It is World Ocean Day today, internationally recognised, we celebrate the majestic beauty and power of the seas of our planet. It will hopefully raise awareness of the plight of our oceans, the diverse eco-systems from which life on earth first sprang and on which we still rely on so heavily.
Caring for our home and protecting it’s bio-diversity are causes which have been championed in a number of posts on this site and are subjects very close to this insignificant being’s heart. It is unfortunate that for much of our time on the planet we seem to have been destructive, we should display more responsibility, we are probably the only species capable of realising our folly and actually making any real difference.
“We need to become the guardians of our home, protectors and why not start today with our oceans”
It seems we have plundered the resources of our planet and especially the oceans from the moment we first stood upright, they are not infinite however and it may already be too late for many species. Mankind once hunted many species of whale almost to the point of extinction, fortunately due to public outcry action was taken in time and most populations have recovered, though some countries now want to recommence commercial whaling as a direct consequence. Some fish populations are on the point of collapse, many shark species at the top of the food chain are endangered and even krill at the bottom, one of the planet’s most successful species and sole food source of baleen whales are now being harvested in huge numbers.
However today it is preferable to celebrate these amazing eco-systems, their diversity is mind blowing, home to an incredible variety of species of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, plantlife and mammals. Witnessing the explosion of colour that first greets a diver on arriving on a reef often leaves them catching their breath. Vibrant reds, blues, yellows, oranges, purples all the colours of the rainbow and a few in between.
The variety of habitats is equally astounding apart from the reefs, shipwrecks can become habitats with a relatively short period of time, barnacles, mussels, seaweeds and anemones soon begin to colonise them before the fish move in to graze on them and the smaller fish that seek protection within the wreck.
The oceans are still relatively unexplored, new environments are being discovered all the time as the depths of our oceans become more accessible to us. It was only recently that deep sea lava vents were found and the spectacular variety of species that make their home in these deep sea cauldrons.
Rockpools, sandy beaches, high sea cliffs, wide estuarine deltas, the variety of coastlines almost matches the number of offshore habitats. Children enjoy scrambling through the rockpools in search of crabs, climbers test themselves on steep rockfaces and sea stacks, many coastlines have become playgrounds for outdoor loving sportsmen, yachting, surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding or beach volleyball.
There are few that do not enjoy just relaxing on a seemingly endless beach, topping up the tan, reading a book or spending time with friends or loved ones. A coastal sunrise or sunset also seems to have a special quality which appeals to the inner romantic in us, calling us back to the ocean whenever we are away.
Oceans are one of the planets most powerful forces however, shaping our coastlines for eons through their erossive power. They can be calm one moment lulling us into a false sense of security then swiftly transforming into a raging maelstrom of froth. Huge waves crashing against the shores sending seaspray great distances, testing the seaworthiness of small vessels and their captains, even the mightiest ships have to be wary of the strongest sea conditions.
Oceans occasionally claim lives, and it is a fool that does not give them the respect they deserve. Deep ocean rollers higher than two storey houses or floating bergs bigger than skyscrapers have taken their toll on many of the great vessels and crews or passengers that travelled the shipping lanes of the oceans.
Man has a long association with the oceans, the very earliest explorers spread our populations from continent to continent in boats which were basically large canoes and we have made our living from the sea in every location we have colonised. Great ports have grown on the banks of the largest estuaries providing safe haven from the ferocity of the oceans and trading bases from which we have exported our goods and cultures. We have even fought great battles as almost every major power in history has had relied upon it’s navy to protect its shores and control the seaways.
Today however it seems appropriate to just celebrate and enjoy the many treasures our oceans have to offer, they deserve our respect, our love and hopefully mankind will realise that we need to protect them now before it is too late.