North 8 degrees, West 93 degrees
The crest of a silvered moon hung delicately, like a pendulum hung below the blowing orbs of Venus and Jupiter. The new moon casting faint light upon our deck as we made our way through the ever increasing swells. This night was glorious.
To our left, mysterious flashes of light leapt from below the ocean’s surface. Muted slightly by the small column of water above, the effect of the glowing sparks was nevertheless enchanting. What could these flashes be? A disco party beneath the waves? A glowing squid tracking us through the water? Neptune’s glowing orb? The unmistakable blow sounded, and the flashing figures in the water, glowing shadows of sorts darting beneath our hulls became, in that instant, unmistakable. We had a pod of dolphins playing in the wake of Gaualofa’s sleek hulls. Their sleek bodies clashing long enough with the bioluminescence suspended in the water to create an incredible light show for the few lucky eyes there to witness.
It is no wonder that our ancestors, Polynesian, European, Aboriginal or the like, looked upon the ocean with such awe. While we now have a scientific explanation for many of the wonders which this vast blue expanse holds, (such as witnessed on this night) I still pear into the depths, mind racing with fantasy and myth. The ocean is nothing less than epic, putting the biggest budget Hollywood films, or most classic Greek tragedies to shame with the simple crest of a wave, the flash of a fluke of an elegant giant, or the (re)discovery of some of the most enticing and mysterious animals found on this blue planet.
We now know that the gifts in the waters, once thought infinite and inexhaustible, are not. We now know that this epic blue, still full of mystery and enchantment cannot handle all that we as humans, through ever increasing greed and consumption, seem to insist on throwing her way. We now know that no matter how far we live from the ocean’s edge, our lives our entwined with her, our behaviours and actions affecting her, and hers us. So, we now know that we must look after her, with the respect that such an awesome power, so full of life, and so life dependant deserves.
No longer is “out of sight, out of mind” justifiable. The patches of trash gathered en mass by the winds and the tides may be out of sight for now, but their effects cannot stay out of our mind for long. Plastics potential damage to fish stocks, mammal life, plankton (which at the base of the ocean’s food chain has such broad reaching effects that it will become impossible for us not to “see” such consequences) and we’ll find these consequences again in the decayed carcasses of sea birds, whose stomach contents, now visible, are confettied with bright, unmistakably synthetic, man-made colour.
This artificial colour flecking the waters juxtaposed to the fading colour of coral reefs the world over, dimmed in life and brilliance as the after effects of industrialization and mass consumption, CO2, wreak havoc on the delicate balance found in our earth’s waters. The acid level rising, as the blue waters (and the organisms within) attempt to handle the ever-increasing load of CO2 we demand the ocean process. From the microscopic to the mega, such effects cannot be isolated.
Again, however, we must be reminded that it is not too late. We have been assured by many renowned ocean scientists that there is reason for hope. The knowledge we now hold, of the delicate and finite nature of the world’s oceans, is reason to respect this ocean more; this knowledge is empowering. We must simply adjust our behaviour to the knowledge we now hold. No longer is ignorance an exemption from abhorrent behaviour. The ocean may continue to hold mysteries and be surrounded by oft-deserved myth, but some facts are as simple as black and white and with many mysteries unravelled, we are left without excuse.
As we continue to fight into the heavy winds, surrounded by an increasing swell of water topped by streaks of white running through, we sail. We sail and we fight- for ourselves, for our cultures, for our values, and for our ocean.
All the best from Gaualofa,
Brynne Eaton Auva'a