Taking lessons from the past, The Fen Sea imagines a future with the consequences of a changing climate, and how people might flee or rise to the challenges.
A land of drowned villages marked only by half forgotten place-names, submerged churchyards and forests, lost fields and isolated communities connected via the cloud, where roadways are impassable and goods are delivered by drone airships.
Against a background of displacement, broken infrastructure and strange sunrises; stories unravel, new opportunities emerge and the land remembers its shape...
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T H E F E N S E A
A FILM & RESEARCH PROJECT BY MARK AARON & JEREMY GUGENHEIM.
MUSIC BY MARK AARON, JEREMY GUGENHEIM & RICHARD KETT. ©2023 MARK AARON & JEREMY GUGENHEIM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL CONTENT, IMAGES, PHOTOGRAPHY & AI ASSISTED IMAGERY ©2023 MARK AARON. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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As the Pleistocene epoch ended, the last of the ice sheets retreated and sea levels continued to rise, subsuming an area of the North Sea known as Doggerland  which connected the UK to mainland Europe. This land was home to a variety of animals, including mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and early Mesolithic human populations.
8,200 years ago, an underwater land-slip off the coast of Norway  created a tsunami (The Storegga Wave) that finally destroyed Doggerland and flooded the East Anglian wetland with salt water.
The Fens of eastern England were huge, stretching from Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge into North Yorkshire. This was a wild place, a vast floodplain of swamps, reed beds, slow meandering rivers and damp forests.
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10,000 years ago. at the end of the last ice age, meltwater from the Devensian ice sheet , which stretched from the highlands of Scotland to London, flowed down across the Eastern counties of the UK, carrying with it rich glacial til and creating a vast shallow inland sea covering an extensive part of the counties of Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Over the next 2,000 years this became rich wetland, and host to thousands of indigenous and migrating species.
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The Romans tried to build roads across the flooded landscape. From 1620 until the early 20th century, royalty, successive governments, landowners and industrialists 'The Gentlemen Adventurers' , tried to drain the Fens and turn it into rich farmland and control its people, eventually employing steam-powered pumping machines and cutting sluices to reclaim the land. With little or no notice, communities were forcibly evicted. Unique habitats were destroyed, ancient archaeological sites lost forever.
Peasants and farmworkers known as The Fen Tigers , rebelled; torching fields of newly planted oats and barley, creating makeshift dams and filling drainage sluices and tearing down fences used to contain cattle. Even up until the middle of the 1800s, there was a vast lake here. 'Whittlesea Mere' was the largest inland body of water below The Lake District .
Convicts and captured soldiers where used to further dig out ditches to drain the land and by 1850 the marshes and wetland had all but disappeared. In some places, such as Holme Fen in Lincolnshire, the land fell by up to seven metres below sea level. As the peat dried out, the fine topsoil, not bound by deep roots, eroded away in the wind, to a depth as much as four meters.
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Sermersuaq  is the Inuit name for the ice sheet that covers much of Greenland to a depth of three kilometres. As of 2023, the Sermersuaq still holds over a 2.9 million cubic kilometres of ice, accounting for 8% of all the world's fresh water. Due to man-made climate change and global warming, and according to the latest scientific data on sea level rise; if the Sermersuaq Greenland Ice Sheet collapses, the seas in the northern hemisphere will raise by seven metres and The Fen Sea will return .
Despite investment in a nuclear power station on the low-lying Suffolk coast, current long-term UK government policy, published in a white paper  as recently as February 2021, is one of managed retreat.
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