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In an octopus's garden, in the shade

For as long as I can remember I've loved sharks. Big ones, little ones, weird looking ones. Mostly the big ones. There's just something about them. Maybe it's the teeth. Maybe it's the hundreds of millions of years of evolution, shaping them so perfectly. Maybe it's how insanely misunderstood they seem to be. I can't entirely explain it, I just know that it's always been there. Sharks are awesome, and it's a shame that most people don't seem able to see that.

It's not just sharks. As I got older, and started finding out more and more about the oceans, there were other things as well. Orcas and octopuses, sting rays and squid. Hell, just the sea itself. There's nothing about it that isn't wonderful, that isn't more amazing than we've even begun to realise. Couldn't seem to find anybody who shared that fascination, though. And then one day I turned on the television, and got hit by a tidal wave of wild, Alabaman enthusiasm. Mike deGruy, marine biologist and film-maker, and the single most enthusiastic exponent of the glories of sea life that I have ever had the good fortune to witness. That was in around 1988, I guess - and ever since I've been watching his films. His Sharks On Their Best Behaviour, for the BBC's Natural History Unit, was one of those childhood moments. Incredible footage and incredible subjects, from a man who I'd swear was part fish. Celluloid it might be, but it was a lot like falling in love.

I'm going to miss you, Mike.

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Sea-Fever
By John Masefield


Mike deGruy, 1951-2012

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