Where to even start… Sheesh there are so many things I could write about, but I’ll keep it to just a few: Orona and the stars on the open ocean.
Orona was nothing short of absolutely spectacular, utterly unbelievable. I am saddened to leave but excited for Winslow Reef, an underwater reef that rises from thousands of feet down to just under 30 feet below the surface. Cap says that it creates a surf break out in the middle of the ocean, and that seems like quite a sight to behold. Nevertheless, Orona was incredible. On C-Watch’s snorkeling trip during the first day there, a few of us swam along the edge of the reef towards the Seamans from the small boat, along the way seeing countless triggerfish, blue star trevally, angel fish, and countless others I have yet to learn the names of. In addition, we saw five different sharks: juveniles and adults, white tips and black tips. One white tip was particularly curious and swam up within feet of us, just to scope around and then be on its way. We saw two turtles, a small one (~1.5 ft long) just scooting around near the bottom (~30 ft down), doing whatever turtles do. The other begs a short story.
Delaney, Harrison and I were near the Seamans and I had just adjusted my GoPro strap when I look up to see a turtle of incredible size. It was around 4.5 long (closer to 5 ft), maybe 350 lbs, and just over 25 ft in front of me. I was blown away, and instantly started filming. It got curious and began to swim towards us at a nice leisurely pace to check the three of us out for a bit. Then with the slightest turn of its fins, it suddenly changed course and headed towards its left, directly at me. It swam closer and closer; to a distance where I could have reached out, grabbed hold of its shell and gone for a turtle ride. It completely took my breath away. The grace with which it glided towards me, the intricacies of its shell, how vibrantly it was colored, the wrinkles on its face, its sheer size; all of this captivated me. I looked it in the eyes and I feel as if something was looking back, not like a dog looks back at you, but as an inquisitive being, wanting to know more about these strange creatures floating about in its waters. I am still filled with awe in reflecting on this encounter.
Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this interaction; hardly any people living have been to this place and glimpsed its wonders, and I am fortunate enough, at only 21, to experience a place that most will never even hear about.
The other aspect I’d like to talk about is the stars. I have always been captivated by them and for a long, long time, wanted to be an astronaut (till as a college freshman, I realized that physics was not for me haha). I wanted to experience the stars in all their glory, and out here in the middle of the Pacific, I think I am the closest I’ll ever get. The stars have been awesome in the truest sense of the word. I look up to the sky on a night like tonight, and I lose words to describe how I feel. Numerous and countless and myriad cannot even come close to the number of bright and shining dots that scatter the sky. The Milky Way is out in full force every night and every glance reminds me of exactly how small I truly am, reminds me to think about what truly matters in this incredibly short and absolutely astounding life I get to life. My house is up in the hills, with no neighbors and very little light pollution, so I thought I might be a little bit prepared for what the stars out here would hold, but I was wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for this. The sky reaches the horizon every direction you look, and the stars take up every bit of space they can in the endless sky. Before the moon rises is the best part, when the only light is coming from a few lit deck lights and mostly from the stars themselves. It is truly humbling. Just over two months ago, I was living in New York City, waiting to graduate and begin this trip, trying to prepare myself for what lay ahead. I was extremely excited for the night sky, because there I could hardly even make out the Big Dipper. Now I have seen the most stars I have ever seen, and get to see this on a nightly basis. I still have great difficulty wrapping my head around how far across the spectrum I’ve come in such a short amount of time.
I am so unbelievably lucky. I might be the luckiest person alive; or at least I feel that way.
I’ll finish with a quick shoutout to Mom, Ron, Cole, Lou, Beej & Toni, Amy, (also Sauvi, Dexter and Curry), Dad, and Papa and Grami – I cannot wait to get back to share with you all some of these incredible stories and photos, and thank you all for playing a role in getting me here and encouraging me to do something like this. It has been nothing short of spectacular. Love you guys, see you soon!
- Conner Cummings, C-Watch, St. John’s University