Terminal Lake Exploration Platform (TLEP) is an evolutionary advancement, and rebranding, of the Great Salt Lake Exploration Platform (GSLEP) to expand territorial activation and broaden research production into the dynamic interaction between human construction and the rapid acceleration of environmental changes of the planet by exploring terminal, or endorheic, lakes across America.
How strange it must have seemed that landscape when the low ridges were shining with the slime of the sea, when the beds were strewn with algae, sponges, and coral, and the shores were whitening with salt! How strange, indeed, must have been the first sight of the Bottom of the Bowl!
John C. Van Dyke. The Desert: further studies in natural appearances. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1901, page 51.
Salton Sea is part of a long horizon of geologic time modulating periods of immersion and desiccation in the Cahuilla Basin, what is presently considered below sea level in the Coachella, Imperial, and Mexicali valleys extending south towards the Sea of Cortés. Once connected to open ocean, this vestigial sea can be read as a marker of planetary transformation and human presence. John C. Van Dyke chronicled a dry Salton Sink bottom prior to the engineering mishap of 1905 that rehydrated the bottom of the basin. Since it has attracted a plethora of land uses——from pleasure seeking recreation and enterprising agriculture to wild eyed industry and military activity. As a terminal or endorheic lake, the current body has collected traces of these expansive pursuits while at the same time obscuring them from view beneath its increasingly opaque waters. As the prospect of another period of desiccation looms, complete with multitudes of ecological concerns, opportunities abound for the arts and humanities to augment scientific exploration of the paradoxes embodied within this land-water-scape. Enter the Terminal Lake Exploration Platform.
The solar-powered Terminal Lake Exploration Platform enables people to remain upon remote and extreme bodies of water for specific durations of time with necessary life support and research infrastructure (shade, fresh water, food and waste storage, solar power, communications, and evacuation provisions). Its modular design maximizes potential uses for research agility and flexible deployability by a small group of people.
We are keen to expand the deployment of the platform to other terminal bodies of water that contain exceptional or revelatory interactions between human history and dynamic geomorphology.
The platform was built in 2015 through a collaboration by artist Steve Badgett and architect Chris Taylor and for the Center for Land Use Interpretation with support from the Graham Foundation and Texas Tech University. Read an account by Rachel Pastan of the initial launch of the platform on The Common.
As a participant in Desert X 2019 the platform will based out of the Salton Sea State Recreation Area to create sonar scans of the bottom of the basin and present findings in the Visitors Center.