Phil Dadson

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There’s something deeply moving and instinctive, in a deep-essence kind of way, about the action of an ocean when you’re right there, in the immensely deep middle of it. It triggers, at one and the same time, a deep-water sense of awe and an electric thrill for the pulsing current of the intelligence we’re part of. And arriving on the pohutukawa-canopied Raoul Island was all the more impressive for experiencing and intuiting such raw ocean forces that pound and sculpt its tangled shoreline.
(60 percent to 70 percent of the body’s content is after all water, with tidal rhythms that connect us to the ocean).

The sun sets earlier through May and after dusk on HMNZS Otago, all hands are confined below deck for safety reasons. With no portholes to the outside world the experience is submarine, and rather than being confined to a lounge or a bunk I wander the labyrinthine corridors in endless loops that bring me back to where I began. I find a hatch that takes me directly out on deck, a thick steel door sheltered by a grey steel porch, cold and wet. Standing within it, all the sounds of the engine and the surging sea amplify as if my ears have expanded to form an acoustic shell within which all the frequencies of the ocean become audible. There is no moon but the night sky sparkles with boundless light reflected in the fluorescence frilled chop of the ocean. I sing to the sea and the sea sings me, wave upon wave of surging swell infused with the droning throb of engines dark and low, the rising and falling of the ocean’s immensity, up through my feet into the coil of my inner ear, a curtain of blackness up and down on galaxies of light.