Ocean, The Final Frontier: The Demise of Turner’s Thesis by Alison Thiel

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Ocean, The Final Frontier: The Demise of Turner’s Thesis by Alison Thiel




The Frontier Thesis has shaped the way western culture has approached the ocean for many years, and its presence can be found within the early photographs of sea exploration documented by the National Geographic Society (NGS). Today, however, its prevalence has become challenged and arguably broken. Images presented by the NGS remain one of the most influential aspects of the magazine and can serve as a reflection of western culture’s mentality regarding each location or species being framed. An historical timeline of illustrations depicting the sea turtle, as presented by the NGS, reveals an early dominance of Turner’s Frontier Thesis that epitomizes imperialism in America. By reviewing past and present photographs used by the NGS to represent sea turtles, one can trace the evolution of the narrative of humankind’s exploitation of this ecosystem and the eventual termination of the Frontier Thesis.
This essay analyzes nine feature stories depicting sea turtles in a timeline of 1924-2009. Within the narrative perspective I identify the sea turtle and human characters through two character/action-driven plots and one scene-driven plot. These three narratives reveal the past, present, and future influence of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis and the implications of its demise. The narrative approach ultimately allows me to understand the role that sea turtles have held in the past, what their current role is, and where it will lead them in the future.


Thiel, Alison


Senior Showcase Oral presentation


Ripon College


April 23, 2015


The author reserves all rights.




Majors: Communication, Environmental Studies
Rosendale, Wisconsin
CMM 510 - Senior Seminar


ThielNatGeo Thesis.pdf


Thiel, Alison, “Ocean, The Final Frontier: The Demise of Turner’s Thesis by Alison Thiel,” Senior Showcase Digital Collection, accessed May 19, 2024, https://rcseniorshowcase.omeka.net/items/show/9.

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