Fish & Feathers: Water - A Matter of Life and Death

<I>RON MALAST photo</I><BR>Water surrounds us, gives us life, and sometimes takes it away.

The other night, awakened during a particularly vicious storm, I sat by the window and watched the rain come down in torrents. The ocean was being laced with lighting strikes that seemed to move closer with each electrical pulse. Fascinated by the spectacle before me, my thoughts turned to the many facets of water that affect our daily lives.

Fresh water in the form of scenic lakes, towering waterfalls and crystal clear streams generate serenity, and even rainfall has a soothing effect on the mind. Water has created industries for filters, ecosystems, energy distilleries and bottlers of drinking water. Water is one of the main resources of the U.S. Its floods cause devastation to river-bound communities and farm animals, and droughts can turn productive farmland into deserts of swirling dust. Water is the lifeline for every American residence, whether it is in the form of a ground well or city water or a storage tank. Northwest cities are powered by water energy.

Three-quarters of the world is covered with water, primarily oceans - the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic and Antarctic - along with numerous seas that surround the world's land masses.

The deepest part of the ocean on the planet is called the Challenger Deep, found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, east of the Philippine Islands. It measures 36,198 feet deep.

The biggest wave ever recorded occurred in Lituya Bay in Southeastern Alaska in 1958. An earthquake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale and shook loose 40 million cubic yards of mountainside that plunged into the sea and created a wave 1,720 feet tall. Scientists determined the wave height by finding the high water mark on land.

The oceans, bays and seas provide a home for cod, mackerel, tuna, shrimp, salmon and thousands of other forms of marine life that form a large portion of the human diet in all countries of the world. The oceans and shorelines have provided subjects for countless centuries of paintings creating oceanic galleries and museums.

Currently, many ocean sanctuaries are being formed to protect waters from oil drilling, overfishing and pollution.

The oceans can also be very cruel, unforgiving and horrifying, as can be attested by the number of seamen who have been swallowed into the depths since man first ventured to sea.

Remember, humanity is merely a walking raindrop, with our bodies primarily composed of water.

Landlubber's Glossary of Nautical TermsSextant - A device for determining the nighttime activity of guests.

Rope Ladder - A device for getting you into the water, but not back out.

Spring Line - A rope purchased at the beginning of the season.

Swell - A wave that's just great.

Ron Malast is owner/operator of the charter boat Big Dipper operating out of Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco.

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