Updated: Sep 29
The more we learn about the wonders of our universe, the more clearly we are going to perceive the hand of God.
Colonel Frank Borman, USAF
Commander of Apollo 8
If you take an early morning stroll along a California beach, you are likely to encounter several mounds of rubbery, yellow kelp clustered in twisted piles. For children, these drying remains are often used to decorate sand castles or to engage friends in a playful game of tug-of-war. But, for adults, they are simply reduced to an eyesore that needs to be gathered up and hauled away.
However, beyond the shore, in the depths of the ocean, the great kelp beds form magnificent forests that can tower thirty to fifty feet above the sea floor. Hidden beneath the coastal waves, they reveal a complex realm that can be best described as otherworldly. Marine life glides between their rippled blades; life is unveiled around every corner. Light shimmers with the movement of the currents as the aquatic forest sways in unison.
The sight of kelp, snarled and baking on the shore hardly compares with the extraordinary spectacle of their submerged forests. So, what creates this difference? When you look up from the ocean floor, you have to wonder how kelp forms as a standing forest and not a twisted carpet at your feet. I had never thought of this question until I found myself stuck in the midst of one of Catalina Island's kelp beds waiting for fellow divers to descend. For the first time, I saw those tear-shaped pods as more than a sheet of naturally occurring bubble wrap begging to be popped. These gas-filled bladders, or pneumatocysts, provide buoyancy to keep the kelp stalks reaching for the water’s surface. And, this led me to another question. How did these gas-filled bladders become gas-filled…while underwater? Although a scientific answer to the “how” part of these questions would be interesting, I am more interested in the “why.” Why use buoyancy to keep the kelp vertical? After all, the trees in my backyard are not held up with helium filled leaves.
Ultimately though, my point really has nothing to do with getting an answer to the question of the pneumatocysts. Rather, my point is about finding the time, and maybe a different perspective, to ask in the first place. Asking questions keeps us engaged in our moments and open to discovery of the life around us..
Ask questions that are honest, relevant and meaningful.
Ask questions that simply spark your sense of wonder.
Ask questions that inspire you to learn more “about the wonders of our universe."