Life aquatic

Sitting to compose this post is giving me a sense of Déjà vu, for I feel that I’ve complained about the weather on Cape Cod before; Joanna and I were there over the weekend. Sunny skies and fall colors accompanied us as we made our way through Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. As we entered Massachusetts however, and especially as we crossed the bridge over the canal, the weather began to close in. By the time we reached our destination the wind was up, the clouds had gathered, and we were surrounded by a veil of salty mist. Conditions hadn’t improved the next morning. Foul weather be damned, I grabbed my camera. The combination of wind and tide made me glad for the shorts I was wearing. Diffuse light and thick clouds made for a dull, monochromatic, seascape; at least that was my first impression. The tide was falling and of a height that exposed the tops of a number of large rocks which were low enough on the shore to be covered in lush carpets of seaweed. As I walked I was impressed by contrast; the wind, current, and tide combined to move the submerged fronds, back and forth, liberated, swaying, while emergent layers lay flat without the buoying influence of their natural habitat and under the oppressive pull of gravity. When I looked closely I could see tiny invertebrate animals, some below the surface and others above it. I watched, fixed by my interest. I am fascinated and, dare I say, entertained by this intertidal environment which is visited by few of us and understood by even fewer. So many have explored fields and ponds and woodlands and streams. An increasing number of nature enthusiasts take great pains to understand how it all works, by learning the names of the birds and knowing how to identify the trees, wildflowers, mushrooms, amphibians and reptiles. Many make a seasonal pilgrimage to the shore to relax and vacation, but fail to learn about the adjacent habitat. It seems that unless we hear news of the ocean, such as the reported loss of the Deep Water Horizon drill rig or the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, few concern themselves with it. That seems curious when one stops to consider that more than two-thirds of the planet is covered by the sea. I must explain that I grew up a child of the Cousteau generation and remember each installment of that classic series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. That childhood fascination lead to snorkeling and to SCUBA diving, to underwater photography, and to a summer job as an assistant naturalist on a near-shore oceanic island in the Gulf of Maine. Although professional obligations and responsibilities have drawn me from the ocean, I feel close to it from even long, overland, distances. I feel this connection because the ocean and its inhabitants formed some of the many facets of my early life. As I walked among the seaweeds, the gastropods, the bivalves, and the crustaceans, the names came back to me like very good friends of long ago. Fucus, Ascophyllum, Littorina, Mytilus, and Pagurus. There is so much to know and to be acquainted with.


21 thoughts on “Life aquatic

  1. I love the movement in this one. Sitting with your feet in the ocean for an hour, even on a calm day, will leave you unsurprised at the incredible strength with which seaweeds (and other organisms) attach themselves to the rocks. There can be no more thrilling place for a photographer than the seaside. Also, fun fact (your opening sentence made me think of it): Did you know that déjà vu has a sister phenomenon, jamais vu? It means, the inexplicable feeling that you’re experiencing something for the first time, even though you rationally know you’ve experienced it many times before.

    • I will most definately have to work the new term into a blog sometime soon .. jamais vu .. not sure I’ve ever experienced it, but wait, perhaps I’ll have to review the memory archive to if that’s the case. Thanks for you many attentions today … love seeing your Gravatar in my comments section. D

  2. I am now reading a classic, ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau, reflections on man, nature, and self-sufficient living. Part personal essay, sometimes opinionated, and often with a poetic quality, especially when he just describes the small details of Walden Pond, the fields, and his house. I can’t help but be reminded of these writings when I read this post of yours – for me it definitely has literary merit, and the image complements the message perfectly.

    • Wow. I believe that is the nicest response to anything I have ever written here. I was going to say something self deprecating in response, but perhaps that wouldn’t be fair to you? Perhaps I should take your comment for what it is, your honest opinion. Why do I find that so difficult? Maybe M will be able to reflect upon why I find praise so difficult to accept? Thank you. D

      • It really is my honest opinion. Reading and commenting on your blog is for me a chance to indulge in free association – I try to write down what comes to my mind first when I look at the images and let the text sink in. The resemblence of Thoreau’s writings – still echoing in me from yesterday evening’s reading session – was what came to my mind naturally!

  3. Wow, I love the image. So still and so alive at the same time. The sea … I’m reading Moby Dick currently which also discusses at length the draw the sea has on man (and woman). It certainly is a powerful mental presence for many of us!

  4. Loved the movement of the water and the fall color palette of the composition. The prose is gorgeous.

  5. I can almost feel the kelp around my toes and smell the ocean – plenty of memories of clambering over and into rock pools as a child, both in Cornwall here in the UK and in Brittany, western France. Lovely!

  6. A lovely bit of kelp. I could feel the tide swirling around my calves as, in my mind, I stepped toward it, hands outreached. Wonderful fertilizer. Just grab a couple of garbage bags full and then spread it across the tilled earth. Mix it in if you wish and nature will do the rest. Maybe even blend it with a few caplin (or smelt in your case). Yes it does get – to noses unused to it – a bit stinky for a few days. To me, though, it’s just another scent that goes right along with the whole process, part of an ongoing cycle as we return nutrients back to where they can do the most good.

      • And this time of the year, while walking in the woods, from time to time you get the half-rotten smell of leaves. By most people’s measure it’s not a pleasant small but I wind up breathing deeply. I imagine it’s not the direct sensation that evokes the pleasure response but rather the associations those smells evoke.

  7. One of my great disappointments a few years ago was the cancellation of a trip to the Schoodic peninsula in Maine where an acquaintance who is a marine biologist was to bring various creatures to some tide pools for us to photograph and study. He cancelled other times as well and I no longer make plans with him. Since we have discussed evolution recently, the idea that we crawled out of the briny ocean long ago, it is believed by some that having saltwater in our blood is more than a phrase, might play a part in its pull. I have never snorkeled or scuba dived, but the smell of the ocean and the life visible in a tide pool give rise to a familiar sensation. I hope you are able to visit the shore again soon. Bad weather is not as limiting under water … save a hurricane or two.

    • Good to know you appreciate a good tide pool as much as the next person. I am sorry to hear of your scheduling disappointments, next time you’re in Maine, or along any part of the coast for that matter, you should simply strike out on your own. Get hold of something like ‘A field guide to the Atlantic Seashore: Invertebrates and Seaweeds of the Atlantic Coast from the Bay of Fundy to Cape Hatteras (Kenneth Gosner)’and you’ll be just fine! Physiologic saline is 0.9% NaCl, not quite the 3.5% found in seawater .. but enough to be correct in saying that we all do have a bit of salt in our blood! D

  8. Isn’t it interesting how the ocean has a pull on us? Obviously due to our childhood summers spent there. How idyllic. We were lucky. The first thing I do when I get near the ocean is to take a few very deep breaths. It transports me. Love the motion in this photo. All the inhabitants of the ocean are like old friends who never change. So important to understand and preserve them. You do tend to visit when the weather is less than ideal! Hope the rest of the weekend was productive as planned!

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