Soliliquies of a Mariner's Descendant

For many years I was unable to board boats or cross bridges without a sense of panic. A debilitating fear of water was bound to me seemingly without any rhyme or reason. The image of deep waters, alone, was enough to induce palpitating anxiety, yet there have been no traumas, nothing rooted in my immediate past that I could link as the cause of this phobia.

Only recently, I was chosen as the inheritor of a towering collection of familial documents. Boxes upon boxes of evidence became a link to my past. What was revealed were centuries of lineage rich with seafarers; generations of ship carpenters, captains and sailors. Even more revealing was the overbearing presence of ancestors who were drowned or lost at sea. It would only excite my curiosities further when I discovered that this innate fear was shared between three subsequent generations - myself, my mother, and hers.

I became interested in the possibility of a relationship between my fear and my ancestor’s lived experiences. Stories of Mayflower passengers, mariner dynasties, a poet’s obsession with the sea, and an ancestor’s infamous account of a shipwrecked whaler, which would become Melville's impetus for writing Moby Dick, began to unravel a narrative where I was able to examine my fear as a sort of inheritance.

In conjunction with the notion of inheritance, the work explores the duality of my relationship to the sea, which both elicits intense fear and a sublime sense of belonging.

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