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The Waterlust Blog

Until recently, I had only ever encountered oysters on the a la carte section of eloquent restaurant menus I couldn’t afford to dine at, and had never considered them to be an organism of any huge importance. However, after getting up close and personal with the native oysters and seeing them in their natural setting, my view completely changed.
Do you know how much live coral we have on the Great Barrier Reef? What about in the Red Sea, Indonesia, or the Belize Barrier Reef? No? Well, that’s not surprising because scientists can’t tell you the answer to that either. That might sound crazy, but we don’t know these answers for very good reasons.
Most of us visiting the Bimini Biological Field Station during this trip are not professional scientists or certified conservationists. We’re just regular people wanting to learn more about the ocean, specifically the sharks calling it home.
Anyone who has been paying attention knows that our oceans are in trouble. Sea levels are rising, as are sea surface temperatures. Combine that with the issues of ocean acidification, plastic pollution, and overfishing, and you have a perfect storm of threats facing our oceans. Many ocean advocates, conservationists, and scientists are looking for ways to protect our oceans. Marine conservation is essential to the survival of our oceans as we know them, but when conservation efforts are exclusive or fail to consider all voices, they are doomed to fail. 
It’s nearly noon on a warm June day. I am on the small, tropical Indonesian island I call home. I have water bottles, knee braces, fruit, and a GoPro. In 5 minutes I will start walking. For 24 hours. Nonstop. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I can hear the waves pounding on the beach nearby. I’m not sure what the next day will bring, but there’s no turning back now. Only forward. Soon there is a countdown: 5…4…3….2….1. Then “The Walk” begins.
Peering over the side of MV Predator, the water beckons a deep inviting azure blue, every ripple on every wave reflecting the rays of the sun in tiny bursts of light that appear to be synchronized by nature.  The visibility is marvelous, the kind that causes you to involuntarily smile ear to ear like a giddy fool.  Focusing intently, I concentrate on reaching my gaze all the way down, down, down.  The topside sounds fall away, time stands still and now they appear: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… the dark grey silhouettes move silently in the depths, and the sight of them is simply mesmerizing.
The line is set. Holding onto it, I try not to think about what I am about to do. A clip is painfully attached to my nose, tight as possible to keep the water out. Waves cover my face as I float on my back and I inhale deeply. I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. Slowly my fears of the unknown future dissolve, like clouds in the sky just before the sunrise. I take my last breath of air and dive into the deep blue.
My hands were sweating and visibly shaking as I stared out into the oncoming waves and the rising sun just peeking through the horizon. How did I agree to go on a snorkeling trip when I knew full well I had never swum off the beach past my waist. Measuring 5’2, that wasn’t very deep at all. But there I was, putting myself in situations for the sole purpose of growth, a promise I had made to myself years prior.
Amy’s life has always been full of medical challenges. It started with migraines at age 2, and progressed to issues with her eyes, bones, brain, and skin. Though doctors were unable to find a diagnosis that would explain it all, they knew she had some type of syndrome that was likely genetic. Amy took her physical disabilities in stride, never complaining about what she could not do; always looking for her next adventure.
Let me start with a pre-emptive denial that my request below to you readers is a slacker move to avoid conjuring up an original and creative perspective on a well-trodden subject: the irrationality of human-environment relations.
I remove hooks from my sharks the same way I want to remove a thorn from my pup's paw. It is the same desire to alleviate the pain of someone I love. I collect them one at a time, and collectively they change people's perception of sharks as creatures who can feel, fear, and hurt.
Systemic change is needed urgently in all sectors of society where racism pervades. Academia is no exception and the need for change is high. This is not just a university or departmental issue, it is at its core a matter of people treating other people with dignity and respect, and reversing waves of inequality that have been entrenched in our educational system for centuries.
Can we, as creators, painters, drawers, makers, dancers, singers, thinkers and writers help connect the people and move the environmental impact this world is facing in a more positive and sustainable direction?
My name is Conor Smith, and like everyone, my life has changed dramatically in recent months. My fiancé, Stephanie, and I live aboard our sailboat full time and had plans to be logging 2000 nautical miles (nm) under her keel by the summertime. Instead we are seeking isolated anchorages in the remote Bahamas to remain safe during these unsure times. We are looking to minimize exposure to other people and have a war-like mindset to reduce our consumption of supplies and fuel to extend the working life of everything we have aboard.
Charlie Enright is a professional sailor and ocean advocate. Having logged over 300,000 miles in offshore sailing with two laps around the planet, he is no stranger to self-isolation and social distancing. As the skipper and leader of competitive sailing teams, he’s become skilled at assessing risks, managing crises, and adapting behaviors to improve performance.

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