I sat down this morning for my usual Sunday morning breakfast outing. Pulled out my notebook and pen and began to write while I sipped my coffee and waited for my food to arrive. Fathers day at IHOP was proving to be a busy one. They sat me down at a table and chair in front of the fire escape. Clearly something that isn’t on the regular floor plan, something they whipped together to handle the crowds of proud fathers. I was grateful to get tucked away with my giant coffee pot, my pen and pad. I could sink into my thoughts. Looking at all the people chowing down, waitresses and hostesses running food and people back and forth.
The hustle and bustle was a sharp contrast to my morning before.
The early morning roads were calm as I drove over the Lions Gate bridge. My dive geared was stowed away in my car and I was on my way to meet the dive boat at Lions Bay. Passing a morning jogger as he ran, I noticed him looking out over the water and I found myself doing the same. Looking up the islet and onto open ocean. A view I’m no stranger to, this route is a regular commute for most local diving sites. Regardless of times travelled, I could get lost in the view every time. Passing the lone jogger I wondered – where does he get his motivation from? What drives him? I thought, as he ran up the sloping arch of the massive bridge. What gets him up at the crack of dawn, leave his house to run like this? Push until he’s covered in sweat. Whatever his motivation may be, I’m not surprised he chose to run here. The clear morning view of the mountains and ocean from the height of the bridge towering over the world is a reminder just how beautiful life can be.
I had volunteered as a diver for the Annual Marine Life Sanctuary Society’s (MLSS) Marine Beach Interpretation on Bowen Island. An event primarily focused around educating the public, especially young children, on the local marine life. I had heard about this event before and wanted to help. Giving back to the community and giving young minds a fun and positive experience is something that is important to me. The divers were split up into five buddy teams. The first four teams were to go out and collect different marine animals and bring them back to the beach where holding tanks were waiting. Team Five was in charge of putting down a drop camera that relayed live feeds of underwater life back to monitors set up on land. This being my first beach interpretation I was impressed with its scope. The divers were working in conjunction with a team of marine biologist on land who were in charge of caring for the marine life and educating participants on all the different marine creatures we caught. I was excited, this was going to be fun.
After arriving at Galbraith Bay on Bowen Island their wasn’t much time before the estimated 100+ kids were scheduled to start flocking to the beach. Geared up, Kim my dive buddy and I were off in the water. We were team 3, responsible for collecting Echinoderms. Basically anything with the word “sea” in it; Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, you get the idea. We dove right off the dock, each taking down a big mesh collection bag which we filled with smaller zip lock bags and containers to hold all the little, and sometimes not so little, sea creatures. Even in the name of education and science I found while i’m on a hunt, the energy I get amazes me. While searching for our critters my body took full advantage of the opportunity to connect with its inner hunter-gather self, injecting what I can only describe as pure determined focus straight into my blood stream. The dive felt amazing. I was excited and amped. I found I needed to remind myself I was underwater, to cool my jets, check my air, check my buddy was OK. Focus on the dive. We needed to be gentle, the care and safety of all the sea creatures we caught was our prime objective.
Back on land we offloaded our loot to the waiting biologist team as the first wave of kids started to arrive. I dumped my gear and walked over to the crowding beach. I wanted to participate in the frenzied excitement. Slightly intimidated by the powerhouse of marine knowledge we had at our disposal, I at first didn’t talk much. Standing on the beach, side by side with the kids and parents I stood there with the same sparkle they had in their eyes. One of the Interpreters was kneeling over a tank, holding up a crab pinching the air. The interpreter told his audience “Did you know when crab’s with their big claws and hard exterior shell begin to grow they get to a point where they can no longer fit in their shell. They feel the pressure of their soft bodies squeezing against their hard protective exterior. The only way they can continue to grow and survive is to break free of their shell. Abandon the safety and security it provides them. A risk each crab must take, but the risk is worth the reward, their new shell will be bigger and better.”
Being a diver on the beach felt great. Parents were coming up to me thanking me. Walking around in my drysuit, everyone made way as I passed. Passing by a mother holding an infant in her arms, he looked up at me, eyes wide with wonder and mouth open. “Yes little one, Yes, I am a super hero…” I thought as I looked at him and smiled. Standing with pride over the tanks of the critters that I caught I felt like one of the kids “I caught that one!” “Look at this one, this one is my favorite” “Oh, touch this one, its cool!” I said as the kids walked by.
As they began to leave, Kim and I suited up to return the sea creatures back to their homes. Underwater I searched around briefly until I found a suitable home for them. Pulling out the ziplock bags I sliced them open with my dive knife, releasing each creature individually. Underwater I swear I heard the words “FREEDOM!!” bubble out as they floating down to the sea floor. They were happy to be back home. Sacrificing their afternoon to be picked up and poked by a million tiny fingers. A worthwhile sacrifice in my opinion. Providing us with a childhood curiosity and wonder, transforming into a respect and understanding as we grow.
Afterwords one of the people who organized the interpretation, Adam, Invited all the volunteers back to his house on Bowen for a relaxing recharge hot tub and BBQ before hopping back on the boat home. A full belly and warmed to the bones I felt relaxed, a sense of accomplishment on the day. On the way back home our boat Captain Glen, one of the Marine Interpreters Lena, and Myself sat up top and enjoyed the parting clouds and open air as we motored back to the mainland. Glen pointing over to an island, “See that?” pointing to one of the islands in the distance, “that’s Passage Island. It was one of the first things George Vancouver named when he first discovered Howe Sound.” With a brief pause he continued “It’s interesting if you think about it, that was only about 200 years ago. Look how much it’s changed since then.” “Makes you wonder what it will look like in another 200 years”. Taking it in and looking out over Howe Sound, I was with my thoughts. Your right Glen, It does make you wonder.
The MLSS Marine Beach Interpretation has been running successfully for the past 6 years. The Society is entirely volunteer based and its primary mission is the education and preservation of the local marine habitats here in BC. For more information or to get involved you can visit http://mlssbc.com/
(Octopus tentacles and fingers meet)
(Future Diver trying out some gear)
(Participants gathered around tanks on the beach)
(Volunteers gathered by the Dive boat. Kim and I had just returned from our last dive to return our sea creatures – photo credit Roy Mulder)