The Mermaid Cave Reveals Its Mysteries

View the film here by clicking here: Giant Sea Cave Excavation ~ Drifters Project Kefalonia

The cave is enormous, an upward-sloping bowl shaped amphitheater.  Once you pass the rocky water entrance, you enter a boulder field that stretches back 150 feet or more.  The first large object you see is a completely rusted out 50 gallon drum 40 feet from the water’s edge.  But its the fringe of visible objects at the far back of the cave that are of concern, the thousands of pieces of plastic:  styrofoam blocks and balls shaped by the sea, water bottles, shoes, 5 gallon multi-colored containers, a second 50 gallon drum and other oddities.
Just a handful of steps in from the waves crashing on the rocks, you notice that the strewn boulders and rocks are covered with a thick layer of ochre dust, in some places up to 6 inches deep.  This dust is dry to the bone and extremely fine; its presence is mysterious when you consider that the furious storms of winter had waves large and powerful enough to send 50 gallon drums hundreds of feet uphill to the back of the cave.  As you scramble over the rocks, you notice that not all things are rocks at all, the masking effect of the uniform dust layer hides all sorts of other plastic objects and styrofoam shapes strewn across the entire floor of the cave.  As soon as you dislodge the object, the dust falls away to reveal gleaming white styrofoam or the garish party colors of plastic detritus.

Then you spot a real treasure in front of your feet:  a large, perfectly preserved bivalve mollusk fossil.  Its completely clean, no dust layer at all.  Its presence is as mysterious as the thick dust coating the rest of the floor.  Looking up to the ceiling of the cave 45 feet overhead, you discover all the answers:  the entire cave is a comprised of a sedimentary layer of fossil bed that was in some distant past, the bottom of the very sea now lashing at the cave’s mouth.  The ceiling and walls are studded with fossil shells that once lived there, imbedded in Upper Cretaceous or Eocene era limestone.  And this ceiling is crumbling bit by bit, second by second.  Mostly what rains down is the fine dust of the decomposing sediment layer, and every now and then, a fossil gets dislodged.  These fossils seem so perfectly symbolic of a mermaid’s mirror and the cave a perfect hiding place for the land-bound moments of a mermaid’s life, that we christen it The Mermaid Cave.

The collision of these two drastically distinct timeframes is shocking: one,  the seafloor deposition, fossilization, tectonic lifting and decomposition is slow, ancient, continuous and natural; while the other, the thoughtless human cultural accretion of our transformation of fossilized sunlight and lifeforms that is petroleum into a toxic discard that the sea is now making every effort to disgorge itself of  is so rampant, rapid and unnatural as to be a threat to our very existence.  As I realize the stratigraphic process unfolding overhead, with its real possibility of ceiling collapse or rockslide, a heightened sense of danger  accompanies the already strong sense of urgency that accompanies me every time I perform a cleaning action:  we are running out of time.

While the Mermaid Cave is on the fringe of the Ionion Sea and not the Pacific Ocean, entry and exit was still a big challenge.  A gauntlet of underwater and partially submerged boulders guard the entrance.  We had a one day window and a single chance to make this film. All forces collided to help us. For 7 days we tried to enter the cave and only 1 time were we successful in order to strategize the entry and exit with everyone safe, the plastic removed and bags not broken to put it back in the sea. The amazing shooter Sergio Ko was in the water with us, and getting bashed by the waves not to drop or crash his expensive camera. The incredible editor Nickos Myrtou created a powerful document in a single day. My genius husband Craig Dongoski made a searing soundtrack with my choice of pilot whale songs for the underlying theme. The powerful team of girl swimmers Sarina Basta and Maria Rigatou who swam with me gave it their all. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

View the film here by clicking below:

Giant Sea Cave Excavation ~ Drifters Project Kefalonia


The sea-sculpted styrofoam became the most ubiquitous element of the Mermaid’s cave contents and I worked the material through several stages of a changing installation in the course of the exhibition at the Ionion Center.  There were over 1300 pieces of polystyrene in total that we collected.  A full tally of all the cave contents will be coming soon, along with more on the exhibition with Dianna Cohen, as well as Dianna’s and Tona’s amazing discovery of the Witches Cave at Assos coming soon  in the next post!

Stage 1:  Styrocoral (mimic), 2012, 1300 pieces of styrofoam dislodged from Mermaid seacave, Cape Liakas, Kefalonia, Greece

Stages 2-4:  Defective Flow Chart (House of Cards), 2012  in progress


The March of Humanity, a social history in shoes, 72 in total removed from the Mermaid Cave

March of Humanity, 2012

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