Howdy howdy friends! My name is Matt Howarth and I will be going into my senior year this fall at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ. I am studying marine biology and have completed my minor in environmental policy. The date is Monday, the 12th of June–everybody’s favorite day of the week–coming to you from The Central Caribbean Marine Institue based in Little Cayman.
If you’ve been following the blog posts you might know that by now our days having become pretty routine; truthfully, this has become a good thing as we don’t need to be told what to do and are operating smoothly. Every day here I wake up glad that I’m from Jersey (surprising, I know!) considering breakfast consists of bagels and cereal. I’m happy to report my Jersey blood has kept my love for bagels strong! After breakfast, and cleaning up the kitchen, we head straight to the classroom to work on any data entry We chug and chug away at work until we hear the sweet salivating sound of the lunch bell. Everything is immediately dropped as we head over to chow down on some of Ms. Em’s delicious cooking!
Lunch is done and it’s finally time to go diving! Excitedly we gather our gear and head over to the dock to start loading the boat with tanks, as we now smoothly do, and our dive gear. Our first site is Great Wall West. I cannot emphasize how much of an understatement this site name is. Upon our descent, the reef below us looks like the beautiful habitat we have grown to love, but today’s dive is focused on the wall: the drop off is straight down, a sheer 3000ft+ deep. As we begin to traverse the wall spectacularly odd sponges are jetting straight out, instead of out and up like I had expected. The fish all swim along the wall with their bodies oriented as if the wall was a horizontal surface. While always captivating, the reef fish around the area are all the same as our other dives. What really captured my attention were these purple basket sponges, one in particular, had a cut down the front revealing a small little garden of algae and bright red cyanobacteria. Everything around me melted away as I got lost in this microcosm of a universe within this vast ocean. What happened next truthfully changed me forever. I felt my dive buddy swim over me and I reacted but turning 180 expecting to see her. Instead, I was met with the awesome (true definition) beauty of the open ocean. The bluest blue you could ever imagine. I knew that the visibility on the reef was excellent, but being all one color it quickly got disorienting how far out it really extended. Unless you have truly experienced this moment a picture is useless. I had had my moment with the universe. What felt like 10 minutes of staring was unfortunately only a few seconds and we continued our dive along the wall.
After a nice leisurely surface interval, we descended onto our second site, Rock Bottom.
Or *tongue fart noise* should *tongue fart noise* I say *tongue fart noise* Rock *tongue fart noise* Bottom (hopefully I have at least one Spongebob fan reading this)
We have visited this site before, but the beauty of the ocean will always amaze me. It’s a good reminder that the world is constantly going on around you. Stop every now and then and catch a glimpse of its all to often underappreciated beauty. After we finished our dive and have unloaded the boat we head back to base, exhausted but appreciative of this moment of one of our last dives. Nice and full from dinner we settle down for the night, either working or relaxing. This opportunity has set itself apart from anything in my life up to the point. We work hard every day and are exhausted all the time. But the skills, beauty, and friendships we’ve experienced during the trip make up for the work ten-fold. We will be leaving in a few days and it will be a bittersweet mix of emotions. For now, I leave you with the small favor to keep your mind open. Stop and look around your little chunk of the world. Be amazed by the simple things around you. Have your moment with the universe.
Matt Howarth of Rutgers University ’18