Newspaper Page Text
Staging life as it is Found Under the Sea
FOR a thousand million years evolution has been . creating worlds, burning up and rekindling the stars, populating a universe. It has been a long job—and probably endless. (For a thousand 'million years it seemed not to care ■whether its processes were understood or not. Then it turned out a small orb of smoking lava called "The Earth," and after another million years or so a creature called man, and eventually a specimen of this creature called Charles Darwin. Darwin took the pains to find out what evolution Is, and to name it by its name. That was a generation ago, as men count time. ln that generation evolution got enough advertisement to ©five it a fair reputation in college circles. It got notice from the pulpit as well as from the lecture room. Pro found books were written about it and read—by profound people. The graybeards understood it; their juniors taught it. Something prevented the Idea from getting very far, however, among ipeople who haven't time to digest the long words in longer ibooks. Lots of people didn't know any more about evolution in, say, 1900 than Charles Darwin's great-great-grandfather did in 1700. What was required was a genius who could explain the cosmic game to them in a Roy W. Miner, orig inator and director of this work. Splendid picture of sea life, showing clam worms, opal worms, beak . throwers, and coiled fringed worms in one wrie'e'linef mass. A scallop, startled by mud minnows, can be seen "jumping** into the eel grass, in this delicately made group. simple way on Saturday afternoons. Evolution had created its Columbus, and allowed him to discover itself. What was needed at this juncture was a Mr. Belasco. The Mr. Belasco of science appeared. He is a thin, timid, self-effacing, tireless, ingenious and uncommunicative Belasco, whose name mappens to t>c 'Roy Miner. The point Is that in the Museum of Natural History, New York City, he has recently installed tm-ee exhibits of submarine life that portray the drama of evolution as oio one but the wizard of the theatre has portrayed the drama of human life. His material is paint, wax, glass, some stale salt water, several photographs and the light of the sun. His audience consists of any] one who cares to watch the v world in the making. Mr. Miner Began to dramatize evolution several years ago, when the Museum authorities realized that specimens preserved in alconol bored the public. The public wanted conflict, drama. And evolution as one long drama. Mr. Miner, a young scientist fresh trom Williams College, was sent to the seashore near Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven, Mass., to make wax models of submarine plants and ani mz'.s. After he had turned out a few of the modols it occurred to him to color them as they are colored where they grow. From that it was a thinkable step to recreate the environment that produced his models. It was a huge job; it meant reconstructing a world In miniature. But the .Museum halls, where the alcoholic specimens were kept, grew emptier every year. Expensive institutions like the Museum are unhappy when they bore the 'public. So Mr. Miner called in expert draughtsmen, wax modellers, colonsts and glass blowers; he ransacked zoological works to prove his observations by those of his colleagues. Five years of collecting, comparing, modelling, devising Illusions, building the scenes *of his drama! Like stage dramas that are rewritten, not written, it was rebuilt a hundred times, not built. At last, early in 1912, the first act Was done. One of the huge south windows in Darwin Hall held a model of the harbor bottom of Woods Hole, Mass. The Belasco of science had made his debut. Evolution had been dramatized. If it was a triumph for Mr. Miner, it was a long ovation for the four workmen whom he had selected out of dozens of tyros to help him. One of them had spun glass to an inconceivable fineness, then modelled it in the precise like This beautiful model, known as "The New Wharf Pile Group,"' shows various kinds of shell fish, sea plants, ©to., clinging to the piles, and is one of the most artistic in coloring and illumination. How Roy Miner of the Natural History Museum Studied Marine ocenes for HIS Drama of Evolut ion Now on Exhibition ness of the tcjitao ] c a of fish and the plumes I of eea ferns. . In the history of museum* glass modelling had never been carried to the plane ror which Heinrich Mueller is respon sible. Another, Sho Shimotoru, colored the entire exhibit in an exact imitation of the myriad tones of the sea. That means from pure white to all the incredible hues that are tho glory of submarine life. The Japanese did it with an atomizer that distributes colo# in any thickness, from a broad light sheen to a straight line. His work was a con tribution to museum model-making. The job of Ignaz Matausch and Friedrich Mueller, the modellers, was to copyi in wax the living models of submarine life that were Wonderful model, known as "The Sea Worm Group," showing animal and plant life under the sea. brought to them from the sea. On these all later models are constructed. It is a kind of exact sculpture that only scientists who are haitf artists could accomplish. As for the huge complex models themselves, they gain in wonder when you consider the five brains, the ten eyes and hands that have been at work on them for yfears. Two more have been added recently to the first; they are to be seen in Darwin Hall daily. Imagine getting drowned and passing an educative half hour in the experience! Or imagine yourself in a dream—a cool, green dream that you can have over and over again any time. In the Woods Hole model the top half is an extraor dinarily clever colored photograph of the Woods Hole water front. 11 looks real, but It's only photographic. About half way across the harbor the water is suddenly sliced In half, powerfully and completely, and from there down there is tfaickness as well as length and breadth to the vision. Every detail of the populous life is shown in models. The scene lias been studied from four or five feet of harbor bottom at Woods Hole and it is identical with the original, from the waving rushes to the scales of the fishes, If the fish in the foreground has a back as shining and pink as the one that came up on your line last summer, if the crabs in the sand are as real as toe-riippers from the old swim ming hole, the credit is due to the artists at work in the modelling room upstairs. They are really made of painted wood or wax, and the feathery tail of one of them with the floating leaves of the water plant beside him are probably spun glass colored by Shimotoru. The salt water is real and the sand is real. Everything else is artifice. The tide seems to have washed away the mud, leaving only sand and pebbles. Transparent shrimp, scavengers of the ocean bottom, are cleaning dead shells of their frag ments. A scallop, disturbed by tne mud minnows, has Ignas Matausch, the expert preparator, at an early stage of work on "The Sea Worm Group." jumped in awitwaiu rusnion on a, oiaue vi tci Krass unu clings there, 'hungry and helpless. Mud crabs hide in every crevice. At the extreme bottom of the model is a cross section of the mud itself, showing the sub-bottom life of the sea. Here a clam worm is attacking an opal worm. Beak throwers are .swimming corkscrew (fashion and wield ing their club-like probosces against their natural enemies. All of it is motionless, this little drama planned by the clever scientists, but it illustrates the struggle for exig ence and the slow evolution of types that goes on at the bottom of the sea as no other model ever has. tMr. Miner is planning another exhibit of a group of sea margin animals and plants in a pool left by the tide on the coast of Nahant, Mass. Already the observations on the spot and the necessary modelling in the museum have taken nearly a year. They may easily require, another. When it is done it will be another replica of a world which no one has even seen. You can find Mr. Miner almost any day, dressed in khaki, bending In the museum workroom over one of the thousands of bits that are to be part of the new group. There is still a groat deal of evolution that hasn't been dramatized, but Mr. Mtner is still a young scientist. (More over, he is passionate. Tie works nineteen hours a day. Tins strapoflini^i^i^i^i^i^iHHfMs of five tentacles,* called the Plumed Worm.