Gift from the Shallows: Coral Reefs

I’m leaving Greece to travel to a coral reef, actually several coral reefs.

In my book, Voice of a Voyage: Rediscovering the World During a Ten-year Circumnavigation , I wrote in Chapter 4, South Pacific: The Dichotomy of Gift-giving, the section entitled “Gift from the Shallows: Coral Reefs”:

            The gifts from the sea are innumerable, even as we blindly destroy them. None is quite so dazzlingly exquisite as a healthy coral reef. It transcends anything on land. As many as I have seen, I still find a healthy coral reef overwhelming. Where to look first; what to focus on? The colors, diversity of life forms, the myriad shapes, the movement of light and shadow were all mesmerizing to my eyes whether floating on the surface, free diving under mushroom shaped rocks or around huge circular brain corals, or scuba diving and enjoying the spectacle from within this magical space for an hour or however long my tank lasted.

blog 28-coral-fish-daveCoral reef segment; photo courtesy of Dave Jesinger, S/V Amoenitas.

             So much of what I saw down there is hard to place in the real world. It’s more than looking through water—it’s something akin to Alice stepping through the looking-glass. It’s more than not being in our air-filled surface existence; it’s more than our not yet knowing everything about them. A coral reef is a miracle, a talisman for our times.

Some of my favorite coral reef inhabitants were the common, bright blue, skinny starfish (Linckia laevigata) and a funny looking sea cucumber (Thelenota ananas), which I nicknamed Prickly. I picked one up, and as I rubbed my palm along his back, I felt that the orange thorn-like papillae were soft and smooth-feeling, not really prickly as it had looked. His bottom, however, was rough, a little like Velcro. Sea cucumbers are efficient sand-making machines. What they take in one end—bits of coral, pebbles, whatever is lying on the bottom to which is attached what they really want, algae or waste material—comes out the other as sand.

blog 28-starfish


26 Fiji-Prickly

 “Prickly,” photo courtesy of Dave Jesinger, S/V Amoenitas.

Coral reefs as a whole are a complex living structure that provides nourishment for a massive amount of life on earth—including us.

If you’re new to my travel blog, I recommend that you go back and sample several of the earlier blogs from so many places around the world. Enjoy! And please feel free to leave a comment about some of your favorite and interesting travel experiences.




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