‘Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,Siphonaptera: from ‘A Budget of Paradoxes’; August De Morgan, 1872
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.’
Those of us lucky enough to live within sight and sound of the ocean may be forgiven for occasionally taking it for granted. After all, there it is, blue or grey, every day, starting where the land ends and just stretching out to the horizon. Sometimes it is placid, sometimes it is whipped to a frenzy by the wind, but – it’s always there. From our perspective, it looks pretty much like an empty stretch of water, with the occasional whale or dolphin giving us a thrill when they appear on the surface, and seabirds roaming above its steely surface. But we tend to forget just what an incredibly important part of Mother Earth our oceans form.
Without water, there is no life. The Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Györgyi referred to water as the mater und matrix: the mother and womb of life, and there is no denying the validity of this statement. Earth is the only planet in our solar system that has an abundance of water, and it is no surprise that it is the only planet that has developed and sustained a wealth of life forms – all of which at some stage in their evolution would have stemmed from, relied upon or lived in water. There is a lot of water on the surface of our planet; numbers can look meaningless when quoted (the mass of the world ocean is 1.35×1018 metric tons; I challenge you to picture that in your head) but there are ways of creating images. The 1995 film starring Kevin Costner called Waterworld envisaged an earth where water had submerged the land mass: this was not nearly as farfetched as it might seem. If our continents were all flat and at the same elevation, our entire planet would be under about 2700 metres of water. That puts things into perspective. Of that water, 97.5% is saline (salty, Mabel), and of the remaining 2.5% fresh water, well over half is held in the ice caps and glaciers. So it’s our oceans that rule the world of water, and we’d be crazy to forget it.
Waterfront Charters ‘waterworld’ is the Atlantic Ocean. It’s where we live, work, play and study, and in itself this small part of the World Ocean is representative of the whole. The seemingly empty stretch of water that surrounds our Peninsula is a thriving world, teeming with life on many, many levels. From the phytoplankton (too small to be seen with the naked eye) that convert inorganic carbon into protoplasm at the bottom of the marine food chain, we have the next level – the zooplankton. These include small crustaceans and the larva of fish, squid, lobsters and crabs.
The third level of the food chain comprises larger zooplankters; species such as krill and forage fish that filter-feed. (Here’s an interesting fact: Antarctic krill – small crustaceans about 5mm long – have the greatest total biomass of any species on earth; around 500 million tonnes. Good news if you are a baleen whale.) And so it continues; the fourth level is the world of predatory fish, marine mammals and seabirds. Here we have everything from seals to sharks and gannets. Of course, the food chain doesn’t end there: above that is the fifth link – the apex predators (like orcas) that consume sharks, seals and swordfish. Then, of course, there are the ultimate predators: humans. We don’t differentiate, naturally – we eat it all. Those lucky baleen whales referred to above are not so lucky – in the height of the whaling era during the 1900’s, over 50 000 baleen whales were harpooned. It only stopped because there weren’t enough of then left to warrant commercial whaling. There lies the problem: feeding our 7.7 billion human inhabitants has proven to be a tricky task, and the results are catastrophic: in 2016 no less than 87 distinct marine species were thought to be extinct due to over-fishing, pollution and other manmade interventions. Tragic.
We like to focus on the positive whilst featuring the negative. Waterfront Charters have been at the forefront of environmental awareness campaigns ever since our foundation in the early 1990’s. As stated above, the ocean is our lifeblood, and we owe it to the billions of inhabitants in that salty water to spread awareness of their plight at the hands of unscrupulous and careless humans. Among our most popular cruises are our Ocean Safaris, and these give what they promise: an opportunity to engage with the Atlantic Ocean at close range aboard one of our RIBs, and observe as much of the ocean life as is visible. From whales to penguins, sunfish to dolphins; gannets and seagulls in their natural habitat – who knows what the sea will offer up on any give day? Like a game drive in a National Park, each moment could produce an amazing sighting. Our guests leave us with smiles on their faces and faraway looks in their eyes: we know that they have been touched by what they see and experience.
Join us for an hour at sea; learn about the wonders that lie beneath, and spread the word. Once that submarine life is gone – it’s gone. There is no way back.