The Journey Out
The trip this week to Anacapa Island is with Oaks Middle School. There are about twenty eager students, a scattering of parent chaperones, and two teachers-John and Kathy-I greet a half hour before we actually head out to the island-actually a chain of three islands (East, Middle and West Anacapa). We listen to a few preparatory remarks and the "rules-of-the-road delivered by Victor, the interpreter from Island Packers, then we are off!
It is a cold, windy day, overcast, with no view of Anacapa when we reach the open seas but the kids do not seem to mind. Most are up above on the observation deck, chatting amongst themselves and yelling with glee as the spray from the first waves blows up over them.
Gradually, as we move past the first half-hour of steady motoring, the coastline recedes into the foggy distance and we begin to make out the dim outlines of Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island off to the right. Actually what we see first is West Anacapa, which is much higher than the rest of the island chain, almost a thousand feet in elevation. Though visible, we will not be landing there. West Anacapa is reserved almost exclusively for bird life, especially the brown pelican, whose recovery has been in part due to having sanctuaries such as this.
Another half-hour off the coast and we enter the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Almost if greeting us, a school (pod?) of more than a thousand common dolphins cruise past the bow and for more than ten minutes the kids (adults too) are mesmerized by the grace and beauty of these remarkable sea creatures as they swim past us. What a nice way to make our way onto the island.
It has not been an easy trip for me though I love it out here. I get seasick very easily and I notice a few others who are on the edge too. As we continue into the third, and last, half-hour of the journey here I concentrate a bit harder on looking at the horizon and ignoring the building queasiness I feel in my stomach. To pass the time I think more about the nature of this environment-the ocean.
The world's oceans cover seventy per cent of the earth's surfaces yet we know so little about what lies beneath it. Indeed, we know more about our moon which is more than 240,000 miles away than we do the ocean depths, The swells are huge and rock the boat back and forth as they pass by us. A group of pelicans fly alongside us for a few seconds then veer off. My eyes glide easily over the ocean surface, yet what I wonder about most is what lies below us.
At our current point, which is more than ten miles off the Ventura coast the channel is most likely a thousand feet deep--probably more, though I don't know exactly what it is. What is does represent to me-whether a thousand or five thousand feet deep-is an incredible unknown. There is so much about our own world we still do not know. Knowing more about what is beneath the channel is something I have hope for, and I am excited knowing the SSE (Sustained Seas Expedition) will be helping with this. I look forward to seeing what they discover in the tiny two-person submarine, which will be used to explore the channel in the next few weeks.