My Love for the Ocean
I vividly remember the first day I saw the ocean.
I grew up in New Hampshire in the middle of the White Mountains. I thought trees were big and the mountains were bigger, but little did I know how they would pale in comparison to the sea.
I was about five years old and it was the first time I remember leaving the state of New Hampshire. After driving for what felt like an eternity in the back of a 1985 Chevy Suburban, we finally reached the Atlantic coast and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The ocean was huge!
My brothers and I stood there for a moment taking it all in. With each new discovery – seashells, seaweed, even a horseshoe crab – my sense of wonder and amazement grew.
How could we possibly threaten something so immense?
Driven in part by my love for the sea, I decided to become a cadet and attend the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Up until recently, a standard component of the curriculum was a ‘sea term’ – essentially a semester traveling the world by ship to gain an understanding of life underway – and it was an experience that changed my life.
I lived on a boat. For weeks at a time, my entire world was ocean. It was surreal waking up knowing we had sailed all night, yet seeing nothing but water from horizon to horizon. It was incredible.
After a few weeks, I began to notice things. My blue world was sprinkled with garbage. I was surprised by the amount of trash I saw in the ocean, even hundreds of miles offshore, and as we approached certain countries, the magnitude became even worse.
With each new port call and additional day underway, I began to realize the ocean wasn’t the indestructible behemoth I thought it was when I was younger. I saw firsthand the very real impact we, as a society, have on the ocean. I came away from my sea term grateful for the opportunity, but disappointed by what I had seen.
This winter, when I had the opportunity to intern with The TerraMar Project, a nonprofit on a mission to transform the way people think about the ocean and value the seas, I immediately jumped at the chance. Using the knowledge I gained from my time at sea, I worked with the TerraMar Team to increase awareness of ocean issues like marine debris and improve ocean literacy.
Sylvia Earle once said, “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.” Spending months at sea helped me realize how dependent we are upon the ocean – from the oxygen we breathe to our rainfall to transporting goods around the world – and it’s my hope that organizations like The TerraMar Project can help others come to this realization, too.