What's that sphere floating in a Lake Superior harbor? An ecosystem


Yes, that 3,500-pound, 7-foot-wide gray orb is supposed to be bobbing up and down around the Lake Superior shore.

The Ark of the Anthropocene is part art sculpture, part biology experiment, and the creation of Minneapolis man Sean Connaughty. The concrete-and-glass ball is essentially a biosphere, Connaughty explains on the project's Kickstarter page.

Inside is a living ecosystem: a wide variety of plants meant to create "as much biodiversity as possible," it says. There are also objects such as seeds, fossils and artifacts located in the ark.

It was dropped into Duluth Harbor near the Great Lakes Aquarium Tuesday with a crane, Northland's News Center reports, and is expected to stay in the body of water for four to six weeks.

The biosphere was launched after the Kickstarter campaign raised more than $4,000 for the project.

The Great Lakes Aquarium posted a small Facebook photo gallery of the ark being placed into the harbor.

And what is the project about, exactly?

In an online forum post a few weeks ago, Connaughty addressed his neighbors who had questions about the giant ball he was constructing in the front yard of his Minneapolis neighborhood. In the post he says he's an artist and educator, and offers this:

"As a big reader of science fiction I am immersed in thoughts about our future. Consider the implications of the biosphere float, it can be a space to preserve parts of our ecosystems, it can be a site for agriculture, or a habitation for humans. Some day we may live in such structures on a larger scale!"

And on Facebook, the day after the successful drop into the water, he expanded a little bit with this:

"This is the way to achieve a better world, not about profit, but about working together to make a better world, to make the Anthropocene a survivable epoch for humankind and nature. Keep in mind that this is an experiment, that we have made a new object and that there will be challenges and new things to learn as we see how the ark reacts to nature."

The orb also precedes an exhibit Connaughty has opening at the Duluth Institute of Arts on Sept. 11. The Ark of the Anthropocene is part of the collection, which will also feature a series of terrariums – some in the museum, some in Lake Superior like the current ark. Visitors will be able to control a camera placed in the ark, allowing them to see underwater or view what's happening inside the biosphere.

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Here's a video of an earlier trial model.


You can see a gallery of some of Connaughty's other art projects here.

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