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Mother Introduced My First Love - The Ocean

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-11-17

Mothers teach their children their most important lessons. While this is one of the basic facts of life it never ceases to amaze me how often I re-learn this simple yet very undisputable fact. Every time I go diving I gratefully remember my mother encouraging me to swim when I was only five years old. The Ocean was a world of amazement for a five year old but I was drawn to it like the proverbial fish to water. My mother opened the door to another world and encouraged me to explore a world beneath the waves. Remember this was the time when John Glenn was trying out for the real "Right Stuff" and our nation was looking into the sky and beyond. My space program was to fly beneath the waves. I was snorkeling before I could read and when the skills of reading came I learned with a voracious appetite to read about the Ocean. I wanted to learn more about what I was seeing through the glass of my mask every Saturday at the beach. Mom introduced me to my first love, the Ocean, a home to another world, a family of animals and fish, shrimp and krill, whales and sharks, a family comprised of opposites that attract and support one another.

Years later, many years later, I was diving on the island of Yap and was introduced to family of Manta Rays. The welcome by this family was overwhelming and exciting beyond my expectations. These amazing creatures, with distant relations to the shark clan, glide through the water with the grace of a ballerina and the agility of a fighter plane. On my first dive with the Manta Rays in Yap's Goofnuw Channel the Rays rose up from the depths just off the reef and pushed into the light current of water exiting the mangroves of the channel. These mangroves provide nourishment for these gentle giants, which seem to be the reason that Goofnuw is their summer time home.

The 12 foot wingspan of Valerina, a female Manta, dwarfs me as she glides up and hovers only two feet from my face. With a body weight five, maybe ten times more than I she controls her hover in movements of inches while she enjoys my bubbles that apparently tickle her bright white underbody. Two male companions, her court you may say, fly by and wing over in an acrobatic-like demonstration that greatly impresses and entertains myself and five other divers in my group. Valerina leaves momentarily but returns, again with her court, and it seems that she is sharing her family with us. She and her companions continue to hover in our bubbles and then circle around us allowing us to be amazed at their friendliness and inviting us to enjoy the currents that power their flights.

A day with Manta Rays is only an invitation for another day. Remember the excitement of making a new friend and then the anticipation of getting out to play again the next day. It was exactly the same for all of us everyday we were in Yap. Each day our first dives took us to Goofnuw Channel where we would dive into the 45-foot deep channel and wait for our new friends to come up and play in the currents. We were never disappointed except when the plane from Guam landed on time and our vacation ended. While my mom did not introduce to the Manta Rays I always smile in grateful appreciation to her every time I go diving. I will never forget that it was mom who introduced me to the wonders of our Ocean and encouraged me to make friends in this new world. Leaving Yap I smiled again in grateful appreciation while we rose above the green waters in Goofnuw Channel realizing that we had made new friends and the world seems to get just a little smaller every time we do.

While here on Okinawa I encourage you to get out and find out what the rest of Okinawa is like underwater. The most beautiful scenery is under Okinawa and, while I try hard to capture its beauty on film, you just have to see it for yourself. Ignore all the bad things you have heard. My mom encouraged me and now I encourage you to enjoy the excitement of the Underwater World. See you at the beach!

John Chandler, a professional Underwater Photographer, loves to share his love for the ocean and teaches Underwater Photography here on Okinawa.

All photos copyrighted (), John Chandler

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