Happy World Oceans Day!
I decided to launch my new website today, on World Oceans Day, because the ocean has made a big impact in my life. World Oceans Day was designated by the United Nations to recognise our relationship with the ocean through global connection. In honour of this special day I acknowledge my special relationship with the world’s oceans, dedicate this post, and launch this new website!
Why I Love The Ocean
The Ocean is my life, my life is The Ocean. If it weren’t for The Ocean I wouldn’t be who I am today. I started out a Prairie girl and ended up an Ocean woman; a woman who has experienced life, and learned many of life’s lessons, in and on The Ocean.
It wouldn’t have been so if my mother hadn’t moved us to the shores of Victoria, British Columbia in the Pacific Northwest of North America when I was a child. Some call this place Cascadia. It is a name unique to this region, crossing the boundaries of two countries and uniting those of us who live and work and play here. We all breathe the same cool Northeast Pacific Ocean air; air expelled by temperate forests and infused with the smell of sea salt and kelp.
I always wonder who I’d be if we’d stayed in the prairies of Alberta. Certainly, there is a beauty and nature there, unique to that region, which would’ve drawn me in just as much as the nature of my beloved Pacific Northwest home. From the moment I stepped off the plane from Alberta, and smelled the salt and seaweed scented air of Victoria, I was drawn to the beauty and mystery of The Ocean of my new home.
As a small child I explored The Ocean on rafts that I built of logs from beaches around Victoria and I didn’t hesitate to swim in the icy cold waters any time of year. My fingers and toes would be numb and tingling … my lips purple from the frigid icy swims …but I couldn’t resist the pull of the sea. I grew up loving the ocean while bobbing on it’s surface. With my family we’d wait for a tasty catch for dinner; or watch a sunset over The Ocean; or sit by a beach fire with the stars bright overhead. Many of my first adventures were on The Ocean. Some of my first romantic moments were by The Ocean.
What good fortune that my times of adventure, fun and romance by The Ocean have evolved into a life, a career even, exploring The Ocean and its mysterious inhabitants. The Ocean has humbled me. The Ocean has exposed both beauty and tragedy to me.
The beauty to have observed and shared, with thousands of people, for more than two decades, the majesty of the pods of killer whales inhabiting the Salish Sea around southern Vancouver Island. The beauty of the first time I observed an endangered leatherback sea turtle hauling her giant body up the beach, in the darkness of night, on a remote beach in Costa Rica. That turtle was guided by her ancient instincts and expended so much energy digging the perfect hole to lay her eggs. Her hatchlings would be the next generation and, with any luck, survive to maturity so her species could remain on this planet a little longer. The beauty of watching hundreds of ocean-going dolphins travel together, in synchrony, in offshore waters around the world. The beauty of listening to the foreign, very ancient, language of sperm whales in unfathomably deep offshore waters. The beauty of swimming into the depths alongside a pod of dolphins, being one with their fluidity and grace…until suddenly the burn in my lungs pulled me from a seemingly dream-like state back to The Ocean’s surface for air.
The tragedy of watching a wild sea turtle come to shore, fishing line wrapped around it’s head and into it’s mouth, plastic tendrils extending into its throat and to its gut, giving a false sense of fullness. The tragedy of realising that the families of fish-eating killer whales I’ve been observing for over 20 years have the very real possibility of disappearing or, at the very least, finally choosing to never return to the waters of the Salish Sea where I spent countless hours observing them travel, hunt and socialise. The tragedy and heartbreak watching a pair of sea turtles entangled together in a ‘ghost’ fishing net and drifting in the Bay of Bengal among all the discarded nets and garbage. They were face to face, not more than a few away from each other, taking their last gasps together. They were together but impossibly far away, unable to help themselves, doomed to the same fate. The tragedy of hearing another bad news story about the state of our oceans; that recently, a young male pilot whale in Thailand died from eating 80 plastic bags (17 pounds worth!). Despite all their efforts, those who tried could do nothing to save him.
The tragedy that I can no longer listen, endlessly, to the hydrophone streaming the live underwater sounds of the Salish Sea as before. The intensity of shipping noise in these once relatively peaceful waters now resulting in headache. Unlike the inhabitants of the Salish Sea, I have the choice to turn off the noise. I remember a time when I would be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean then often woke up later, in the middle of the night, to the sounds of killer whales calling each other. I would lie in my bed with a smile on my face, content in knowing of their presence and envisioning them swimming past, side by side in their closely-knit family pods.
I love The Ocean. Despite all the changes I’ve seen and the seemingly endless bad news stories about the state of our Oceans we’re in a time where there is a ‘sea change’ in attitude and innovation. I’ve personally seen the beauty and tragedy of The Ocean and I’m holding out hope that I will see more positive change in my next 40 years of life. Today, I reflect on my experiences with The Ocean and dedicate my intent to continue to work diligently, day by day, in dedication to The Ocean.
I want to finish on a positive note so following is an organisation, some ideas, and a sport that inspires me and that make a difference for our oceans…not just The Ocean of my home in the Pacific Northwest but all oceans of the world.
I love what Mission Blue has been doing for our oceans by ‘inspiring action to explore and protect the ocean’. Mission Blue was created to ‘build a global coalition to improve ocean protection measures and restore the health of the ocean’. The Mission Blue team, under the leadership of legendary oceanographer, Sylvia Earle, embarks on expeditions to study vital ecosystems or as they call them, Hope Spots, and gather the support needed to protect them as marine protected areas,
Enjoy this inspiring clip of Sylvia Earle talking about protecting our oceans!
Innovations In Ocean Clean Up
The more we learn about the state of the world’s oceans the more awful and insurmountable the situation seems to be. Fortunately, people are putting their heads together and coming up with some innovative ideas to deal with ocean pollution. I enjoyed reading this Huffington Post article, 3 Incredible Inventions That Are Cleaning Up Our Oceans. Instead of feeling depressed about what we as a collective species has done to the ocean I came away feeling inspired with a sense of hope for the world’s oceans.
Freediving For The Ocean
I have been a scuba diver for nearly two decades now. I love scuba diving. I love the opportunity it has given me to explore the world’s oceans from below. I have had some wonderful dives and I always come up from a dive with a big smile on my face. I plan to continue scuba diving but, since the first time I watched the infamous freediving movie, The Big Blue, I was fascinated with the sport of freediving.
Freediving is a low impact sport utilising little equipment where freedivers can immerse themselves in the environment, take photos or collect data on marine life to share their knowledge, experiences and stories with others. I love the simplicity of freediving and the idea of exploring the ocean on one breath and using little equipment. I love that it challenges our notions of what we can achieve both physiologically and mentally. This past year I started learning some freediving techniques and I will finally be taking a comprehensive introductory course in freediving in July! Once I am a certified freediver I will be able connect with other certified freedivers to safely and responsibly explore the underwater realm…minus heavy scuba equipment. I can’t wait to learn this simple and novel way to explore the ocean!
The Purpose Of This Blog
After more than two decades of marine wildlife observation I gained a deep connection to nature, an understanding of the far-reaching impacts of human activity and the importance of communicating the value of nature through these experiences. After having many conversations with friends, family, acquaintances and many individuals who reached out to me online, I came to realize I have much to share from my experiences and I want to inspire others with the same drive to observe, appreciate and care for the natural world. Through this blog and my website I have decided to share my stories, lessons learned, and provide guiding information to those who have the same drive and passion to dive into the realm of marine mammal research and conservation.
Check out my About Me page to learn more about who I am and why I’m here.