Canadian population uses the American MM-DD-YYYY format, while the other half uses DD-MM-YYYY, necessitating the need for ISO 8601. However, usage differs with context. See: