The World in a Blade of Kelp

CEO Ruskin Hartley gets up close with the wonders of the Bay.

For the last eight weeks or so I have largely been looking at Santa Monica Bay from the shore. Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve enjoyed playing in the waves and swimming along the shoreline, but today was my first chance to get further out into the Bay. I joined our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium team on one of its weekly collecting expeditions, which harvest kelp to feed the animals in the aquarium. As our aquarist, Jose, says, it’s the weekly trip to the farmers market.

The Bay, and indeed the oceans, give us so much. After all they cover 71% of the planet and provide everything from the oxygen we breathe, to the fish we eat, to the natural substances that thicken Jell-O. The list goes on. But a few hours on the water off Palos Verdes gave me something distinct – a profound sense of the wonder of the ocean.

It really is a different world out there. The solid earth is replaced by the ever-shifting, fluid ocean. Wave upon wave. Powerful forces gently lifting our 14-foot dinghy up and down as we leaned over the side, straining for the kelp. The constantly changing play of light and shade on the water as the clouds and sun slid overhead.

Where we first encountered the kelp, the long tendrils reached for the light, laying down when they reached the surface. This caused the ripples to flatten out, leaving a glassy surface. The seals, sea birds, and even the odd kelp crab seemed quite at home out there. I was a grateful visitor.

Bobbing around on the surface of the vast ocean gave me the same sense of walking amid the redwood giants. A sense of being a tiny part of the wonderful world.

ruskin            Santa Monica Pier Aquarium aquarist Jose Bacallao shows Ruskin the ropes off Palos Verdes.