A Personal Responsibility For All Of Us
During a few days in late March GlobalSubDive’s exploration vessel, Baseline Explorer, and its team and crew members and all its equipment, including two Triton submarines, served as the platform for collaborative efforts by Miami Waterkeeper and Project Baseline.
Their efforts with this endeavor served primarily two purposes, being; one to document the current state of health as well as presence of coral reefs near the Port Everglades inlet and two, to raise continuous awareness of the importance of our reefs, educating people on the invaluable benefits these reefs serve and not least make a shout out of the fact that history is about to repeat itself once again and that planned dredging for 2017 in the area, is likely to cause a smothering of the reefs and thus that we are likely going to kill off the reefs unless preventive actions are put into place or the dredging is cancelled.
In 2014 similar dredging took place in Port Miami and there it caused massive destruction of the natural reefs, far beyond what the expectations by the engineers were. According to Miami Waterkeeper and Project Baseline this mistake is about to happen again in the area near the Port Everglades inlet as they plan to dredge the inlet to make way for larger vessels.
The event had several members of the press participate and they were able come along for several dives in the submarines and thereby get a chance to see the reefs with their own eyes themselves and see what is in utmost danger of being killed off, all while members of Miami Waterkeeper and Project Baseline were able to educate them further on the matters.
The manned submersibles operated by GlobalSubDive proved invaluable as the perfect vehicles to take non-divers to the spectacles so they could enjoy a personal visit to the endangered reefs. A personal view of the reefs makes for greater impression on people than just a mentioning of its existence.
A view of the ocean leaves a pretty impression on most of us, but as divers we have witnessed a serious decay of the conditions of life underneath the surface. Most people are not thinking about this much, for they typically don’t get to see it at all.
Also visiting during these days was Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the famous Jacques Cousteau, many of us are familiar with from the underwater exploration TV series of particularly the 1970s and 1980s. Inspired by his late grandfather, Philippe Cousteau reminded us, that we all play an important role in the care-taking of our natural resources. Philippe in fact reminded us that we all have a personal responsibility to help make the word a better place and not to keep our heads in the sand about the problems facing our oceans.
Philippe Cousteau, himself, is an avid explorer, film maker and advocate. He founded EarthEcho International, a leading environmental education organization dedicated to inspiring youth to take action for a sustainable planet and he has been the host and executive producer of Awesome Planet, a television series syndicated on Fox and Hulu, for which he was nominated for a daytime Emmy as best host. Philippe is also host of a series on GreatBigStory.com called The Aquatic World of Philippe Cousteau—with over 10 million views of first season, he is currently filming seasons two and three. As a special correspondent for CNN, he has hosted several award-winning shows, including Going Green and Expedition Sumatra.
Along the two Tritons, that are currently inventory of Baseline Explorer, was also the very impressively looking DeepFlight Dragon submersible. Designed by Graham Hawkes, an ocean engineer/inventor, has been responsible for the design of a significant percentage of all manned submersibles and more than 300 remote underwater vehicles built for research or industry worldwide, this underwater vehicle carries two people in a vessel that almost gives you the impression of an F1 vehicle with flight abilities for the underwater world. Super sleek and very sexy looking for sure.
But all dives weren’t just carried out in manned submersibles. Global Underwater Explorer divers, team divers of Project Baseline, carried out a number of dives, with the specific intent of documenting the reefs and installing specially designed Project Baseline stations.
The documentation is made up of notation of the specific location along with observatory notes, imagery and video capturing of the area, of corals and any outcroppings and even measures of size of corals, along with any other notation of fish count, visibility, current and any other factor that may be worth noting.
These initial documentations serve as establishing a Baseline for the current state of health of the area and of the corals there. Such an established Baseline is invaluable for when you wish to compare with any evolution taking place over time, such as in this case a Before and After the dredging.
When you don’t establish a Baseline in the form of true documentation you run the risk of comparing with what will typically become a shifting Baseline. A shifting Baseline describes the situation when you just compare to what you remember a place looked like from previous. Our memories may play tricks with us, and it may even gradually change over time as we revisit a place over and over.
As we continuously visit a place our impression of the place may gradually accept the changing conditions or the changing state of health as we become accustomed to it. It’s a bit like when a year passes by. You may not feel a whole lot different over the cause of that year as you lived through it day by day. But bring out a picture of yourself from the year before and compare with today, and soon enough you’ll notice several distinctions and changes have taken place. Do the same with young children and you’ll see a huge difference for sure.
The Project Baseline stations are installed, so that they can serve as location markers and reminders for future visits to the dive spots by Project Baseline divers or indeed any other divers to document what they see there. As data and imagery for the spots are gathered over time, it will be very easy to make deduction of any changes that may have taken place.
If the corals are thriving you will find new growth, bigger corals in the images compared with images of same corals from a previous visit some time ago. If on the other hand the corals are not thriving, you may find a more bleak scenario of corals having deteriorated, smothered, bleached, or broken into pieces or completely vanished in your images of the same spots.
With the planned dredging of the inlet of Port Everglades, the fear is that we shall see the same result as that observed after the Port Miami dredging of 2014 when thousands of corals were smothered and killed.
Rachel Silverstein of Miami Waterkeeper presses on the importance that such an experience is not to be relived again. But she may be fighting against powerful forces. A lot of focus has been placed on the economical benefits and the jobs brought about by a port that can handle bigger ships.
Certainly there are many benefits to a port that has a bigger capacity, but in mentioning and focusing on these benefits, it seems they forget to factor in the benefits and not least the economics brought about by the natural reefs.
Stay tuned for more development on this story.