I hold my breath and take one stroke after the other as I coast over the seafloor. The flow of ocean currents have left a pattern imprinted on the sand, like corrugated tin.
I rise for air, breathe in, and look ahead to where southern sea meets southern sky. Blue upon blue. It’s one of those endless days. It feels like it’s always been this way, and always will be…I’m surrounded by blue, infinite blue.
Every season of my life has met this ocean.
Childhood — We squelch as kids through the tidal mud in front of the fisherman’s shack my dad grew up in, searching for crabs. Dad shows us how to cook them when we get home. We break the shells and suck sweet flesh off sticky fingers.
Summer — I snorkel at the base of cliffs in water clear as air, a sea lion sun bakes on the rocks beside me. Swirling sea grasses open with the moving tide to reveal a bright orange star fish. I glance behind me, I’m being trailed by zebrafish.
Winter — It’s twilight and I’m standing in a little cove, a mother southern right whale dances in the waves with her calf before me. She’s journeyed to my bay from Antarctica to give birth and nurse her young. Their tails flick up and slap the ocean surface, making me feel small.
Holiday — I kayak over milky waters with dolphins gliding beneath me, their silver skin glistening and smooth. Each stroke of my paddle is gentle, curious and grateful that this wild ocean is home to abundant life.
My southern sea
I look out into the blue. Just beyond my horizon, and deep in the big swells of the Great Australian Bight, a Norwegian company called Equinor want to drill a well next summer. And search for oil.
The Great Australian Bight is unique. It’s one of the largest marine wildernesses in the world and 85% of its species are found nowhere else on the planet. A recent report, commissioned by Greenpeace, states that “the greatest concentration of marine mammals, seabirds, pelagic fishes and sharks in Australia” live here.
It’s home to thriving ecosystems and an annual “multi-billion dollar fishery, aquaculture and tourism economy.” Yet if Equinor’s drilling proposal is successful all this could be lost. The report continues, “Even with the safest well design and operational controls, catastrophic risk cannot be eliminated.”
What does catastrophic risk look like? If a “Worst Case Discharge” occurred, oil would spread from Margaret River in Western Australia to Port Macquarie, north of Sydney. Intricate ecosystems would be destroyed along with local industries. The affects would be permanent.
All this infinite blue, discoloured by oily black.
Just one mistake
The biggest oil disaster was in 2010 when there was a blowout at the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. BP was conducting exploratory oil drilling at this sight, the same procedure Equinor’s proposed for the Bight.
I type “Deepwater Horizon” into my search engine. Image after image screams from my screen: fire and smoke leap from sea to sky, aerial shots of an ocean expanse flowing with brown mess, pelicans caked in layers of oil so they can’t fly.
If there was a blowout spill in the Great Australian Bight the quantity of oil leaked would be twice that of Deepwater Horizon, making it the largest accidental oil spill in history. With a project so complex — drilling beneath a rough ocean over 2,000 metres deep — all it takes is one mistake.
An ecological wonder
I glide through blue and want it to last forever. Because every season of my life has met this ocean. I come here to walk and swim and dive and play and pray. This southern sea is a part of me, my family, my community, my state, and my nation.
A sand crab sees me hover over him, he clicks his claws at me before promptly burying himself. He belongs to one of the most biodiverse ecological wonders on earth.
How much of this planet do we need to destroy before we learn that life is sacred?
Amy is a Press Services International Columnist from Adelaide. She was runner-up in the 2018 Basil Sellars Award. Her previous articles can be viewed here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/amy-manners.html
Amy is a Press Services International Columnist from Adelaide. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Screen & Media, and now works as a freelance photographer, videographer and writer. She was runner-up in the 2018 Basil Sellars Award. Her previous articles can be viewed here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/amy-manners.html