For some reason, I keep looking at this drop-off and trench. I’m taken by it. Sure it’s only Google Earth. But I’ve heard young Columbus loved nothing more than a good map. On the map (see below) the drop-off is where the land ends and the deep sea begins. It’s a wall, an underwater cliff. Can you imagine if the earth really was flat? Snore bore. Everyone loves topography, we just might not call it that. Who doesn’t like a rolling field bordered by stone walls? Or coral reefs or tide rips formed by undersea sand dunes; and, of course, deep ocean cliffs, places where the bottom drops out of sight, places where you could throw a tennis ball from the shore and hit 1200 fathoms. If that doesn’t fire the imagination I don’t know what will. To me it’s like intergalactic space. Only closer.
But the funny thing is I’ll probably never make it to the south-side of Cuba. But just thinking about it is stimulating enough. It’s the same thing as someone in Worcester, Mass thinking about the rainforest in Borneo. You may or may not get there but it still can be valued or appreciated from your living room. This is why books named “One Hundred Places You Have to See Before you Die,” do so well. The clock is ticking. Better get out there. You can’t sit on the sofa and call it a life–but most of the readers will read these books on their sofas, read them because they want to be told what these faraway places are like, simply because they will never get the chance to go there. (Note: this Cuban trench didn’t make the list.)
I haven’t done a second of research about this Cuban trench. I know nothing of it’s age, of how it was formed; I don’t know its name; I know nothing of the average sea surface temperature; what kinds of ships transit it; the fisheries this bit of deep ocean supports. Do whales use it as a migratory path, do leatherback turtles? I do know that a US Army Base is there, the base in the movie with the line: “You can’t handle the truth.” The line that caused a torrent of spittle to fly from his mouth. And the young lawyer shouting–everyone in the movie is shouting–“Did you order the code red?”
As for fish, I can only imagine the generations of groupers and snappers that have lived on this drop-off. Each species preferring a different depth as you go down. The theory is that the predators spread out in the different niches (depths), so that one isn’t competing with another. Some groupers are near the surface, others are way down on the wall, past 200 fathoms.
If you look at the trench from farther up in the sky and get more of Cuba in it you quickly see that it really does look like a highway leading into and out of the lower Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure people dive it. (The Cayman Islands are on the western side of the trench.) I’m sure I could find information out about the state of the coral, the reef, and poaching, agricultural runoff, acidification, global warming, overfishing, shipping pollution, oil possibilities, and on and on. But I don’t want to today. There’s so much of that available on the Web that I’m left gasping for air. I just want to think about this place as a place. I don’t want to think about it as a place to be saved nor exploited. I’m tired of those two things, always tugging at each other. The underwater cliff is just one of the steepest drop-offs in the Atlantic, or so it seems to me. For now that’s enough. I’m a kid looking up at the moon.