Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Posts tagged ‘cold water scuba diving’

Scuba Sisters

Here’s to the salty sisterhood of cold-water divers (and the men with whom we submerge). I am a week late with posting this for “Women’s Dive Day”. Yes, it’s been busy.

But, it’s still really important to me to put these photos into the world and reflect on how much this sisterhood means to me, and why. I have tears in my eyes as I type this, so apparently, the feelings run deep.

Scuba sister Jacqui Engel with Egg Yolk Jelly.

Why? Because you may have noticed that, by some, there is an increasing downward pressure on womxn in an attempt to limit the spaces in which we expand and the choices we WILL make. Because some want to hold on to the assumption of inherent privilege based on the absurd “criteria” of skin pigmentation; whether one’s chromosomes have one X or two; or gender identification. Because some fight equality to claim superiority.

I now have some pretty good expletives in my head which I will not type here.

Scuba sister Natasha Dickinson and Sunflower Star. We documented the same one over a span of 71 days. It’s the sea star species that was / is impacted the most by Sea Star Wasting. This individual is on an anchor block covered with encrusting coralline algae.

Of many examples of times it has become very clear to me that being a womxn* in science and scuba is important, let me share the following:

On a really hot day, I was “show and tell” for two children in our community. I dressed up in all my dive gear (the full weight and heat of it) and walked down the hallway and into the classroom with Cayden’s little hand in mine on one side, and Sophia’s little hand in mine on the other.

I walked in as a surprise to the other students. I then was gifted the time to talk about the science of the dive gear and the life that lived in the cold Ocean; our neighbours who were just below the surface of where we lived.

I took the equipment off piece by piece after explaining what it did. The children chose to try to lift the weights and cylinder and we discussed pressure and buoyancy (always good metaphors ūüôā ).

In the course of this, among so many moments the filled my heart, a little boy looked up at me. He had such an open expression on his face and he said . . . “You’re my first scuba diver”.

I was his first scuba diver – me an older woman, speaking for science and the sea, engaging not in an elevated way but in a way that invited them all to follow where their loves took them, and yes, I was wearing a bright green tutu.

Scuba sister Janice Crook.

How does this help shape the future? We will never know will we? We are all projecting our energies and images into places where we might increase what is good in the world, or suppress it.

From the depths, love to you my scuba sisters, and to the men we swim beside. Respect and gratitude to all who shine their light so that others may follow; who do NOT push others down in an attempt to feel elevated. That’s such a tragic and transparent indicator of being a hollow human.


Below: A slideshow to honour some scuba sisters.

For those that may not have seen the use of “womxn” before. The spelling of womxn is a feminist choice in two ways. It removes the “m-a-n” from “woman” and “m-e-n” from “women”. It’s also an acknowledgement that I am including trans and non-binary humans when I use the word.

I, Mermaid. You Too?

Northeast Pacific mermaid. Even underwater they are dedicated to marine conservation. Photo: Jacqui Engel.

So I don’t look much like the mermaids of folklore, but I am absolutely the real thing.

I, in fact, look more like a Steller sea lion when suited up in my dive gear (not that they are convinced).

This resemblance to sea lions may even soon be strengthened if the joys of menopause lead to my growing long, stiff facial hairs like their vibrissae. Hum, maybe that won’t be all bad since I will be able to sense vibrations in water from afar . ¬†. . but back to the topic at hand.

Northeast Pacific mermaid displaying underwater euphoria. Photo: Jacqui Engel.

In having now painted anything but the image of a waifish, goddess-like denzin of the deep for you, I will likely need to provide some very strong evidence that I am indeed – a mermaid.

Not that I need you to believe me.

The important thing is for you to be able recognize if YOU are a mer-person too. In fact, a great deal is at stake if you don’t recognize it.

No doubt that you are infinitely thankful that I am here to help since there’s a lot of misinformation out there about we mer-people. You know – all that tail-like-a-fish, having no immortal soul, must marry a human stuff.

Mermaid 3

Note mermaid blissed-out expression even when only near the Ocean’s surface. Photo: Peter Jucker.

Reality is, we look pretty much like other people . . . most of the time.

However, if, for some terrible reason, we are removed from the sight and smell of the ocean for any significant period, this provides one of the two times when it is really easy to identify a mer-person.

The clues? ¬†Agitation, a predilection to negativity, perpetual longing references to “Mother Ocean”, dry coughing, eating lots of salty chocolate, combative if blocked from getting back into or onto the Ocean and, indeed when in this state, we will deal out many a curse and could even drag someone underwater.

The only other time it is really easy to tell we are mer-people is when we have just returned from Mother Ocean. The contrast to our non-marine state is apparently extreme. We present as being deeply peaceful, patient, centered, highly eloquent, rational, and blissed-out.

Rare two-headed mermaid. Head on right = Jacqui Engel who may not be so happy with me after I post this photo.

The physiology behind this has been the subject of many scientific studies. The research shows that mer-people’s heart rate and blood pressure is reduced by 31.721% when in or on the Ocean and that the endorphin content of our blood also rises by 47.913% (give or take a thousandth of a percent).¬†

As a mermaid, I of course know how I feel when submerging into the Ocean or when I drift on her surface. It feels like escaping from the insanity of terrestrial human life for a while; living raptly in the moment; and returning to quiet, extreme beauty, and sensibility.

Extraordinarily rare 3-headed mermaid. Head on left = Terina Hancock. Head in middle = Natasha Dickinson. Here too there may be some issues with the other heads not being so happy with me. Photo: Jacqui Engel.

It was a surprise to me though how quickly those around me understood my mermaid needs. Many is the time I have been told “Jackie, you need to go diving” or “Jackie, I think you need to go study humpback whales today”. ¬†Conversely, I will get to hear “You seem better today. Did you go diving?”

Why, after having gone diving, I apparently even have a much better sense of humour and a tendency to engage in a bit of self-mockery. Hum, I wonder if this might be apparent here since I did go diving yesterday?

Can you believe it?! Another 3-headed mermaid! Head on left = Jacqui Engel. Head in centre = Natasha Dickinson. Photo by mermaid with very long arms.

Does any of this sound like it applies to you? Ask those around you to confirm if you manifest the signs.  Look around your home. Do you see many marine symbols and/or artifacts? 

I suspect that there are many fellow mer-people here in the demographic of the “The Marine Detective” community.

Speaking from my own experience, it is very important that your mer-personness gets diagnosed as soon as possible.

It’s not only for your own good and the sanity of the humans around you. It’s for the health of our Ocean.

As mer-people, we above all others know the essential soul-calming, life-giving, inspiration-inducing, positive and essential source that is Mother Ocean.

While on land, make it count! Be the walking protectors for all that is dependent upon the sea.

Speak for our marine brethren who cannot speak for themselves!

Mer-people unite!