Nature Encounter Essay.docx - Diving in Eastport Maine It’s an early October morning in New England I’m sitting on the floating dock watching the

Nature Encounter Essay.docx - Diving in Eastport Maine...

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Diving in Eastport, Maine It’s an early October morning in New England. I’m sitting on the floating dock, watching the current rush by while trying to finish my coffee before the other biologists arrive. I know we’ll leave quickly after they get here. The sun has only been up for a short while but it brings welcome warmth and I close my eyes and drink everything in. The air smells salty and a little bit fishy, typical for the coast of Maine. I hear a quiet swoosh of water and open my eyes to see a familiar round head poking out of the water. A large gray seal stares at me with whiskers tucked back, his speckled skin wrinkling in folds, a marine mammal with a double chin. It’s easy to see why people love these animals with their big brown eyes and expressive faces. He floats for a few moments longer and then slips below the surface as quietly as he came. A few minutes later, the other divers arrive and quickly load their gear. We’re all tired from several days of collecting data in 45 degree water but we’re used to the work and love it. I’m the only female along on this trip and it’s like hanging out with five older brothers. I laugh when they challenge each other, “Oh yeah? Who got more species yesterday?” As they jab back and forth, I inwardly begin to focus my attention on the upcoming dive, recalling the rare species that I studied last night. I know I don’t have to prove anything to these guys, I’m here for a reason, but I can’t help that their outward displays of competition make me want to work harder and to know more. We untie our research boat and begin motoring to Dog Island, the site we’ll be surveying today. We have a tight schedule in Eastport, the easternmost town in the continental United States. Out here, it’s only safe to dive during slack tide when the current is changing direction and there’s a little sweet spot of relative calm. If you don’t respect the laws of nature, you could be swept out to sea. If you’re lucky, you’ll find an aquaculture pen to climb on while you wait for your team, or the
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Coast Guard, to rescue you (a true story we’ve been told as an example of what not to do.) If you’re not lucky, then that could be the last dive in your logbook.
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