Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Under the sea

The CEO of BP stepped down yesterday. Amid his companies environmental catastrophe off the coast of Louisiana, a more delayed and deserved conclusion could not have occurred. This guy should have left a month ago, probably two. His arrogance at getting back to his "normal life" after his company wreaked havoc on the lives of so many people in that region was unbelievable. The fishing industry there in ruins and the oil industry there shut down completely for the time being. This doesn't even begin to explain the ecological damage. We all saw the pictures of the birds covered in brown crude oil. What we haven't seen is the effect on the life underneath the once blue sheen now muddy brown waters. Is the oil staying up top or has it sunk below?

We keep looking for our existence by going to the sky, but the ocean is one of the most unexplored regions in our universe. We've tested monkeys or dogs for signs of intelligence, but how many tests have been done on octopus and dolphins? We'd be lying to ourselves if we said that "Paul the octopus" who predicted 8 consecutive decisions of World Cup soccer was merely lucky. There is intelligence below the ocean sea perhaps greater than anything above it. Maybe the answers to the questions of our existence are found down there and not the galaxies or heavens above we keep searching for.

When I searched "intelligence under sea" online the search engine did not come back with stories about the creatures below it but the humans above it. Intelligence is information, or technology, and equipment, all put in the water by man. It's the same equipment that caused the devastation in Louisiana and the assured deaths of several much more intelligent life forms than the man-made intelligence that destroyed it.

We've romanticized the ocean. We've fantasized about underwater civilizations. There were stories of mermaids as far back as 1000 BC. There were stories of Kraken, gargantuan-sized squid, who attacked ships and pulled them down below the sea from Norse legend. Obviously one of the greatest novels of all-time Moby Dick about a ferocious whale and a man's obsessed journey to conquer him. In the tales marine life was powerful and dangerous, but not necessarily intelligent. In the tales we were told man reigned supreme and the life forms below were to be feared. Jaws made sharks the new terror in the water. According to statistics from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) the most unprovoked amounts of attacks on humans was 79 in 2000. Yet the odds of a fatality due to a shark attack is 0 in 264.1 million. In comparison drowning fatalities that same year, 1 in 3.5 million. Yes sharks attack, rarely, but it is an even more rare occurrence if a life is lost in the process. You have a better chance of winning Powerball then getting attacked by a shark.

Yet many feel little sympathy if a shark is killed, because our beliefs are that the shark is a predator that would harm us. The statistics don't support that. Sharks appear to be incredibly intelligent animals. While watching a show about a killer whale that attacked and killed a great white shark off the coast of San Francisco I learned that sharks warn their fellow sharks of the dangers imposed. When a killer whale attacked a shark and held the shark upside down the shark went into a state of paralyzed shock. It became immobilized and was defenseless to the whale. This learned behavior by the killer whale to defeat the shark caused a complete disappearance of all sharks within the vicinity. They knew there was a greater threat now in the water then themselves and they left the scene immediately. Scientists believe they released a chemical in the water that alerted any shark of the the threat. Yet even sharks much further from the area where the attack took place vanished. It was almost if they were communicating another way.

In 2008, a bottlenose dolphin named Moko saved two sperm whales off the coast of New Zealand. When people discovered the trapped whales they weren't sure if it would be better off to destroy the whales then watch them suffer in their trapped condition. That is when Moko came to the scene and directed the whales out the narrow channel and back to the sea. In 2007, a surfer off the the coast of Monterey was saved by dolphins when he fell victim of a rare shark attack. The dolphins protectively circled him after the shark had attacked him, allowing him to get back on his board and catch a wave back into shore.

These are intelligent creatures that live in relatively deep water and above in the sea, but in the depths of the ocean what intelligent life exists? Life that has no doubt existed in longer continuity than any life on land. The movie the Abyss touched the subject of alien like beings that lived below. Jelly fish and sea horses surely resemble alien life forms to us when viewed in aquariums. Yet most of our underwater exploration is again tied to man. We search for missing treasures, and sunken ships. We search for historical artifacts and our links to the past.

If this intelligence is deep below I wonder what they are thinking. When the oil cap bursts and their waters are polluted, do they wonder if we did it intentionally? When we savagely hunt down whales or dolphins (in parts of Japan), do they wonder why they've rescued us? When we fill their oceans with our trash and pollution, do they blame us? If there is intelligence in the ocean down below I sure hope they take pity on our lack of it above.

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