The Surface of the Sea
The marine programme is obviously full of experiences that aren’t typically encountered – from following pods of dolphins to snorkeling through blossoming coral reefs. But one of my favourite elements of the programme is getting used to spending our days on the surface of the ocean. I don’t necessarily mean adjusting to being on the boat – which definitely took some adjusting for some people, occasionally with the help of seasickness tablets – but in the sense of making the surface of the sea a familiar landscape, just as the home terrain of dry land is.
Once you get used to the excitement of seeing your first dolphin or sea turtle, you can really start to notice how incredible it is beyond that; just to be out over open water. Instead of scanning your eyes over rolling hillsides as one would on land, you get to actually participate in the gently rolling hills coming your way in the form of giant waves slowly dragging toward the boat, passing underneath and rocking you along. On the surface of the ocean, the entire ground completely transforms every few minutes; changing from rough, harsh waves that the boat plunges up and down through, to a calm surface resembling a rippled glass pane, where suddenly your range of eyesight increases tenfold. I’ve never had the chance to spend extended periods of time on a boat day after day, so at this point of the programme it seems like we live out there on the water, broken up by the periods of time spent on base.
The boat surveys are what I remember most about each day. It’s an entirely different community of life out there, and as you’re hanging over the side looking out for the sight of a dorsal fin but instead see the occasional ray or fish soaring out of the water through the air, it becomes very easy to internalize how far-removed the setting is from what we’re used to. Add to that the more blatantly bizarre array of reef fish, eel, lobster, octopus, sting ray, crab, and anemone species we see on a typical snorkel transect, and you can start to see why I find myself in such awe of this environment and the marine programme.
Every single morning I wake up without a hint of the repulsion a youngster such as myself may expect with a six o’clock wake up time; because I cannot wait to be out there again, gliding over a world so vastly different to my own. Even if there isn’t any sign of life breaking the water’s surface, to be out there and aware of the fact that we are literally skimming over the top of an unfathomably massive body of water, home to a range of species that I can only liken to creatures I’ve seen in movies, puts each day on the verge of surreal. And I haven’t even gotten to the dolphins! I’m sure you’ll hear plenty more about the stars of the marine programme, but for me just being out on the water every day has been overwhelming enough, in the best kind of way.
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