Oceans, which comprise more than seventy percent of the earth’s surface, hold ninety-seven percent of the planet’s water. Beneath the surface of that water is immeasurable beauty and secrecy and enough fodder for fear to last a million lifetimes. Awestruck is the best adjective to describe the sea’s effect on me.
I am almost embarrassed, though, because I cower at the massive power of the sea. Yet, simultaneously, I want to enter and embrace it and seek the knowledge hidden in its depths. Almost all—ninety-five percent, according to NASA—of the world’s oceans remain unexplored. We know almost nothing about the majority of the planet on which we live.
My fear of the power of the ocean grows when I read about the explorers who have died in their attempts to understand or conquer the water. October of 2002, Audrey Mestre. Nicholas Mevoli in 2013. A few months ago, Natalia Molchanova. And these are just free divers; some estimates suggest one hundred free divers die each year. I was stunned to read “best estimates” that suggest 1.2 million people, worldwide, die by drowning each year. That’s more than two people every minute. I know how to swim and I enjoy swimming. But the ocean; I am willing to go in the water only close to shore.
Perhaps it’s the vastness of the oceans that make them seem so formidable. Or maybe it’s the fact that we have not learned to extract oxygen from the water. We haven’t figured out how to control the oceans the way we’ve learned to control the land. Maybe that’s why we’re afraid of the ocean; we’re afraid the ocean will exact revenge if we attempt to exercise control. But we don’t realize the land and the air are exacting revenge already; the oceans are involved in the plot to overthrow us, too. When they are ready, they will launch the inevitable attack, besieging us with salt.