Monday, August 7, 2017

Sway

"Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore
Hold me close, sway me more"
- "Sway" by Michael Bublé

As I turned around, I could feel the water resisting my motion. It was like moving through corn syrup as I kicked my legs and twisted my torso. Slowly, gracefully I spun. Cold water stung my lips, the only part of my skin that was exposed. But as I completed my aboutface, I could see tufts of red algae hanging suspended in the water. They were so still, almost frozen. The algal debris I had kicked up was stuck delicately in space. I stopped moving for a moment and watched the algal fronds hang there, then forget their places and begin to sink. It was peaceful.

Everything moves more slowly underwater. I've always been told that SCUBA diving is meditative, and now that I'm diving myself, I have to agree. There is nothing more relaxing than being underwater. The mammalian dive reflex lengthens my breaths, and resistance from the water slows down every motion. Kelp fronds and bryozoans and stringy red algae sway in the current. Particles hang suspended. Time disappears.

I'm not yet skilled enough to carry a camera on dives, but I wish I could show you the habitats I explored this weekend. I went to three dive sites near Cape Ann, north of Boston, and the seafloor at each site was gorgeous. Shell hash and boulders and kelp fronds and red algae. Pink sea stars (Henricia sp.) clung to the rocks while lobsters lurked underneath. Yellow bryozoans (Crisia sp.) stood up from the stones, where squishy ascidian colonies reigned (Didemnum albidum and Botryllus schlosseri). At one site, detached bits of red algae formed a thick mat on the seafloor. They drifted in the current like a rug getting pulled back and forth. At another site, giant boulders stood high, covered in a thin pink crust of coralline algae. A large club tunicate (Styela clava) protruded from a rock, its siphons open wide to feed. Nearby, a flounder lay motionless on the sand and hoped not to be seen.

Marine animals fascinate me, and being able to see them in person is a gift. Every time I emerge from the water, I think only about when I can go back. I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn diving and use it in my research. It was a wonderful weekend.

On the boat with my dive buddies for the day: my friend, Megan,
and my boyfriend, Carl

The ocean surface reflects the peace I felt underneath

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