Not long ago, more recently than we often think, the world was a much bigger place. Remote lands still existed, and maps were inconclusive, as though the planet still had much to show. Likewise, animals and exotic plants were admired and traded as rare treasures from what were then unknown universes. It was at such a time (to the surprise of many, not terribly long ago) that these incredible drawings were made.

Between 1907 and 1910, the USS Albatross made an exploratory trip to the Philippine Islands for the US Bureau of Fisheries. The crew shared the titanic mission of registering the marine resources of some 7,000 islands making up the Asian archipelago. For 16 months, these divided into three distinct periods, Japanese illustrator, Kumataro Ito became part of the expedition. During the voyage, he illustrated a total of 70 invertebrates, more commonly known as sea slugs, and more than 100 of the region’s fish.

Horned marine wonders, they belong to a family known as nudibranchs, which includes some 3,000 species many of which display striking colors, patterns, and shapes, and which are found everywhere on the entire planet. Although sea slugs are most abundant in shallow, warm waters, they also inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and can live at depths of up to 2,500 meters.

What we know of such animals today is due to technology which allows us to submerge into deep water, and to underwater cameras which allow us to enjoy their exotic appearances in their natural habitats. This is much more than could have been said a few decades ago, because once such animals are out of water, their ephemeral colors and magnificent brilliance are lost in a matter of seconds. All of this gives even greater merit to the hallucinatory, detailed drawings of the Japanese artist virtually unknown today.

In 1912, after the expedition to the Philippines, Kumataro Ito lived in Washington for about a year. Here, he continued to illustrate some of the fish of the deep Philippine seas, and some other species from North America. Prior to his expedition to the Asian archipelago, Ito had lived in Tokyo and he’d gained a reputation as an illustrator of marine creatures, especially after the publication of the book Fish of Japan (1903).

The expedition to the Philippines, having lasted some three years, contributed to knowledge of the then-unexplored region of the world. Through all of its various methods of collection, the vessel returned to the United States with some 490,000 specimens which were delivered to the US National Museum, today the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Admirable as these small animals are, they’re often still considered unspectacular, simple marine invertebrates. But they evidently stimulated the talent of one Japanese artist, and the result was these spectacular drawings:

babosas12
babosas11
babosas10
babosas9
babosas8
babosas7
babosas6
babosas5
babosas4
babosas3
babosas2
babosas1
 

 

 

Images: Public domain

Not long ago, more recently than we often think, the world was a much bigger place. Remote lands still existed, and maps were inconclusive, as though the planet still had much to show. Likewise, animals and exotic plants were admired and traded as rare treasures from what were then unknown universes. It was at such a time (to the surprise of many, not terribly long ago) that these incredible drawings were made.

Between 1907 and 1910, the USS Albatross made an exploratory trip to the Philippine Islands for the US Bureau of Fisheries. The crew shared the titanic mission of registering the marine resources of some 7,000 islands making up the Asian archipelago. For 16 months, these divided into three distinct periods, Japanese illustrator, Kumataro Ito became part of the expedition. During the voyage, he illustrated a total of 70 invertebrates, more commonly known as sea slugs, and more than 100 of the region’s fish.

Horned marine wonders, they belong to a family known as nudibranchs, which includes some 3,000 species many of which display striking colors, patterns, and shapes, and which are found everywhere on the entire planet. Although sea slugs are most abundant in shallow, warm waters, they also inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and can live at depths of up to 2,500 meters.

What we know of such animals today is due to technology which allows us to submerge into deep water, and to underwater cameras which allow us to enjoy their exotic appearances in their natural habitats. This is much more than could have been said a few decades ago, because once such animals are out of water, their ephemeral colors and magnificent brilliance are lost in a matter of seconds. All of this gives even greater merit to the hallucinatory, detailed drawings of the Japanese artist virtually unknown today.

In 1912, after the expedition to the Philippines, Kumataro Ito lived in Washington for about a year. Here, he continued to illustrate some of the fish of the deep Philippine seas, and some other species from North America. Prior to his expedition to the Asian archipelago, Ito had lived in Tokyo and he’d gained a reputation as an illustrator of marine creatures, especially after the publication of the book Fish of Japan (1903).

The expedition to the Philippines, having lasted some three years, contributed to knowledge of the then-unexplored region of the world. Through all of its various methods of collection, the vessel returned to the United States with some 490,000 specimens which were delivered to the US National Museum, today the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Admirable as these small animals are, they’re often still considered unspectacular, simple marine invertebrates. But they evidently stimulated the talent of one Japanese artist, and the result was these spectacular drawings:

babosas12
babosas11
babosas10
babosas9
babosas8
babosas7
babosas6
babosas5
babosas4
babosas3
babosas2
babosas1
 

 

 

Images: Public domain