The Beauty Within
Few things can surpass, and none can match the thrill of scuba diving. The sensation of slipping into a world where the constraints of gravity are loosed and one is free to fly, gliding with the unseen currents like an eagle soaring in the wind, is an indescribable experience that never gets old no matter how many times you do it. Every time is always the first time, and every dive unique from all the rest. The vastness and diversity of our oceans practically guarantees that you will see something new each you put on that wet suit.
When the water is crystal clear and the visibility is unlimited, you can survey the underwater world like you would from an airplane – looking down on the many-colored and oddly shaped corals. The multitude of fishes too numerous to count. And the unbelievable array of the strangest, weirdest, most interesting creatures you would ever find – from an eight armed octopus that can change colors at the drop of a hat, to shrimps with a thousand eyes and a kick so fast it creates its own sonic boom. Old Mr. Ripley can write a whole volume on these wonderful animals and it still won’t even scratch the surface.
Once in a while the lucky diver may also catch a glimpse of a shark, the undisputed king of this watery world, cruising among lesser mortals with all the surety and menace of Mike Tyson entering the ring during his prime. Seeing these apex predators for the first time, looking into the unblinking blackness of their eyes, you get a distinct feeling that it is only through their sufferance that you continue to remain healthy while in their realm. It is a humbling encounter where the wise depart with a sense of awe and a big question mark on the true place of humans in the hierarchy of nature. And the foolish do not leave at all.
The Treasures of the Past
But for all the beauty that it holds, much of our seas and oceans remain a mystery. An unexplored world just outside our doorsteps, and whose murky depths have proven all but impenetrable to our quest to see and understand what lies beneath the waves. Far from the prying eyes of men, a large part of human history lies hidden and undisturbed in the silent darkness of the ocean floor.
Buried beneath thousands of feet of water is a chronicle of man’s earliest attempts to answer the siren’s calling beyond the waves. From the meanest dugouts to grandest galleons, crossing the vast distances between continents meant venturing far beyond the sight of land and into the heart of the unknown. It was an adventure for the ages and countless brave souls answered the call. Tragically not all of them made it to the journey’s end. Stored away in Davy Jones’ mythical locker are the stories of man’s persistent itch to explore, to discover what lies beyond the horizon.
Aside from fueling our curiosity, the oceans have time and again been used as a tool to extend man’s capacity to inflict violence on other men beyond the borders of their own nations. Throughout history, and even up to the present time, warlords, conquerors, and despots have played their games of brinksmanship on the high seas, with the fate of millions on the line. And while those who have succeeded are written into the history books, the failures of those whose efforts have yielded nothing but a watery grave, can be read only from the battered and broken wrecks they left behind.
Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg
In descending these depths, the intrepid diver journey’s into a world of unending possibilities and new discoveries, a world of wonder and sudden, violent danger. A world filled with relics of the past and the promise of a bright future. And, sadly, a world that is slowly dying from neglect, and misuse. Because its bounty is hidden beneath the surface, it is easy for people to turn a blind eye to the rapidly deteriorating conditions of our oceans. Despite the increasingly dire warning and doomsday predictions from scientists and conservationists, the dumping of millions of tons of garbage into our waters remains unabated.
According to a report by by Ocean Convervancy (oceanconservancy.org), “The amount of plastic going into the ocean from land is estimated between 5 and 14 million tons annually. This study demonstrates that the sheer volume of plastic in the ocean is orders of magnitude greater than what has been previously estimated. In the next decade our ocean could hold one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish.
We know that plastic is bad for ocean wildlife and habitats – animals ingest it and can get entangled in it; it litters our beaches and waterways. Volunteers with Ocean Conservancy’s International Cleanup have collected over 190 million pounds of trash, including plastic waste, since the event began 30 years ago. And plastic waste is not just an environmental concern. For countries where plastic consumption has outpaced waste management, there are real concerns around public health, job creation, tourism and quality of life.”
And as far as it being an endless supply of food for our growing cities, man’s greed and inexhaustible appetite has beggared the once seemingly limitless riches of Neptune. Every year, as the fish stocks grow smaller, it becomes harder and harder for fishermen to meet the demands of the market. Leading many to resort to more desperate and environmentally destructive methods in order to increase their haul of the ever more precious fishes. Soon this vicious cycle of exploitation and extermination will come to a dead stop as the oceans will finally be depleted of all that it has to give. Which, if the current studies hold true, may come sooner rather later.
Hoping for a Better Future
But until that time comes we continue to hope that something will change. Something drastic that will make people realize that we should do all we can to preserve and protect the oceans and all the creatures that live in it. Not just because we rely on it for food or that it is useful for whatever purpose it might serve us, but because it is simply the right thing to do. The late Jacques Cousteau, a scuba diving legend and one of the earliest advocates for marine conservation said it best when he declared that, “If we go on the way we have, then fault is our greed. If we are not willing to change, then we will disappear from the face of the globe. If we are just logical, then the future would be bleak, indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work.”