Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Sunday, August 17, 2008

  Research Sailboat daydream

When I was a kid, I daydreamed of living on a research submarine straight out of Jules Verne's 20,000 leagues under the sea. I remember the Disneyworld ride on that vividly, it was a cheezy ride, but still it fired my imagination. My mental version of the sub, updated for the 1970s - when I was 7 or 8 years old - had a piano rather than an organ, the waterbed was transparent like in one of the James Bond movies, and it had ship to ship missiles - no dangerous ramming of the bad guys for me! I built the ship out of General Products #3 hull, which was as transparent as the waterbed. The whole ship was lit by the eery glow of jellyfish. I had scribbled down some stories about the adventures my protagonist had in this ship (in the vein of Indiana Jones, Jr. and Tom Swift, Jr. - Call him, "Nemo, Jr.") but lost them in 1993.

I memorized some lines of the neo-Shakespearean dialog in 20,000 leagues:
    "Strike, mad vessel! Shower your useless shot! And then, you will not escape the spur of the Nautilus. But it is not here that you shall perish! I would not have your ruins mingle with those of the Avenger!" - Jules Verne
I would, oddly, recite this while heading into a heavy sea, all the way up til I was 17 or so.

I thought we'd be living in space, and under the sea by now. We aren't.

I take flack for being skeptical about anthropogenic global warming, but the decline of the sea itself is well documented. We've hit "Peak Fishing". Edible un-farmed fish supplies and sizes are way down. And the dead zones, the parts of the ocean that are hypoxic and deadly to most life - are expanding.



Look at all those black spots! These are anthropogenic! These are humanity's fault! We can't fix them with missiles!

Every salt water ecosystem I've ever lived near on the East coast is in decline, in part because of the rush of people to the coasts has sapped the strength of the ecosystem to cope. People need better reasons to live inland, or to at least live in better harmony with oceans, but it isn't happening yet.

The sad part about these hypoxic trends is that is IS possible to reverse them. It may take decades to repair what we've done but "the trend is reversible", as the study, linked above, said.



There's still plenty of reserve left in the system. Certain things, like lowering nitrate runoff, make economic sense for both farmers and fishers, but it is hard to connect the dots. For example, I worry about hypoxic conditions in the harbor here in San Juan Del Sur and have no means to test for them. Similarly I note the differences in fish catch up and down the coast and wonder if it was possible to improve the quality of it. Although I love lobster, the lobsters they serve here tend towards the small side, and I've stopped eating them. I've wondered how big lobster here were 10 and 20 years ago, but have found no records.

(Although I do dig the beauty of the sea, I also love eating fish. The way things are going, in 20-30 years we'll be reduced to eating plankton and jellyfish)

Being that nuclear powered submarines fitted with advanced weaponry and pianos are kind of hard for even an angry individual to get......I've daydreamed more recently about a research sailboat.

It would be like Calypso, only greener.

It would be equipped with solar panels, dive gear, side-scan sonar, etc, and wander around less explored areas of the world, not only tagging fish, but setting down (webcam) observation posts along major reefs and fisheries, observing the number of fish, over time and season, in their natural habitat.

I'd use my software and hardware engineering skills to develop new kinds of tools to not only monitor the seabed but introduce ways to coax reefs back to life...

Perhaps it would be possible to take action sooner, and reverse trends like hypoxia and starfish encroachment and stuff like that, in places that are not as affected as America's East coast.

Something like this boat, would be a good start.

I can see sailboats coming back, like in Waterworld, in a future where gas is exceedingly scarce, and the cost of living on land includes having to cope with plague and warfare.

Regrettably reality sets in and the rigor with which I live squashes daydreams like that down to something that will fit in my budget this year... which is basically a 21 foot daysailer. Maybe I can at least tag a few fish.

For years I've gone to sleep with an opening line that starts off with "He fired two missiles" and a fuzzy made up story built around the events of the month that rapidly slipped into dreams. Most often it is an assault on two sides, an attempt not to chart a middle course, but a different one.

Update: I re-read the e-book version of 20,000 leagues today, and discovered my memories of it jumbled up hopelessly with Disney's version, the two underwater tv shows I barely remember, Tom Swift, Jr, and my own scribbled fantasies.

Still, I remembered the end of the story correctly:

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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