Old Manolis and the Sea

This is the story of Old Manolis and the Sea.

On one not particularly fine day in January 1985 the Manolis L., a Liberian paper carrier ship, sank off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada, with over 500 tonnes of oil contained within its hull. Newfoundland is widely known for its dramatic weather and fierce seas and its history and culture are inextricably tied to the ocean. Thirty years later the ship remains beneath the water.  Cofferdams were recently employed to contain the hundreds of liters of oil, which officials claim is well secured within the aging ships hold. To date, the Canadian goverment maintains the long-term effectiveness of the cofferdams. Despite a number of oil releases accompanied by local sightings of oiled birds, exploration into determining the cost of removing the Manolis L. has not yet been initiated. 

Concern over the Manolis L. issue has been rising across the province. Twillingate-area residents have expressed particular interest and spurred public action campaigns to draw attention to the cause. Old Manolis and the Sea is one such campaign that I designed to involve local knitters in a unique form of activism – craftivism. Craftivism uses craft as a form of expression and political action and is often referred to as gentle, loving activism. The form is familiar and designed to encourage viewers to explore the issue and draw conclusions for themselves. A large part of the intrigue lies in the obvious committment that crafters dedicate to the cause as hours of detailed needle work is required, which stands out in contrast to our fast-paced, consumerist culture.

Old Manolis and the Sea:
Work on Old Manolis and the Sea began in January 2015, following a local march where over 100 people gathered together to express their displeasure with the governments inaction towards the problems presented by the sunken ship. Interest in the project grew and it was decided that collective action would draw more eyes to the issue.  A call was put out to the community and this is the result of our work. Nine knitters and two crocheters from Twillingate, Durrell, New World Island and Hamilton, Ontario answered the call, generously donating their wool, expertise, and artistic talent to create over 40 unique starfish for the exhibit.

Starfish were chosen as the symbol of the Old Manolis and the Sea project as they are beautiful and passive creatures. They are highly sensitive to changes in their ecosystems and integral in the regulation, distribution, and abundance of micro-organisms within their environments. These attributes make them the ideal symbol to represent our interconnectedness within this world. All the starfish are knit in 100% wool, which will ultimately degrade in the elements. Unfortunately this is something shared in common by the Manolis L.’s steel hull. 


Purpose, Place and Time:
Old Manolis and the Sea can be found on Tickle Bridge, connecting the two islands known as Twillingate. This place was chosen as it is entirely surrounded by ocean and is frequented by both pedestrians and motorists alike. It is intended to serve as a daily, visual reminder of the presence of oil beneath the sea contained within the Manolis L. and its potential impact on the eco-system. Twillingate is graced with many tourists during the summer and Tickle Bridge is often the site of photo-shoots that showcase the towns spectacular natural beauty. The goal of the project is to educate visitors and residents of the starfish plight and engage them in the defense of the ocean. 


Old Manolis and the Sea was installed on the evening of June 7th, in anticipation of World Ocean Day. Similar to the protagonist, Santiago, in Old Man and the Sea, the ultimate aim of this project is to pull something massive out of the ocean. Feel free to share this post to support this aim or to knit a starfish to join this installation. This project should be considered living, so it will grow; a pattern to enable this can be found by scrolling to the bottom here.



6 thoughts on “Old Manolis and the Sea

    • The Rock Vandal says:

      Hey Effie, you should definitely Knit one! Right now, they’re all on a telephone pole downtown, soon coming down for winter safe keeping though. I’m hoping some will be in good enough shape that I can reinstall them next year- in which case yours wouldn’t be all alone! Have fun and keep me posted on your plans!


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