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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coal Mine Canaries In The Open Water

After three straight nights of a jellyfish onslaught, the hardened swimmers from San Francisco had to call it quits along the coastline of California.

So we ask, "What other sport is there that can be stopped by small invertebrates?"  What other sports or human activities are so negatively impacted by such small creatures?

As swimmers become bolder and take to the waters around the world, we are increasingly seeing this phenomena.

Open water swimmers are the coal mine canaries of the world's oceans. Because swimmers perform in such a natural state (i.e., swimsuit, cap and goggles) in places where no others go so unprotected, they experience things that no one else does.

At some point in the distant future, the world's media and scientific community can look back at the exploits and observer logs of open water swimmers from the late 20th century and early 21st century and wonder why they did not report more about swimmers who increasingly encountered a global proliferation of jellyfish of unprecedented proportions.

While swims in the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Caribbean and elsewhere are increasingly ending in a painful and disappointing outcome due to jellyfish, perhaps the open water canaries demonstrate in a very human way the larger ecological issues that are affecting our oceans and our planet.  Can the scars on the skin and venom in the system ultimately lead to a greater awareness and provocative calls for action?

Dr. Angel Yanagihara of the University of Hawaii, the world's leading expert on the box jellyfish, describes open water swimming relative to other athletic endeavors, "As far as sports go, arguably ocean swimming is the penultimate human activity involving the literal full immersion of mind, body and spirit into the ocean. Individuals who passionately feel called to swim and dive the oceans are also perhaps the most able to fully report back to the larger community the state of our oceans at a profoundly intimate level." Environmentalist Lewis Pugh asks audiences during his speeches about his pioneering swims,"What radical, tactical shift can you take in your relationship to the environment?"

Dr. Yanagihara explains the changes taking place, "Global climate change is not just a simple shift in temperatures, but a pivot point for species worldwide with a demonstrable risk of collapse of marine biodiversity.  This is compounded by unsustainable overfishing and pollution of near shore areas.  All these factors lead to a state where the ocean's invertebrates can thrive again after millions of years of being subdued by top vertebrate predators.  

I have watched schools of Hawaiian trigger fish devour local box jellies remaining in the reef during the day, but in other areas of the world when robust and voraciously feeding fishes are depleted by human activities (overfishing, pollutant-driven algal blooms with subsequent oxygen depletion), the jellies remain and proliferate."

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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The Other Shore


The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.
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An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

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