Buried Ships

Venice Biennale: the Austrian Pavilion

At the Venice Biennale, the exhibit on cities displayed a model of half-buried aircraft carrier, apparently after a collage of Hollein’s called Aircraft Carrier City, which evoked for me the cover art from Iain Banks’ Use of Weapons. In a typical fantastical stroke, pointing to his real position as a fantasy author not a hard science fiction author, the villain of the story is general of one army, whilst his childhood rival is the commander of the other. His navy and army mostly defeated, the villain sails his mammoth battleship up a river until it grounds and fortifies the land around it, turning it into a massive, half-buried fortress that reduces to dust any army that comes close.

Of course, turning boats into houses is common practice (One of our family friends lives on a immovable houseboat in Hampton Court, which would topple like a stack of cards were it allowed to drift) and, once they’re fixed in place, partial or even total burial is just a matter of time. The final stage of burial, after this change of use, is the Viking
burial – not the mythic burial at sea, but the deliberate internment of
the chief’s corpse, chattels and goods in an artificial hillock. In San Francisco, notably, developers have often dug up the remains of ships whilst tunneling for foundations; apparently the boats were used to bring immigrants to the area and then either abandoned, used as housing or broken up for parts. As the bay filled with sand from the hills, the ships, or at least their remains, were gradually buried and are being uncovered peripatically, though mostly destroyed when uncovered (Americans still not quite having got hold of the concepts of antiquarianism it seems).


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