A Philosophy of Radical Aliveness

A Philosophy of Radical Aliveness

"Yesterday is already a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision; but today well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope."

John Kerestes


Friday, May 7, 2010

April 2010: Shark Research, Socorro Islands (Post Trip)

Most of the time when I show people this photo they react as if I was about to be attacked, when in fact sharks are much maligned and rarely are a danger to divers. In 2009 there were a total of 28 shark attacks, worldwide (according the Newsweek Magazene) or 6 attacks (according to 60 Minutes). In contrast, we are the real danger: 90 to 100 million sharks are caught every year, primarily for the brutal practice of shark "finning" for the Asian market. Locally, I was dismayed to find shark steaks in my Albertson's meat department. Since 1970 we have decimated the overall shark population by 90%. We save whales, but our attitude about sharks still is like it was a century ago about the timber wolf: they are dangerous and should be eliminated. If we do succeed in eradicating the sharks we will allow other species to overpopulate, and throw off the delicate oceanic ecology.

The mission of this trip ultimately was to save the sharks through research tracking their population and migrations. I was dismayed by the low number of actual shark sightings, although we did see several varieties: silkies (pictured above), scalloped hammerheads, Galapagos and white tip reef sharks. However, compared to my trip to Wolf Island in the Galapagos Islands this was just a fraction in numbers. I presume part of that is the location, but part is also the degradation in numbers in the eleven years since that trip.

The personal highlight for me was the giant manta rays. They were actually quite curious and came around almost every time we dove, often in pairs. This was an awesome experience which can't be fully explained with still photos, so I put some video on YouTube.com (type "denverholtby") into the search engine, and turn down the volume (the audio is just my breathing). Or use the video bar on the right side of this blog. The mantas gracefully glide through the water like birds in slow motion flight. Their wing span is about fifteen feet, so they are huge! They are plankton eaters, and of no danger to divers. There is also a video of the experience of being in the middle of a school of jacks. Right at the end you will see sharks cruising on the other side of the school. When I filmed this clip I didn't realize they were subtly descending and I got to 120 feet before the dive master topped on me, and motioned to come up. I thought I was at about 85 feet! I did return with what has been diagnosed as bariatric trauma to one ear, which a week after diving hasn't equalized. I was the novice on the trip (now with 168 dives). Everyone else was a dive master or researcher with several hundred dives, and much more comfort in the water than I. It had been almost seven years since I had been diving, and it took me until the last few days to really regain my competence. I was always the first to run out of air, and surface.

Here is a link to more about the depletion of marine life in our oceans, and a very interesting presentation by                    Brian Skerry, a National Geographic Photographer

And here is my video of the manta ray encounters:

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