In the darkness the boundary between land and sea was indiscernible. The clouds were rushing and parting overhead, and occasionally you could see the full moon, bright and perigee, or flashes of lightning in the tips of the cumuli just over the horizon.
Masked under the black heaps of the waves were the remnants of the medieval port of Dunwich, which had once been one of the largest towns in England. It had all but been destroyed though, by a series of catastrophic incursions from the sea and now only a few houses and a single street remain.
Staring out over the submerged town in the darkness and flux of the storm I remembered how I had once thought that the form of the land contained its context and history; that there was a recollection of place layered downward into the soil. But I understood things differently now; at best it felt as though what we could say of the past would only ever be conjecture. The structure, which before had appeared as a repeating pattern of loss that was redeemed by mnemonic or archaeological retention, was now simply an ongoing description of forfeiture. Time and change distorted the record before wiping it away.
Behind one of the remaining houses on the shore is a small library containing a resource of historical documents outlining and relating to the inundation and decline of the town. Earlier in the day I had taken shelter there from the weather. Outside, the wind was howling and the rain was hammering on the window. I sat for some hours while my clothes and equipment dried out, reading through some of the more recent descriptive pamphlets detailing the attempts of underwater archaeological surveys to map and record the submerged ruins.
The various accounts of the divers contained within these accounts bore similarities. Firstly, they detailed the poorness of the visibility of each dive; how the light to begin with was murky and yellow with sediment, and how it deteriorated further as they descended into the depths. By the time they neared the seabed it was so utterly dark that not even their torches could penetrate the blackness, and they were reduced to fumbling around by sense of touch alone.
Upon reaching the bottom they described the strength of the currents that rushed and whirled around the site, the numerous smooth stone structures that littered it, and how at times they felt as if theyd entered room like spaces enclosed by flint and mortar walls. Only a modicum of knowledge could be gathered in such conditions, and the chance to do so was passing; the remnants were slowly being lost to settling accumulations of sand, which in places was already three meters thick.
Lifting my head from the reading I gazed expressionlessly out of the window. Our memory had already begun to erode. Gaps had appeared in our recollections of what had been, and what we had lost was now beyond our grasp. There was nothing else capable of remembering us, and our own knowledge of having been would fail with our own disappearance. The record would remain in the ground or under the sea, but with time it would become increasingly hard to comprehend.
Whilst we were present the light was sometimes enough, the way it reflected off things gave them form and detail. But these forms contained no meaning and would not remember themselves. Our attempts to represent them when they moved us, or the fumbled attempts we made towards understanding them, were often simply circular repetitions that glanced like the light off the surface of their appearance.
The closest you could come to understanding all of this was here, at the point of dissolution, where the outward form of the world crumbled and disintegrated. It was seeing the place as it changed that allowed the form of your thoughts to approach the loss and see its meaning, to see its mutability.