In memory of Edward Soldaat

2 05 2016

{Sarah Courchesne, guest blogging}

SEANET is very much a creature of the internet. In my time heading this project, I have corresponded via email and comment threads on the blog with people all over the country and the world, sometimes establishing regular and rewarding correspondence with them. The connection I made with Edward Soldaat was one of the best.


Edward at work

Edward was the founding force behind the seabird osteology site that I have referenced many a time on Dead Bird Quizzes. I can’t remember how we first came into contact–probably I wanted to use one of his excellent images–but after that, Edward became one of the most devoted and knowledgeable players of the DBQs, often offering corrections or clarifications when I’d gone astray.

Edward lived in the Netherlands, as does Wouter van Gestel, another ringer who plays the DBQ often. I always found it both surprising and fitting that some of SEANET’s most kindred spirits were thousands of miles across the Atlantic. But after all, our organization is seaward looking, oriented toward the ocean, and there, on the other side, was Edward, sharing our fascination with seabirds, joined in fellowship over their carcasses.

Wouter wrote to tell me of Edward’s death from metastatic melanoma a few weeks ago, and was kind enough to share with me a bit about the funeral services. Friends and colleagues shared stories of Edward, always angling to acquire skulls and bones from around the globe, or aggravating his mother when he was young, filling the kitchen and freezer with specimens in various stages of processing. He was always lamenting the fastidious and strict U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, evidently one of the world’s more uptight governing bodies as it pertains to shipping bird bits about. I was never able to get Edward any of the things he coveted, but he was ever good natured about it.

Wouter tells me that word came of Edward’s death via a black-bordered card with a bit of verse and an albatross on it. I never got to meet Edward, or even to speak with him, but he was a fellow traveler with the same oddball fixations and interests of all of us here at SEANET. Most people, it seems, try to avoid talking about death. “Well, that’s morbid,” we often hear when describing what we Seanetters do, as if it were a bad thing. Edward understood what the dead can teach us. Already, since his death, I’ve visited his site several times to look over the images or read his descriptions. It seems the right sort of memorial for him. Just like the notice that came of his death, his project was a constant reminder that every living thing inhabits a space hemmed in by black. The lock-winged albatross only has so long to sail, and if he were lucky, then maybe his skull ended up in Edward’s bone collection.

I will miss his voice, and I am grateful to have known him a little bit. I wish peace to all who knew him far better than I did.