I’m staying in the Cornish fishing village of Portreath and as a nature lover its idyllic. The harbour and rocky outcrops surrounding the bay provide a rich habitat for an array of marine and maritime flora and fauna.
The sea fascinates me. Ever changing, beautiful and deadly at time same time. Here the sea is very clear, a translucent turquoise-teal. When the tide goes out the harbour retains no water so remnants of what lies beneath are easily seen – crab claws, cockle shells and many types of seaweed all get left behind in the sandy inlet. When the tide comes in it brings with it a multitude of life forms including swarms of moon jellyfish. Today’s photos are all moon jellies. Like the sea, these primitive creatures fascinate me. They have no brain by our standards, no digestive tract, no circulatory system, no respiratory system and no real means of propulsion. They drift with the currents capturing fish eggs, shrimp and molluscs either via the mucus that covers the bell or by stinging with their short tentacles. Moon jellies are voracious predators that in turn play their own part in the food chain by becoming prey for leatherback turtles, sea birds and fish. They’re also eaten by us humans in some Asian countries although they should probably be classed as a drink rather than food since they are 95% water.
The last time I was in Portreath I was probably around six years old. I don’t remember seeing jellyfish but I do remember sand eels. This time I’ve yet to find sand eels, probably because I’m less inclined to jump into the water. With age comes wisdom and although the air temperature is a toasty 26 degrees the water in the harbour will be much, much colder. I did walk up and down the beach and dabbled my feet in the sea but as expected it was cold, too cold for me to entertain swimming. Along the tide-line against the harbour wall there are numerous sea anemones, mussels, limpets and periwinkles. I hope to photograph those if I can scramble across to the rock pools later in the week. Anemones are so much prettier when they’re under water, once the tide goes out they look like blobs of reddish-brown gravy stuck to the rocks.
There is no mobile phone signal here which made me wonder whether I’d like a life completely free of technology and always-on connectivity. It’s a strange thought for someone who has spent the last 15 years building, deploying and subsequently decommissioning technology of various types. I’m very at ease with nature, the world of plants and creatures and I can happily occupy myself trying to identify or understand the non-human things surrounding me. Coastal habitats are very different to the rural wilderness at home.
Thoughts of living technology-free soon gave way to more practical reasoning. I miss talking to my Dad every day and even SMS is impossible here; there’s wireless broadband in the rental cottage so email and Skype are both possible but it’s not as good as a spontaneous hello from wherever I happen to be at the time. I also wouldn’t want to be without my camera. I can always find things to photograph and the jellyfish were a surprise as well as a challenge for a novice like me. It pays to have patience – for every decent image there are at least a couple resembling blurry modern art because the subject – in this case moon jellies – merged with the background. Photography is lazy art for me. Painting or drawing the jellyfish would require much more effort and there’s still a chance the result would end up a little abstract!
In my brief nature vs. technology moment I realised I’d also miss the Internet. For all its problems, the ability to search through whole libraries of information in matter of moments to find out about the life-cycle of the moon jelly, how much they sting and where they come from is something I wouldn’t choose to live without. Music, photography, mobile telephony and access to knowledge are all useful applications of technology in my day-to-day life along with automatic washing machines, electric lighting and heating. Television I could happily live without.
Being surrounded by nature is still my favourite way to pass time. Having the technology to photograph it, learn more about it and record the memories adds to the pleasure. At some point my brain might forget being here aged c. 6 years and I’m not sure we have any photographs from that occasion. Fortunately this time technology is here to lend a helping hand… Just in case my memory fails to serve me well in future.