Yesterday’s news of a humpback while sighting well within the margins of Narragansett Bay is certainly news- and noteworthy. It seems that there have been more and more of these big splashes and sightings in recent years here in the Ocean State, and that’s a great thing.
Last year, there were the beluga whales. The porpoise and seal populations seems to be up. We are hearing of more big sharks turning up in nets (albeit unfortunate). In the summers we’re seeing turtles. This is all immense change over the past 20 years that I’ve been out there on and in the water. At the start of that time period, I recall underwater visibility being nothing short of $#!T the vast majority of the time, but just a few weeks ago I did a spectacular local dive and had in excess of 30 feet of visibility inshore. Visibility is only a crude metric used for a healthy underwater environment, but it screams positive with that kind of condition. Times are changing for Narragansett Bay.
I always find it interesting to think about just how anomalous these big animal observations are. Consider that the body of water is very large, the big animal has to be at or just below the surface rather than fully submerged, and there are a limited number of eyes out on and under the water that have only a limited field of view and time exposure. That very narrow lens is all we have of the undersea world, yet we are still blown away by these marvels – particularly big animal encounters. It makes me wonder if these are anomalous encounters, or if the animals are in fact there in greater numbers which increases the odds of an encounter.
A colleague of mine recounts the ‘good ole days’ of fishing when hammerhead sharks of all things would make a migration up the Sakonnet River. This was 40 years ago. It would be nothing short of spectacular for the next round of great days on the water to be quickly upon us. Hopefully this time around it is met with appreciation and valued such that we don’t screw it up with unsustainable coastal and industrial development practices.
I’ve had my share of bad days on the water, but it seems like the number of good days is on the rise. There is no better time than now to get out there and pursue some backyard exploration. Those environments remain just as untapped as the far lands we only dream about, and are well within reach.