Sea of Words

Mosaic of the goddess Tethys
Mosaic of Goddess Tethys

Sea of Words

Searching for Tethys

Her thoughts carried her like the sea carries a boat

Omnipresent yet unknown

The waves battled

the unspoken ocean of her thoughts.

Gushing bellows of swirling whirlpools

She felt the heavy breeze in her hair;

the salt pierced her face

So fragile were her ideas undiscovered

Confronted with Aura – the breeze became her muse

Deep in conversation

Waves broke out of their amorphous casts

They discussed that land of the past

The last forgotten ocean

Only the Earth had moved as in Gaia’s dream

The changing realm of the abyss

A mystery which remained with her

Looking for clues to uncover these secrets

On her raft she remained

Lost in the sea of words

By Siddhi Joshi

This poem draws on similarities between conversations and the breadth and depth of the sea. As a PhD student studying oceanography, I have been continuously inspired by nature and a large range of natural phenomenon in the sea- of Tethys- the Greek goddess of the sea and her mother Gaia- the goddess of the Earth. Drawing on ideas of scientific discovery, this poem explores the role of conversation in scientific dialogue and this relationship between thought, observation of nature and discovery. I was inspired to write it when reading the book “Vanished Ocean” by Dorrik Stow – a book about the Tethys Ocean and the insights of Greek mythology in the personification of nature and refers to the amorphous casts from Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse.”

It also draws on my own personal experiences of my journey as a PhD student studying oceanography especially while going on oceanographic expeditions and of subsequent conversations with my supervisor. Although the poem is relatively open-ended, in what the conversation is about- it could be about anything- parallels are drawn between the thought process of scientific discovery; human conversation; conversations with nature; even love…

From the Republic of Conscience

In the memory of Seamus Heaney: A Human Rights poet and writer 

April 13, 1939 – August 30, 2013

from the Republic of Conscience


When I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curlew high above the runway.

At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.

The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.

No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.


Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning
spells universal good and parents
hang swaddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.

Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.

Their sacred symbol is a stylised boat.
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.

At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office-

and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.


I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself.

The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.

He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.

Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.

“From the Republic of Conscience,” from 
The Haw Lantern by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 1987 by Seamus Heaney.

Seamus Heaney

Meeting Seamus Heaney in Galway at Cuirt International Festival of Literature, I had the opportunity to ask him about this poem and he recalled he wrote it a long time ago in 1985. I mentioned the book and he was very humble and down to earth.

Trá an Doilin, Maerl Beach in Carraroe


We recently did a modelling study on the sediment mobility of maerl in Galway bay, utilising coupled hydrodynamic-wave-sediment transport models. This is the final part of my PhD in maerl sediment dynamics. Sediment mobility in its simplest form is the percentage of time grains of a particular size are mobile during  a tidal cycle (Idier, 2010). This study focuses on the sediment mobility of maerl in particular, utilising coupled hydrodynamic-wave-sediment transport models to model the oceanography during calm and storm conditions and the resulting sediment transport. Sediment mobility models are another way of quantifying the disturbance of the seafloor as a result of currents, waves and combined wave-currents. This study calculates two sediment mobility indices, the Mobilization Frequency Index (MFI) and the Sediment Mobility Index (SMI), related to the magnitude and frequency of disturbance events (Li, 2015). The residual currents, which are the part of the current remaining after removing the oscillatory tidal component, show that maerl prefers intermediate mobility environments and is often found at the periphery of the residual current gyres. Sediment mobility maps can be used to inform marine spatial planning for the management of both live and dead (fossil) maerl beds, as a result of climate change or anthropogenic activity. The full research paper, Joshi 2017, can be found here.


Idier, D., Romieu, E., Pedreros, R., & Oliveros, C. (2010). A simple method to analyse non-cohesive sediment mobility in coastal environment Continental Shelf Research, 30(3-4), 365-377 DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2009.12.006

Joshi, S., Duffy, G., & Brown, C. (2017). Mobility of maerl-siliciclastic mixtures: Impact of waves, currents and storm events Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2017.03.018

Li, M., Hannah, C., Perrie, W., Tang, C., Prescott, R., Greenberg, D., & Rygel, M. (2015). Modelling seabed shear stress, sediment mobility, and sediment transport in the Bay of Fundy Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 52 (9), 757-775 DOI:10.1139/cjes-2014-0211