Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

June 2, 2015

BLOG from the Sea of Cortez 5

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 11:20 am

It Doesn’t Pay to be a Fish

A narrow opening to the west brings us into the cove. To the north and south, Caleta Partida is steep cliffs of volcanic rock and clinging cactus plunging straight into the sea. A narrow little beach sparkles at the western side.


Mexican fishermen have created a fish camp on a strip up against the sheer rock walls. Their panga sits near the narrow beach, awaiting launch at 4 A.M.


“Sometimes, in the dark,” Tom Uno tells us, “the pangas turn the sea neon in their wake.”

“Phosphorescence,” I nod. I’ve seen it.

The sea turns electric when disturbed by prop or hull. Crossing the Pacific in my brother’s sailboat, our wake glowed with an iridescent green. In the Southern Ocean, our icebreaker ignited the water into a thousand July 4th sparklers. The red tide in Malibu was a psychedelic light show orchestrated by our legs.

“And sometimes,” Tom Uno adds, “when a dolphin swims past at night, its entire body glows with the colors of that phosphorescence. In the blackness,” – his voice drops to a whisper as if in church – “this glowing form swims by, like a shell of moving electricity with a black, empty shape inside – the perfectly shaped form of the invisible dolphin.”

Anchored within 100 yards of the northern wall, we do dinner and margaritas as the sun and horizon team up to put on such a magnificent display that we put down our drinks and applaud. Pink Floyd provides the soundtrack from below deck.


As dusk deepens to where our eyes can’t separate the black volcanic rock from the water, there’s a loud splash. Then, quickly, another. Three more. And then, it’s serial dive-bombing.

“Tough on the fish,” Tom Uno observes.

Then he follows up with his axiom.

He points toward the uniform darkness where the wall and water should be separate. White flashes of foam, like briefly blooming flowers, appear within the blackness, then settle back onto the invisible surface. A flower follows every splash, throughout the strafing.

Splash! Splash ! Splash !

“How do the birds see fish in this darkness?” One of us wonders aloud.

I try to squeeze myself into a pelican’s brain.

I look down at the sea below me as I circle it, hungry, but knowing, somehow, where the fish will be at dusk.

I know also where the surface between air and water is: the Interface. I can feel the pressure on my wings as I approach it. I have learned how to use that pressure to glide over the water, almost touching it.

My meals never swim above that Interface. But this time of day, they congregate just beneath it. I see them as clearly as I see my fellow birds, but the silly little fish, hunting for insects on the surface of that thin Interface, must believe themselves invisible. Not to us superior beings who fly above them, living in three dimensions.

When I was younger, watching the fish teem like this, I got tempted to just plunge my bill in at a random spot – there’s bound to be fish wherever I hit, I figured. But repeated dives and an empty beak taught me that I’d have to focus on just one, and make a precise dive for it.

One like – – – that one.

My eyes lock onto it. I point down and plummet. The pressure against my body rises as I dive. My eyes follow the swimming, meandering meal. My wings adjust my trajectory. When the pressure tells me that I’m approaching the Interface, I fold my wings back, open my beak and plunge through.

In the world where the fish live, I can’t fly, but my feet steer me. The water slows my dive. I stop, then pop up to the air side of Interface. My meal flaps inside my beak.

It’s good to be a pelican.

IMG_4179   It just doesn’t pay to be a fish.

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