July 05, 2018
Summarizing the fifth trip of the 2018 Wild Dolphin Project field season
Photo by: Brittini Hill
Embraced by the fingertips of the ocean, I dive deeper, stay down longer and am wrapped up by the pleasure of being a bystander to all that passes by. Sensing the all-connecting flow, I rock to its rhythm along with everything else. The corals dance with the penetrating light and the fish seem to take turns being massaged by its radiating presence. As I sit on the bottom, no longer holding my breath, but rather waiting for my time to come up, fish swim by to give their hellos. It is not uncommon to look at a school of fish and see only a uniformity, but as you start to meet the individuals one by one, you can see their uniqueness emerge. Some, more fleeting than others. Others, more eyeing than the bereaved ones.
The skeletal structure of the sunken, sugar transport ship stretch out like it were back on the assembly floor waiting to be pieced together. Except now, it has lost that sparkle of newness and its bones have sunken to the bottom. The fish congregate as if guardians of that final resting place for those bones. The anchors, still with their coiled lines, wrap around the broken structures. A view hole peers towards a magnificent purple sea fan that is elevated above the wreckage as if it were assuming a new role as the mast of the ship. A black grouper ducks and dives beneath the bent metal structures, the ship still continues to provide comforts to its inhabitants.
The swim was very relaxing, especially coming off re-injuring my shoulder earlier that day. I had caught myself slipping as I went down the ladder, taking most the weight onto the injured joint I had dislocated last December. Sure enough, a similar sight emerged from below the curvature of my shoulder. The unmistakable divot with outstretched tendons dropped the cusp to below its normal position. I instantly thought back to the pain and discomfort I encountered while it was out of the socket the first time. I thought how far I was from any hospital now and it would be ten times that amount of time before a doctor could manipulate it back in. Now knowing the maneuver for swinging it back into place, I calmly walked to the captain and said I just dislocated my shoulder. I told him it had happened recently and how to hold the elbow. Using it as a fulcrum he could swing the lower forearm out and against that pivot point. As he pushed, I guided him verbally until I felt it rotate back up into the socket. With a sigh of relief I said to the wide eyed spectators that it was back in. Only the few who saw it truly believed I had actually dislocated my shoulder. Most cant seem to reason with my state of calmness that a situation seemingly so painful could have occurred.
It was the Fourth of July so the day was filled with a sense of joy and revere. By dusk, we had all gathered at the back picnic table and were enjoying our portions of Americana: grilled patties, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans and fresh slices of watermelon. With ten of the twelve persons returning from the seasons' first trip, trip five was set to be another laughter-induced adventure. Since we were all familiar with one another, we decided to go around telling stories of embarrassing moments. The stories made us laugh and each person thought for a minute before they said they had one and we waited, grinning, as it unfolded.
It was the Fourth of July so the day was filled with a sense of joy and revere. By dusk, we had all gathered at the back picnic table and were enjoying our portions of Americana: gGrilled patties, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans and fresh slices of watermelon. With ten of the twelve persons returning from the seasons' first trip, trip five was set to be another laughter-induced adventure. Since we were all familiar with one another, we decided to go around telling stories of embarrassing moments. The stories made us laugh and each person thought for a minute before they said they had one and we waited, grinning, as it unfolded. boat truly make the trips what they are and it is in each of these unique excursions, despite seeing the same places, that make them stand out from one another. And, as usual, I am left with a personal longing to be out at sea for longer periods of time. A desire to stay up later, becoming more and more curious about the night skies. Seeing myself diving deeper, encountering more animals and charging further across the ocean. I am bursting at the seams with passions of being an explorer and left behind is my journal to hopefully allow others the chance to discover the adventures that had played outg.
Spending a few days the northern parts of the Bahamas this trip, I navigated around the ensuing, daily summer storms. They form quickly along the horizons and options for routes become narrower by the hour. I handle the wheel and steer us along its edges, hoping to skirt the worst parts. As you draw closer to the center, you notice the wall of rain and the boat is greeted by the familiar purple shade of ocean with its disheveled and frothy white caps. I carve away from it and then cut back, hoping to delay long enough for it to have dissipated by the time I reconvened with its location. The various boats in the area have been mostly anchored for the day, but we always seem to be on the move. Looking, scanning, hoping for a chance encounter in the once hallowed waters for Atlantic spotteds. The revelry we feel when we've spotted them and they, having long been aware of us come leaping towards the bow is uncanny. It's as if there is a relationship they desire with us humans and I cannot think of another specie that truly represents the utopian image of an interconnected planet any better than this.
Photo by: Brittini Hill
The morning we were set to go to Bimini, while still in the shallows of our anchor hold, a group of eight bottlenose came towards the bow. We had glass calm conditions from the night before and the shimmering light rippled across the sandy bottom. We had a short, in-water encounter with them and it was so serene. Unusual for bottlenose, but they too can be docile at times. In the crossing, the seas were flat and there was a touch of coolness in the breeze. Which meant I actually had some company on the bridge! I had some slide guitar tunes playing and I sketched along the way.
Some days I am able to get a few hours of relaxation in, and as I lay in my bunk, which is at the same depth to the waterline, I listen to the spray of the ocean as we go along. This is where I go to nap, meditate, read, write, think and ultimately find my place here at sea. I can tell when the boat makes a change in heading and which way we are going based on how we are riding the waves. The rocking splashes along the hull drown out most every other noise on the boat, short of the hum from the engines. It's no wonder I feel connected to the ocean, I am practically immersed in it at all hours of the day! When I get back to port, it strikes many as odd, but I don't want to leave the boat. I want to remain in this feeling, looking out the windows to a watery scene and spending my entire summer out at sea.
By Sunday I had hit the wall of exertion where I now had to operate on the auto-pilot functions for how not to tap too far into my reserves. I am not exhausted, but its the point in the trip where I am close to being done, but still four, long, hard working days remain and I have given a lot to the trip already. The routine slackens and the enthusiasm is there, just at milder doses. I have to monitor my patience with people as I've been on a boat with them for five days already and we are all in the same state. It's not agitation and its not displeasure. It's just making sure you're still a professional and ensuring a good time and great encounters are being had.
Photo by: Brittini Hill