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An informal shark safari via the scheduled riverboat service from the London Eye to North Greenwich starts with a promising display of common gulls, which perch on construction barges facing into the wind so their feathers won’t ruffle.

The Thames does not look alluring and its brown waters are coloured by sediment animated by the tides. Who can tell what lies beneath?

The party of visitors to the Tate Modern’s beach could probably say, if only we could understand them: this biodiversity hotspot contains two swans, four greylag geese and a gaggle of feral pigeons and gulls.

source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/13/no-sharks-but-ive-seen-porpoises-the-rebirth-of-the-river-thames

I just read the article above and I wonder what 1)'the party of visitors to the Tate Modern’s beach', and 'we' and 'them' (in the sentence 'if only we could understand them') refer to.

I think 'the party of visitors to the Tate Modern's beach' in the 7th paragraph refers to people on the riverboat.

So I think the writer thought 'the party of visitors(=people on the boat) would probably say if only we(=people on the boat) could understand them (animals at the beach: two swans, four greylag geese and a gaggle of feral pigeons and gulls)

Is there anyone who'd like to explain whether what I understand is right?

1 Answer 1

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The 'party of visitors' consists of two swans, four greylag geese and a gaggle of feral pigeons and gulls.

The fact that they are animals (and, hence, cannot speak) is indicated by the clause 'if only we could understand them'.

'We' refers to people, either those on the boat, or humans in general, and 'them' refers to the swans, geese, etc. These could probably say what lies beneath the brown waters of the Thames (if only they could speak).

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    +1 And these animals could answer the question, "Who can tell what lies beneath?" because they've all been there
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 15:31
  • I think "the party of visitors" specifically refers back to the previously mentioned common gulls [perched on construction barges]. Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 16:36
  • @FumbleFingers -The party of visitors to the Tate Modern’s beach could probably say, if only we could understand them: this biodiversity hotspot contains... Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 17:22
  • I don't understand what you mean there. I think the text is pretentious and badly constructed anyway, but even with my understanding ("party of visitors" = the gulls) it's decidedly weird that those visitors would refer to themselves as "...and gulls". It's semantic nonsense anyway - even if we could understand them, why on earth would wildlife enumerate the list of visitors to a biodiversity hotspot? The writer is unthinkingly anthropomorphising the wildlife into eco-warriors / hack reporters who think like him. Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 17:32
  • Or maybe what the party could tell is What lies beneath the brown waters and sediment. But it's still nonsense. If you wanted to know what was under the mud you'd probably use a metal detector - you wouldn't try asking the local gulls and other wildlife! Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 17:40

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