The Coral Question…

Coral reefs create living liquid masterpieces in motion!

I’m back!  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!! 🙂

The swell was running a few days late, leaving me plenty of time to spend with my underwater neighbors. The coral is alive just here below Swell. I made a mooring with a piece of chain wrapped carefully around the bottom of a coral head, so as not to hurt the living coral. I submerge myself and enter the liquid world–a living masterpiece in motion! Long beams of light strike, dance, and scatter across the myriad coral forms, fingers, bumps, lumps, purple, blue, pink, yellow…Invisible currents swirl and tug. I dive.

Detail extorted at close range…my many fish friends appear. The blue spotted coral grouper comes out to patrol his coral rock like a nightclub bouncer. The yellow tangs waft over the reef together in a flock, grazing on algae like sheep at pasture.

Two African pompanos flash across my periphery—trailing long streamers off their fins, 10 ft or more. Running low on air, I meticulously check the mooring line then jet to the surface. Rest, hover, breathe…and down again…I’m engulfed in a school of nervous, black striped jacks—they look like they just made a jailbreak and don’t know where to go. A yellow trumpetfish hovers behind, like he doesn’t exist amidst the chaos, what possible evolutionary advantage is that color!? I reach the bottom, gripping rock. The shy little squirrelfish–night plankton eaters–stay in the holes of the rocks all day, peering out with one round black eye. Oh, a lionfish! How does he fit in that hole with all those long delicate fins? He looks like he’s stuck in an uncomfortable Halloween costume. The butterfly fish, bannerfish, and Moorish idols seem engrossed in a never-ending beauty pageant—strutting their stripes and fancy fins. The long finger coral host families of blue and yellow chromis. They expand from the fingers and withdraw back to them in perfect unison at the slightest notion of danger.

My lungs burn and I shoot for the surface…the baby balihoos are always there to greet me. Keeping their long little snouts wiggling along just out of reach. From up here I notice a barracuda prowling the deep-water edge like a spy. I suck a gulp of air…

Down again. Parrotfish go about their carefree coral munching—they pass in classic teal greens, but also pinks, white, black, brown, and even orangey-yellow. The gobies rest on the rocks on their pectoral fins, hanging together like gossiping 14 year olds. A triggerfish bumbles by like a belligerent clown. A cowfish gives me a look like she just left the salon with a bad haircut. A couple of goatfish tickle the sand with their funny beards and a peacock flounder is frozen to the seafloor, moving only his eyeballs as I hover over him…I need air. The surface glistens above. I pass through a school of unicornfish, twirling their horns in the upper currents, gathering plankton.

I’m high on the incomprehensible complexity of this underwater world…Each organism participating in the great underwater symphony I’ve just witnessed. Its harmony the result of an unimaginable time span of evolutionary fine-tuning and fermenting into this fervent, sumptuous stew of life…

But what will be left here a hundred years from now? Will they survive the rising sea temperatures and levels, overfishing and pollution? As ‘far away’ as I felt at that moment, I shuddered: NO WHERE will be far enough to escape the effects of climate change…