Fire in the Sea
Bioluminescence and Henry Compton's Art of the Deep
Publication Year: 2014
Upon returning, Compton would retire to the darkroom he had constructed beneath a stairwell at the lab and photograph the specimens. A talented artist, Compton then painted watercolors based on his photographs. He allowed free rein to both his scientific judgment and his artistic vision as he constructed representations of how the specimens might have appeared in the crushing pressure of their alien environment.
Compton dubbed the series of deep-water paintings “Fire in the Sea” because of the shimmering bioluminescence common to these deep-water species. Then, along with taxonomic descriptions, he drafted fanciful narratives to accompany the paintings: quirky, humorous, and sometimes cryptic stories of the fishes in their unreachable habitat.
Professor, researcher, and author David A. McKee has taken Compton’s work, discovered in cardboard boxes following his death, and, along with others, provided chapters on bioluminescence, life in the deep, taxonomic arrangement, and life history information.
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
Series: Gulf Coast Books Series
Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright
Because Henry (Hank) Compton would likely have preferred that anything done with his art and his prose have as broad a readership as possible, the authors of this book are attempting to do just that. We feel strongly that the art and text in this book will be of great...
David A. McKee
Foremost we are indebted to the late Helen Compton (Hank’s sister-in-law) for having the foresight to salvage the materials used in this book after his death and for allowing the use of them. Her encouragement and enthusiasm for this project to honor her brother-in-law...
Henry (Hank) Compton was the artist of the illustrations in my 2008 book, Fishes of the Texas Laguna Madre. In fact, both of us worked as biologists at the Rockport Marine Lab aboard the R/V Western Gulf conducting sampling and collections...
Life in the Deep Sea
Where the deep sea actually begins varies among sources. In this book the seaward edge of the continental shelf marks the beginning of the deep-sea portion of the Gulf of Mexico. This equates to a depth of approximately 200 m...
The title of this book relates to bioluminescence, or biological light, so it is most appropriate to include a section on this dazzling subject. Hank Compton more eloquently referred to it as “fire.” On land, where light is abundant, few organisms...
Hank Compton was born on April 10, 1928, in San Angelo, Texas, where his father worked as an accountant and his mother as a public schoolteacher. The family later moved to Snyder, Texas. From an early age Hank was fond of animals and...
The Art of Hank Compton
Some time ago, David McKee asked if I would come to his office to look at some paintings. I didn’t know what to expect. What he showed me when I arrived were paintings on panels stacked in cardboard boxes. As I recall, some of them were in...
Fire in the Sea
Taxonomic classification is an identification system that allows scientists to understand and distribute information and new research to others throughout the world. Scientific classification is intended to cross language barriers by giving scientists...
Appendix: Digitizing the Artwork
Larry J. Hyde
The 57 pieces of artwork reproduced in this book were digitized from 2 media formats: the original artwork itself, or in cases where the original works were not available, a collection of 35 mm transparencies that Compton himself photographed...
Other Works in the Series, Back Cover