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Noordse Stormvogel - Maria Kocijk


Maria Koijck

Right outside the entrance to Fort de Schans, that for centuries has protected the island of Texel against enemies from the sea. Unfortunately, it has not managed to protect this bird against one of the greatest enemies in modern times: plastic.

The plastic virus has assumed the basic shape of the Fort – a pentagon – enabling it to strike with deadly effect.

This virus is an invention, but the deadly properties of plastic are unfortunately all too real. As many as 95% of all sea birds have plastic in their gizzards.

In the scientific world, the northern fulmar is used as a benchmark for the plastic soup in the North Sea. All of the plastic found in these birds’ gizzards is counted and sorted by type. 

Plastic is now everywhere: in water, in the air and even in our cells. It strikes like a malignant virus, and the question of how we can protect ourselves against it remains unanswered. 

Location Artwork: Fort de Schans
1972 CP, Schansweg, Oudeschild
Location number 9 (see map)

Professor Corina Brussaard

Professor Corina Brussaard, marine microbiologist:
‘On hearing the words “marine life”, most people probably think of fish and dolphins, but in terms of weight these large, charismatic marine animals make up only a quarter of all life in the oceans. Most of the life under the water’s surface is minuscule. And these minuscule life forms are in turn pursuedby countless viruses. A single glass of seawater contains many millions of viruses. Viruses have a very bad image: they make us sick! And this is reflected in the work of Maria Koijck. But at the same time we should remember that viruses in the ocean are literally the key to life and death. By infecting and killing their single-celled hosts, viruses ensure that nutrients remain available to other living organisms. In a way, viruses continually “fertilise” the ocean.’

Viruses keep life in the ocean going
Microbiologist Professor Corina Brussaard studies viruses in the seas and oceans. ‘And luckily there’s no shortage of them! A single glass of seawater can contain as many as 150 million or even 3,000 million virus particles. Put together, all of the virus particles in the oceans would weigh the equivalent of 75 million blue whales.’

Uncharted territory
‘It’s sometimes said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about life in the ocean. That might indeed be true for these marine viruses. So far, we’ve really only studied the tip of the iceberg. Vast numbers of different viruses have already been found, ranging from tiny particles to viruses as large as one ten thousandth of a millimetre. And yes, for a virus particle, that’s really gigantic.’

Long live viruses
‘Viruses have a bad image; after all, they make us sick! But that’s only one side of the story. In the sea, viruses also ensure that nutrients, such as those stored in single-celled algae, remain in the cycle. All of those billions and billions of virus particles cause infected algae to burst open, returning their cell contents to the food cycle. Due to their specific preferences, viruses also contribute to biodiversity: after all, the death of one organism is a chance for another to grow. Paradoxically, viruses keep the cycle of life going.’

In her work, artist Maria Koijck stresses – and rightly so – that we need to treat ocean life with care. But for me, the plastic in her birds certainly doesn’t symbolise viruses. Because without viruses in the ocean, there aren’t any birds or sea birds either!’

More information about Corina’s work can be found on the NIOZ website.

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Science Encounters Art

SEA Texel

Ruim 70 procent van onze aarde bestaat uit zee. Een onuitputtelijke bron van inspiratie. S.E.A brengt een ode aan de zee, door kunstwerken geïnspireerd op wetenschap op Texel te realiseren.

Contact informatie

Project SEA
Pontweg 19
1797 SN Den Hoorn, Texel