Sailing through the ocean of the Great Barrier Reef, relaxing on deck as the salty wind sweeps through our hair, wading through the clear waters of Whitehaven Beach, diving in the world’s largest reef system, cooling down as the sun sets over the turquoise ocean, being able to see every. single. star. in the Southern Hemisphere at night, and waking up to the sound of waves crashing against our bedroom window.
When you’re really far away from civilization you not only experience moments like these, but also learn a whole lot about yourself, the environment, and what’s most important in life.
On this particular trip to the outer reef with Wings Diving, we had a lot of time to take in the beauty of nature and experience what it’s like not to worry about time. It was stress-free, we had zero cell service, no wifi, no shoes, and we took a step away from many modern luxuries (such as long hot showers). It truly made us focus on much more important matters.
Living with a group of fourteen others on a catamaran so far away from any land really gave us a sense of community within the group. We met people with so many different perspectives on life and diverse passions for the earth. A sailor who cares deeply for the conservation of sea turtles, a SCUBA instructor whose heart is burning for endangered sharks, and a chef who is a huge advocate for animal rights.
It was a huge eye-opener realizing the harm that we humans have brought to the ocean animal life and world in general. Each of our crew members were extremely passionate about a specific area of marine conservation: from sharks and sea turtles to water and energy.
Forty six thousand pieces of plastic are in every square mile of the ocean. What’s even scarier is that there are areas of the ocean that are known as garbage patches. There are five of these trash vortexes in our oceans full of debris… because of humans.photo credit: boaterexam.com
We have no choice but to feel guilty.
It’s disgustingly harmful to each and every living organism on our planet.
It’s pretty easy for people to brush off these things when living their everyday lives because they may not view themselves as being directly affected by the issues. We are just as guilty as the next person of taking unnecessarily long showers, accidentally leaving lights on, forgetting to recycle, and ignoring the occasional piece of trash we see on the beach. On our Wings trip, we were forced to confront some of these issues and we truly felt ashamed for the way that we have brushed off the problems in the environment out of pure selfishness and ignorance.
Our skipper, Thommo, was extremely passionate about sea turtle conservation and has created an education program (Ocean Crusaders) in order to promote awareness about the environmental problems that are destroying our oceans and the marine life in them. In his career as a skipper and sailor, he has pulled eight dead sea turtles out of the ocean. All of these turtles died unnecessary deaths due to the ingestion of plastic. Each tiny piece of plastic in the ocean can easily be mistaken for food or accidentally swallowed by marine life. Plastic bags in particular have been a huge killer of turtles because they appear to be the sea turtles number one source of food: the jellyfish.photo credit: great pacific garbage patch
Since we had already been to Whitehaven and completely fell in love with the beach, we were overly excited to see it again with Wings! It was a much different experience this time, however, because we had a completely different mindset. We took note of how squeaky clean it truly is. Unlike most beaches, Whitehaven Beach is completely uninhabited. No one lives on the island and it’s noticeably taken care of by the Australians. We were even asked kindly by the crew to pick up any trash if we spotted it on the beach. It’s impressive how much each crew member cares about the environment. It’s inspiration enough for us to take a few extra steps in our day to help preserve the natural planet.
This unforgettable trip on Wings allowed us to take home with us many incredible memories and valuable friendships. We witnessed some of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve ever seen, laughed harder than we had in a while, swam alongside beautiful sea turtles and exotic fish, and pressed our feet into the sand of Whitehaven one last time. Yet, what we feel was most important were the lessons we learned about our environment and how much one person can actually make a difference.