Having spent the last twenty days living and working within the surreal dimension of the island nation of the Solomons, I’ve had ample time to reflect on the underwater experience afforded from this pristine part of the Pacific‘s coral triangle.
It’s difficult to call any field experience like this ‘routine’, though in many ways it has been exactly that – a brief (within the broader scope of life) glimpse of an alien world that is cause for awe, and wonder. While teamed up with scientists, the methodical approach to understanding just a small slice of this awe-inspiring world becomes the central vein for the expedition, and letting your mind stray into the philosophies of ‘being there’
are best reserved for hindsight. Being in that position now, with the realities of home creeping up on the horizon, it’s certainly worth taking a few moments to put this expeditious experience in perspective.
I stumbled upon the below video, which quite beautifully shares the concept of the ‘overview’ experience shared by numerous astronauts – a bewildering and distracting byproduct of being immersed in an awe-inspiring and alien environment – far from the ‘norm’.
This overview effect is much the same when experiencing our ocean world in a new way, or with new perspective. In my own work, I am deeply troubled (a driver of my ambitions) by the very limited human/personal interaction we all have with our oceans – especially considering that this interaction is accepted as good enough. In reality, it’s not even a start.
During a recent professional presentation, I shared a statistic that the average time a diving scientist spends underwater on a working dive, regardless of depth or task, is just 42 minutes. That fact has resonated with me for the last several months, and is becoming a unique point of discussion with colleagues. Consider that our very limited view of the ocean environment, for numerous decades of diving history, has been constructed of these 42 minutes ‘exposures’. In just 42 minutes, the average diver can do little more than settle in and work for a minimal amount of productive time, while then feeling the stress and pressure to return to the surface. That’s it, and that screams opportunity.
In my own experiences, having pushed the limits of nearly all available technologies that afford an extended human stay underwater, I’ve had the time to rest, relax, and breathe – that affords a unique underwater perspective – very much an ‘overview effect’ of our ocean space.
The challenge, perhaps now more than ever, is to bring humanity into the reach of this effect, which undoubtedly will inspire a bolder reach, a deeper understanding, and an improved quality of life here on Earth.
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