June 2011: Save Our Oceans – an exhibition to raise awareness

Today I attended a small exhibition in central Tokyo focusing on a few marine issues.  We all know that coral reefs worldwide are under increasing threat due to pollution, coastal development, farming, or even divers touching the coral, collecting it or dropping anchors on reefs.  This is obviously altering the whole nature of the sea, and the exhibition today offered an opportunity to think about that, as well as some more light-hearted topics like manta rays and popular diving sports in Palau.

There were three main parts: underwater photos, manta rays, and coral.

First up, I headed for the wonderful display of photos by underwater photographer David Doubilet.  Known for his work published in National Geographic Magazine, Doubilet started taking underwater photos aged 12.  He says his goal is to “redefine photographic boundaries” every time he enters the water.  Here are a couple of his comments:

“The sea is the most chaotic street in the world.  And what you have to do is simplify the chaos, to make a pattern out of the chaos that is at least visually arresting and not visually confusing.”

“My job description is to make a picture of a place no one has ever seen before, or to make a picture that’s different of a place that everyone’s seen before.”

Looking at his work made me think of my own photos, especially what I could do to improve.  He’d taken some fantastic shots of sea lions, sharks, clown fish, colourful tropical fish, as well as different seaweeds, rocks and other plants.  The colours were so vivid and his close-up shots of tiny obscure areas like rock surfaces were quite original.  He definitely gave me some ideas for my upcoming dive trip.

In the next section, a couple of Japanese celebrities who are scuba divers themselves, shared their own photographs, recounting trips to Ishigaki island Okinawa, and Palau.  A mini-theatre was available to show visitors the world of manta rays.  Although I didn’t get to see any manta rays when I went to Ishigaki in January and February, watching that simple footage of the animals brought back plenty of memories of my time there.  Palau, meanwhile, is one of the world’s most spectacular diving destinations.  In England I’d never really heard about it, but hoards of Japanese tourists visit to enjoy the crystal clear waters and superb marine life.  Myself and some other divers are hoping to go there in October, and today’s photos gave me plenty to think about. I heard about coral reefs, hidden caves and tunnels, and of course the famous jellyfish lake, teeming with 21 million stingless jellyfish!

The final part of the exhibition focused on coral reefs, with clear explanations of their biology, how they are formed, and many different photos of coral polyps.  Visitors are also able to pick up coral samples, and a special screening of “Umihanamushi” was held, a documentary focusing on the microscopic world of coral.  Here I was most reminded of how much danger the coral reefs are in.

I was also really impressed with a feature on Hope Japan, supporting the sea around Tohoku.  The group consists of voluntary divers who are going underwater to remove debris and clear the area.  A different way of volunteering up north perhaps?

The topics I saw today appeared very simple, but they are extremely important in understanding just a tiny part of the ocean.  As global warming accelerates, the more the oceans will be under threat, so it’s to be expected that many more exhibitions such as today’s will be held, aiming to at least make people aware of what is happening.

This weekend I’ll be in Kumejima, Okinawa, no doubt remembering the issues raised in this exhibition as I head back into the water.

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