I have a fear of the ocean, and a love of BBC nature documentaries narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
If I ever perchance am eaten alive by something–a pack of hyenas, a killer whale, or a colony of ravenous hagfish–I would want Sir David Attenborough narrating. It would just make the whole thing easier to deal with.
Sir David narrates the shit out of things.
Being a huge fan of both Sir David and watching animals do things, I was elated to find some of his BBC documentaries available on Instant Watch.
Unfortunately, they were about the ocean.
Of which I am FUCKING TERRIFIED.
To answer your question, yes, I’ve been in the ocean. I grew up in South Florida the daughter of a boating enthusiast, and though we went boating in freshwater much more often, we did go boating and to the beach on occasion. At the time, I was uncomfortable, but not terrfied of the ocean. I waded, I swam, I snorkeled, I got sunburnt.
Not so much with the actually being IN the ocean anymore.
Now I can go wading. I can wade like a motherfucker. And when it comes to sushi or fried shrimp, just set down the tray and back away, and then bring more in about fifteen minutes.
And I like watching oceanic documentaries, but as a coping mechanism I have convinced myself they are documenting the life of another planet or dimension. Otherwise, I would never be able to even look at the ocean again.
Because the ocean is big.
And we, as humans, aren’t really adapted to it. Oh sure, every once in a while somebody swims the English channel or there’s footage on the news of some handful of fools doing a polar bear dip, but when you come down to it humans don’t swim too well.
We don’t have webbing, we don’t have nictitating membranes to protect our eyes underwater, we don’t have sonar, and we have shitty lung capacity.
Also, the whole ‘can’t breathe water’ thing.
But the absolute worst thing about the ocean for me is all the horrible, horrible stuff living in it.
There are THINGS down there. Terrible things!
And no matter how horrifying and grotesque something looks, it can ALWAYS be worse.
Wikipedia has this to say about the blobfish: ‘the flesh of the blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water.’
That means it probably feels like holding an egg yolk in your hand.
Or there’s some damn thing that reproduces by attaching itself to the female’s underside and becomes part of her body and continually releases sperm. Or there are clouds of tiny squid who reproduce by filling the surrounding waters with their eggs, in order to be fertilized by floating sperm packets.
Or there are killer whales killing young gray whales and only eating the jaw and tongue–so there’s a giant whale carcass just out there, floating around and being picked at by all these little fish until it falls to the bottom and is consumed by beings too horrific to even talk about.
There are predators against which there is no escape. If a bear comes after you, you climb a tree or something. If a shark comes after you, you’re lucky if you drown before it starts eating you.
And everything, EVERYTHING, from whales to dolphins to eels to sunfish to regular fish to sharks to jellyfish to krill, is covered in slime. These slime cocoons act as protective barriers to the ocean water, which can carry all kinds of weird shit. When you swim, they tell you not to touch the fish because touching this protective mucus tracksuit can affect the fish’s natural defenses to the aforementioned weird shit. SLIIIIIIIIME.
So the ocean to me is kind of like rolling around on the floor of a peep show.
For the most part, these are silly neuroses and I’m aware of that. I let these smaller concerns trouble me because the big reason I’m afraid of the ocean, I mean the really really big reason, is this:
Conceptually, the ocean is huge. And it has its own thing going on, completely independent of human evolutionary development. We came from the ocean, and yet have no business there anymore. Oh, we use boats, and scuba tanks and snorkels and submersibles and underwater robots and sonar and fishing nets, but when you come down to it, we don’t have business in anything but the very immediate coastal seas. We just aren’t made for it. we can swim, but no matter how practiced or strong a swimmer, our kind of swimming is more of a controlled flailing.
It’s true what they say, you really can’t go home again.
Also, the ocean is big in a spatial sense. I mean we might think ‘Oh, it’s not that big on a universal scale,’ but that’s the problem: past a certain point, we humans have no concept of how big it IS. We might ascribe values to it in the quadrillions, but like age, it ain’t nothing but a number. It’s ascribing an abstract to a massive, massive concrete. And if the average person can’t even conceptualize the ocean, which again is not that big on the universal scale, how the fuck can we possibly conceptualize other concepts measured by numbers so big they need scientific notation? They have to ABBREVIATE the gigantic numbers they use to quantify these things. RIDICULOUS.
No wonder so many people have trouble understanding the importance of space travel, the concept of global warming, or the multifarious process of evolution. It’s all a question of scale, man.
Nevertheless, I found the Blue Planet series both informative and terrifying.
The series is broken down into episodes like Coastal Seas, Tidal Seas, Open Ocean, The Deep (terrifying!), Arctic Seas, and others I haven’t gotten into yet.
It was during The Deep episode, in a segment detailing the lives of creatures living absolutely sunless existences on the edge of volcanic vents that I began to be excited by the prospect of life on other planets. If life can evolve in such conditions, surely it can spring forth elsewhere in the universe!
Then I got excited thinking about the prospect of otherworld life, and from thence the VERY exciting idea of otherworld nature documentaries. I hope it happens soon enough that the BBC can make a documentary about it, and Sir David can narrate it.
He’d narrate the shit out of it, y’all.
4 thoughts on “The BBC’s Blue Planet: The Ocean and all the Horrible, Horrible Things In It”
this is going to sound horribly mean, but i found this by not doing the really important project on Colonial Madagascar i have due tomorrow. but when there was a picture of a guy petting a lemur, i absolutely had to look. I found your post interesting, as the ocean truly in always changing. And the last picture looks kinda like His Noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Now if only it had anything to do with crazy French people invading tropical islands…
Heh, it’s Sir David! Petting a lemur! That’s a winning paper right there, with those two short statements. And with that demonstration of my incredibly inadequate knowledge of the subject of Colonialism’s impact on Madagascar, I bid you a presumptuous congratulations on the Pulitzer you will undoubtedly win. Kudos! And thanks for reading!