The Oceans As Soul Refreshers

Explorers arriving at the nourishncherish home would have found the chronicler walking around with one book more often than others, Chasing Science at Sea – Racing Hurricanes, Stalking Sharks, and Living Undersea with Ocean Experts by Ellen Prager.

You see, I wanted to finish reading the book before World Environment Day World Oceans Day on June 5th. Then, I thought I will somehow make it to World Oceans Day on June 8th. Now both days have come and gone, many marvelous meals have been tucked into, many laughs shared with friends and family, many meetings sat through, many hikes and bikes to appreciate the world around us, but the book is still in my hand.

The book is engaging at a fundamental level – a subject and set of anecdotes so absorbing and amusing that despite all the demands on my time, I do not want to set it down unfinished. Every time I have gone to the edge of the land overlooking the waters, the lure of understanding the world is beyond me. How would it be if we had evolved under water instead of on land. How would our technologies have taken shape? Then, there is a gratitude that we are land dwellers and 3/4ths of the Earth is uninhabitable by us.

The pressure of living under the sea must be enormous and I wonder about how the various creatures of the sea manage. A friend of mine had taken a picture of a chips bag at high altitude. Imagine that bag 10,000 feet under the ocean. Apparently, every 33 feet the pressure increases by another atmosphere. With what ease these dolphins and whales navigate the pressure differences as they come up to gulp air and go back into the depths of the oceans?

One evening I stood watching the magnificent waxing gibbous moon over the bay waters one one side, and the setting sun on the opposite side. I remember reading that the creatures of the ocean have their own lunar cycles to follow. The little turtles that come ashore on full moon nights to lay their eggs, the fish orienting themselves by the direction of the stars, the birds using their innate gifts of navigation to traverse the Earth on there impressive migratory journeys – everything ebbed and flowed into the mind’s eye much as the gentle waves lapping nearby.

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” –

Rachel Carson

There were pelicans bobbing elegantly in a uniform motion a distance away, seagulls, avocets and blackbirds flying energetically, while the herons stood stoic as ever apparently gazing at the moon and waiting for the fish in the waters below.

The edge of the sea

How must it be to live under the sea? How I wished to be a little mermaid just then to glimpse into the ocean worlds? Imagine my surprise when I sat with the Chasing Science at Sea book that evening to read about Aquarius – the under sea research station that allows marine biologists and oceanographers to research the oceans. They spend hours at these deep pressure stations after which they need to be carefully acclimatized to the surface atmosphere before returning to the surface. While inside Aquarius, they can stay for as long as their mission takes, but:

At the end of a mission, aquanauts undergo a 17-hour decompression that is conducted within Aquarius itself, while on the bottom. At the end of decompression, aquanauts exit Aquarius and scuba-dive back to the surface.

NASA site on Aquarius

The truth is that the oceans are still an enigma. Despite underwater diving equipment, the ability to scuba dive, submarines, and remote access vehicles, the oceans are vast, and full of an alluring mystery. 

A few years ago, I read a book on marine farming and was enthralled at the possibilities of seaweed farming and kelp forests, but not a little afraid as we start taming the seas. We have not shown ourselves to be good custodians of the lands and the atmosphere.

Kelp Forest – Monterey Bay Aquarium

As I determinedly read about the adventures or the scientists, a strange calm engulfed the soul. Water and water-related imagery often does this. I slipped into bed with beautiful thoughts of the oceans and how little we really think of them in our day-to-day problems. What amazing soul refreshers the waters are?

Maybe science needs to lighten up!

We were chatting of this and that. I don’t know how many people relish nothing-to-do days: we love them in the nourish-n-cherish household. The son & I were goofing around: chitting, chatting, and all that.

Chasing Science at Sea – By Ellen Prager

We were discussing Chasing Science at SeaRacing Hurricanes, Stalking Sharks, and Living Undersea with Ocean Experts  – the book I was reading. It is a lovely feeling to dip into the wonders of the ocean and experience the day to day life of a marine scientist (Something so different from American corporate life). How do you line up ocean vessels for your research expedition, how marvelous to experience bioluminescence on a full moon night in the middle of the ocean, and one instance where a flying fish hit a research scientist on the face as they leaned out to sea!

We both laughed.

“Maybe science needs to lighten up!” he said, and we went through the dialogue.

He was referring to the TV show we had watched the previous night: Corner Gas (Episode: Key to the Future) in which one of the characters is taken for a ride for being psychic.

From Corner Gas (Episode: Key to the Future):  

Wanda: Do you know what the odds are of Hank having a dream about my hair and a clock moving forward and then me having to move my hair appointment forward?
Brent: Ten to one?
Wanda: Unfathomable. Science hates it when things can’t be fathomed. The scientific mind demands to fathom things completely.
Brent: I understand, or fathom.
Wanda: There’s got to be a rational explanation for this.
Brent: Sure. It’s probably just a coincidence.
Wanda: Science hates a coincidence.
Brent: Maybe science should lighten up.

A few minutes later, that thoughtful crease flitted across his forehead and he asked me,  “So, Amma, tell me. What do you think is Impossible?”

I knew the fellow loved the quotes that his elementary school and after-school environments had drilled into him. How many times had I heard the children tell me: “Impossible is nothing but I aM Possible! Get it? Get it?”

“Hmm…let me think about it. You mean just impossible to do for humans?” 

He nodded

“Hmm…I think it would be hard to teleport to another star cluster system on the opposite side of the galaxy where life has thrived. Not just that, but survive and admire all the different forms in which life has evolved there, and then make it back here to describe the beauty and wonder of it all to our Earthlings.” 

“Well…it would be possible if you create a wormhole and find it back here I suppose.”

Then, he leaped off in answer and came back bounding in a moment later, “Huh! Funny you should say that.” I just read about that in this book by Jon Sciezka!” He held out the book, Frank Einstein and the Space-time Zipper by Jon Sciezka.

Frank Einstein and the Space time Zipper – By Jon Sciezka

“Huh! What a coincidence? You didn’t tell me about this before did you?” I asked the fellow. 

“Nope!”

You sure you hadn’t been saying something to me on a walk when I was half wrapped in searching for rabbits in the bushes, and egrets in the air?”

Still nope.

“Well Science sure hates a coincidence!”, said I and we guffawed.

I think I shall read this book to see how to get to experience a system of life so far removed from us as possible. The coincidence of it is worth exploring. What do you think?

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