Thursday, September 3, 2015

Big Blew

Not a bad logo!
• Monterey Bay lover? Check. Since John Steinbeck led me to Cannery Row and Ed Ricketts, who led me one day to the dark heaving water, the sea lions' echoic barking, the sharp fresh cold air, the purple fog I had read about, and I lost my breath.

• Monterey Bay Aquarium lover? Check. I haven't been back in a long, long time, but Nancy and I spent from opening until closing on our first visit, and I wished for means to stow away.

Docents somehow withstood my too many questions, and I love the entire idea of the aquarium, not only as a showcase — so wonderfully designed! — for the wonders of the bay, impossible to see otherwise, but a potent force for conservation.

I daydream sometimes of being a docent there, of being the jolly guy with the answers, walking every day at the virtual bottom of the bay. Living at Monterey Bay! Seeing the ocean, every day! Swimming in it!

• Sea life lover? Check. In the alternate universe, had I the science and math chops, I would have been a marine biologist — Ed Ricketts again! — and get a little wistful when I learn an acquaintance's kid is studying to be one.

Long after I graduated, my high school built an aquarium which has gained a global reputation among Air Force brats whose families transfer in to Vandenberg nearby. Students can fulfill all their University of California entrance requirements within the aquarium's curriculum.

I would so have been there.

Consigned instead to armchair conservationist, I can get giddy and chatty, gesticulating wildly while professing my love for the ocean and Monterey and whales and otters and their protection.

Maybe that was my big problem with Big Blue Live, the PBS and British Broadcasting Corporation's three-episode live broadcast that ended last night. It was hard to stomach giddy chattiness in others.

Hosts Dr. M. Sanjayan, Liz Bonnin and Steve Backshall could not contain their rapture for Monterey Bay and all it holds — but I wish they would have, just a little bit. Especially Backshall. Granted, he broke from a story to cover the surprise appearance of a blue whale, and became practically screechy in the details, with all the breathless rat-a-tat of narrators describing a counter-attack in an English Premier League soccer match. I give him his due there.

Unfortunately, that's how he reported on everything else during the shows, high pitched and over the top.

At the end of the last night, enthralled by the "unprecedented" activity of life in the Monterey Bay this time of year, one of the hosts called Backshall a hero — for … covering the sea life? from a boat? diving at night? Backshall, a professional adventurer, said "Thank you." Fortunate to do what he does, yes. Hero? Bring it down a notch.

Yet — I watched.

Not wall to wall — I had to see if my San Francisco Giants were going to win at least one game from the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers (they didn't) — but I checked between pitches and at commercial breaks, and eventually in big chunks when it became clear the Giants weren't going to manufacture runs.

I learned more than I expected. My new favorite animal of the bay is a bird called the sooty shearwater — great name for a shortstop! — which each year flies 39,000 miles in a great swooping oceanic arc from New Zealand to Monterey Bay, and fishes by swimming deep through the water.

My favorite presentations were by Dr. Joy Reidenberg, who used animal skeletons to explain the features that allow the blue whale to rake in water equal to its body volume through its jaws, or a sea lion to walk on the beach in a way that seals can't.

I'm not sure why it was a live broadcast. It was the dark of evening when the hosts coordinated the dance of taped stories from a landing at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Between stories, they brought in their experts to add information, relayed questions from TV and Internet viewers — it was über multimedia — checked viewer polls and placed stickers on giant wall and floor maps of the bay to underscore their story subjects.

Imagine CNN bringing its overheated attention to a plan crash, except with sea otters.

But the bay disappeared into the inky blackness in the live portions. Except for one evening, when Backshall dove into the giant kelp forest, most of the stories were prerecorded in daylight.

Yet — I watched.

Maybe that was enough of a hook, different enough from the somnolent narration of most nature shows to lure me. Several of the swimmers I know brought the show to my attention.

Plus, it was about Monterey Bay! I mean, come on!

High ocean temperatures and the time of year have brought humpback whales, blue whales, great white sharks, orcas, sea elephants and male sea lions in a great congregation to Monterey Bay, making it must-see TV.

Maybe I'm jealous. Maybe I'm brooding subconsciously from the coincident association with Big Blue and Dodger Blue (damn you, Clayton Kershaw, and your strikeout curveball too!)

Maybe I wish every news host could be like M. Sanjayan, who practically had to be propped up in his fervor on the last night when he wished aloud that if Monterey Bay could be restored to health, then so could every other ecological disaster area.

Maybe I just so want to be there, giddy and gesticulating at the beauty, breathlessly narrating to any with the intestinal fortitude to listen.

No comments:

Post a Comment