skip to Main Content

Swarms Without Number

Swarms Without Number
By Wendy Wipple

As somebody who’s never lived closer than 700 miles from a large body of water, I’ve never had any desire to actually immerse myself in an ocean. Closest thing in my experience was swimming in an actual swimming hole every summer at Girl Scout Camp, and, in that context, after each swim session, being required to get each ear filled with rubbing alcohol in order to ward off infection. So, oceans? Not for me. Till last week.

My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a cruise through the new Panama locks, with stops in Cartagena, Columbia, Limon, Costa Rica, and The Cayman Islands. Our choices for optional activities consisted mostly of history and wildlife, despite the fact that we were surrounded by water, but eventually we landed on an island that offered only a wide variety of water fun. I picked something called an Aqua Chair.

Basically a lounge chair with integrated flotation devices. So you could feel like you were sitting in your favorite easy chair while also kicking your feet in the surf.

It was awesome! And I didn’t even have to get my hair wet.

Our last stop was the Grand Cayman Islands (The Grand Caymans where all the bigwigs stash their offshore funds and since the Grand Caymans don’t charge any tax, apparently a great place to buy expensive jewelry).

Unfortunately, since we don’t have any offshore funds stashed anywhere, we had to leave the million dollar emerald behind and choose something else.

My Husband, who, by the way, has never mentioned snorkeling to me in the 25 years we’ve been married, chose snorkeling.

I was not amused. And, nearly 50 years after my last earful of rubbing alcohol, way out of my comfort zone.

Before long, however, I had been issued my flippers and face mask, and after an hour long trip to the actual dive site ( A sunken warship named the Kittiwake) during which I occupied myself mostly by wondering how many other people had wrapped their mouth around my newly issued mouthpiece (and whether our dive tour personnel ever really wash them), we were there. I managed to proceed backwards down the ladder (no small feat when the fins are at least double the size of my feet), and jumped in. About a minute was consumed in feeling like I was desperately underwater (because I was), and that I couldn’t breathe (Because I was trying to breathe normally, through my nose) Happily, my 5 minutes of on-deck training ginally kicked in, I relaxed, and finally looked around me.

And it was pure magic.

Brightly colored coral covered the seascape. Huge schools of bright blue fish swam right in front of my eyes and darted away, only to surround me again. Two large pink and grey fish seemed to play tag below. Tiny yellow fish darted in and out of the coral. There were angelfish, parrot fish, tarpon fish of every size and every color, even an octopus.

And all the while, two barracudas circled lazily in the depths.

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

In short, though seriously reluctant to get in the water, I came out of the water convinced that that I had just experienced something that would have to be viewed as was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Second only to the births of my two daughters.

I also came out of the water with an old Scripture song reverberating in my head: Psalm 104, courtesy of Amy Grant:

Oh Lord, how many are thy works. In wisdom thou has made them all. The earth is full of thy possessions. Here is the sea, great and broad. In which are swarms without number. Animals both great and small. Oh Lord. Thou hast made them all.

Here’s the thing. We are just now, thousands of years later, really starting to approach a relatively thorough understanding of the oceans, because only in the last 2500 years or so have we had any ability to really study sea life.

Because you can only go about six feet in before you have to have some way to breathe.

And it’s only been in our lifetimes, with the modern, motorized underwater explorer pods (state of the art version at this writing called “Alvin”, able to carry both the pilot and two scientists as well as stay surbmerged for 9 hours at significant depth), have existed. I’m guessing you’ve all seen the surreal pictures of the bizarre lifeforms those submersables have discovered as well.

They are amazing, right?

Here’s what’s more amazing. The oceans contain the highest mountains in the world and the deepest valleys. In fact, 72% of the earth’s surface is covered by the oceans.

We’ve explored about 5%.

My point? We ain’t seen nothing yet.

Postscript: In those first few minutes of trying to acclimate to breathing through my mouth and such, I was mindful of the strongly emphasized instruction to get off the ladder quickly, as other snporkelers would be starting down, so I began to do breast stroke away from the boat immediately after hitting the water and stroking as fast as I could. For some reason my brain was just thinking I was totally submerged, so it never occurred to me to lift my head up and see where I was going. (Sad but true.) I did hear the boat captain yelling, but since I didn’t hear my name I kept going. (in retrospect, I don’t think he would have known it.) A few more breast strokes and I heard my husband’s underwater garbled voice, and he took my hand. He held my hand from that point on (fearing he would lose me in the Caribbean forever), and again when we were taken to a second site, a reef. (Which was equally amazing.)

Bottom line, in discussion on the way home, we both said our best moment on the whole trip was holding hands while we experienced the amazing variety of God’s underwater creation. Together. It certainly made our 25th more special.

“Swarms without number. Animals both great and small.” Scientists just continue to verify every word of Holy Writ.

And we have the best seat in the house in all of history!

Back To Top