Oceans of Opportunity

a lesson on the cycle of life and death, to, from, and within the sea

If this image bothers you, well – it shouldn’t. This is the reality of life and death on and beneath the sea.

Since the start of May, I’ve averaged about 25 hours per week underwater. That is not my busiest stretch, but certainly a far cry from being a sedentary land-lubber. To do that kind of time, there of course needs to be a purpose or mission, and the time doubles in providing time to find purpose in life while immersed within the world around us. The raw reality of a largely virgin underwater environment lends itself well to finding numerous new purposes in life, but also frequently reveals a certain art in death.

All this week, I’ve been met with carcasses of filleted striped bass on the cobble beach where I make my way off to harvest clams for the day. On day one, I was bothered – the fillet job was half assed, leaving a lot of good meat on the bone, and it was a bloody mess right there in my little spot. On day two, the gulls had their fill, leaving not much more than bones and fins – even the eyes were gone. Today, the spider crabs snuck up the beach when the tide came in, and were caught red handed as they scurried down the bank with whatever chunks they could handle. By the end of the carnage, I couldn’t have cared less and as I shifted my attention to the crab action underwater I started to notice all sorts of organic recycling going on. Mother Nature was simply hard at work, making the best use of the resources we’ve been provided with…gulls eating dead crabs and clams, crabs eating dead fish, fish eating clam worms, snails eating clams, clams filtering the water, fish swimming in that water, fisherman catching the fish, and various critters eating the fish carcass. Lots of action on my little cobble beach,

With the majority of my 5 hour per day immersion spent in the dark and working only by touch, there is plenty of time to think about where we, the divers, fit in this underwater food chain. Here on land, short of living in a remote area with big cats or some other rare predator, we’re largely sheltered. Underwater, right off of my little cobblestone beach, it’s wild kingdom. There, in the dark, not much is out to get you, but you can’t help but let your mind wander to some godforsaken places – a monster eel, shark stuck in this muddy bay, or who knows what else. In reality, the heebie-jeebies come from the occasional spider crab grabbing your leg, or crawling over your hand. Harmless suckers, but their archaic demeanor throws me off every time. And then of course, when kneading through the bottom mud for my precious clams, there is always the inadvertent handful or thick and nasty organic spooge that is undoubtedly the final stages of decay for some big animal that settled into its final resting place, which is often verified by the accompanying stink through my mask.

It’s all there in the wild frontier, quite literally in our backyard. Life, and also death, and the human navigating his way into and through this new frontier, trying to figure out how to exploit these resources to promote a range extension for humanity…just like the Lewis and Clark days, except now with a little more to work with…

Today, we have all the lessons learned from centuries of overexploitation of critical resources, so our subaquatic terraforming and seasteading can trek forward with hard learned lessons and some new responsibility. Exploitation is ok, so long as there is a plan for sustainable and environmentally friendly exploitation. That balance is so very, very important, and a yin and yang that we’ve let  slip for far too long.

With that, I encourage all of you to think twice, three times, or more about how to give back at least as much as you take. That’s the only way we’ll find balance in the cycle of life and death, above, below, and within the sea.

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