“Let’s hit the beach!”
I’ve used and heard these words (or similar) hundreds if not thousands of times throughout my life, since my earliest memories as a toddling “beach bum” in Panama City, Florida. Those words, and the anticipation of being enveloped in surf, sand, and sun always bring joy, excitement, and a feeling of contentment to all ocean lovers who long to be one with the ocean as frequently as we can.
Last week, as ocean concerns were highlighted across D.C. during Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) leading up to World Oceans Day on Saturday, we were also reminded of a day, 75 years ago last Thursday, when “hit the beach” had an entirely different meaning. Allied troops conducted the largest amphibious landing in history on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, where over 4,000 of them perished in a single day. Their sacrifices were made as part of a selfless effort to ensure a future of freedom and prosperity for us and generations to come. This uncertain future was the greatest challenge of the day, realized so sadly and horribly on that morning when the surf ran red with the blood of the fallen, most of whom were the age of college students today.
I know D-Day heroes would agree that the prosperity, opportunity, and freedom our nation has realized since that day comes with a grave responsibility to ensure we extend and expand these ideals for the generations who follow. This includes ensuring our ocean, which provides food, jobs, recreation, transportation, and even the air we breathe, is healthy and sustainable, meeting the needs of humanity and all other life on our planet. Reaching this vision may well be the challenge of our time, which I think we must face with the same grim determination, selflessness, and camaraderie as those who hit the beach on June 6, 1944.
As I face a brand-new work week in another National Ocean Month that goes sadly unnoticed by so many, I remain inspired by the numerous ocean champions who are working to reach that vision today. Just as Dr. Walter Munk’s dedicated research saved lives by enabling accurate wave and surf predictions on D-Day and helped us understand the ocean better through each passing decade of his amazing academic career, I know we can commit ourselves to using knowledge and ingenuity to overcome the ocean challenges with the same dogged determination and resolve.
Something that also happened on the 75th anniversary of D-Day that just might help make this possible was the introduction of a bill by Congressman Jimmy Panetta to reauthorize and rejuvenate the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), which was created by Congress in 1996. If our government, in true partnership with the many other ocean science and technology sectors in our nation (and beyond) takes full advantage of this legislative opportunity and does something grand and transformational together, we just might be able to overcome the grave threats we face in our ocean today, just as those who “hit the beach” a little over 75 years ago overcame the overwhelming threats of their day. I think they would expect us to do just that.
How Deep-Ocean Vents Fuel Massive Phytoplankton Blooms
A new study from Stanford University suggests vents in the seafloor may affect life near the ocean’s surface and the global carbon cycle more than previously thought. It’s the first to show how iron rising from beneath Earth’s crust stimulates massive phytoplankton blooms.
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