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Distracted by the economics of silkies - Input Junkie
October 14th, 2009
09:20 am


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Distracted by the economics of silkies
It isn't what this poem is about, but there's a mention that it used to be much easier for silkies (seal/human shapechangers) to find bags of gold.

Ok, gold was made illegal for private ownership (there were exemptions for jewelers and dentists) in the US in 1933, but I don't know the history of gold coins for other countries, nor when gold coins were out of circulation enough that you'd been unlikely to find them in a sunken ship.

I'm going to assume that any silkie who was interested in gold would be tracking storms and ships so as to be able to follow a sinking ship down-- I think they'd be hard to find otherwise without tech. How deep can a seal dive? Google [seals depth -navy +mammal], you're my pal. Elephant seals dive 700 meters, harp seals (described as not as strong divers as other seals) dive 370 meters.

But what species is the typical silkie, and how deep is the typical shipwreck?

If gold is valuable to silkies, do they have an economy? What might a silkie trade to another silkie for gold? I will assume that the ocean is big enough that a silkie can just hide gold rather than needing institutions (family help?) to keep their gold from being stolen. The ocean seems safer than the silkie trying to hide gold on land.

It's all fandom's fault. I didn't used to care about world-building.

Here's a good version if you'd rather the fine old eerie stuff:

(6 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 14th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
(tangential, but I love that guy's YouTube channel--he presents so many old ballads and things--and this is a nice one)

is it still illegal to own gold? So if I melt down my gold earrings into a lump, it's illegal to have? Maybe it's just gold blocks that are illegal?

[User Picture]
Date:October 14th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
That New Deal ban was lifted many years ago. During Nixon's administration, perhaps.

I'm wondering if selkies (the spelling I'm more used to) don't have any use for gold when they're in seal form, but find it useful when dealing with humans. It's probably difficult to carry around with flippers, so they might have to store it near or on land.
[User Picture]
Date:October 14th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
From 1600 to 1800 the Dutch East India Company frequently sent its ships into what we now call Fair Isle, the Faeroes, Bailey and the Hebrides, carrying a great deal of gold, to avoid the privateers and foreign navies in the Channel. Storms and unmapped reefs sank several of these ships, and I'm thinking this would have been the main source of gold (and even more silver) in the region - mostly in unminted bars. Interestingly, there would also be a whole load of pepper, cinnamon and other spices from the returning ships, but those were carried loose and I guess wouldn't survive immersion in salt water very well. After about 1790 this supply dried up, which might explain the more recent shortage.

Depth wouldn't be an issue for much of the gold: most of the ships that were lost ran aground, and would have deposited heavy cargoes such as gold close to the wreck event. Moreover, average depth on the continental shelf is about 90m: things get quite hairy between Scotland and Iceland, but there was less call for gold-bearing ships to head all the way out there: that was the realm of the fisheries, and those tended to move bullion around on land but not on the sea: the men who worked them generally came back famously poor.

The alluvial idea's interesting - there are still people looking for gold in Scotland. I didn't know that.
[User Picture]
Date:October 14th, 2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
...now that I think about it, the idea of nutmeg (or - why not - brandewyn and rijsttafel) trees growing in the crystal-lit caverns of the hollow earth, seeded from wrecks and tended by Selkies, is a pretty alluring one.
[User Picture]
Date:October 14th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
The Spice Deeplands.
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