Wednesday, May 9, 2018

White Shark Cafe

White Shark Café

Who doesn’t like hanging out at a café, eating and meeting friends?  But do you travel thousands of miles to your Pete’s or Starbucks?  And when you meet up there do you behave completely differently, and sort of weirdly?

That’s what thousands of white sharks do every spring, swim thousands of miles from the California coast to a remote open ocean area, to spend a couple months hanging out at what Stanford University scientists dub “the White Shark Café,” half way between San Francisco and Honolulu.  (Another scientist quipped a better name – “White Shark Bistro – beast row.”)

Why do they go there?  The surface waters are barren, much less food than their usual “coastal cornucopias.” (No seals, sea lions etc., yummy shark food.  And white sharks need to eat a lot.)  While at the café the sharks, especially the males, do weird “bounce dives,” fast repetitive dives as deep as 450 meters, down and up quickly over and over, day and night.  Is there more food deep down, or is it a mating ritual?

How do scientists know about the café and what sharks do there?  Amazing technology, acoustic tags that help locate them, satellite tags collecting data, drones scouting the sharks and tags, lab techniques analyzing the chemistry and DNA of the water and animal residue – all aboard the research vessel Falkor and an amazing interdisciplinary team of marine scientists.  They’re in the middle of their two-month first ever expedition to the café – follow it at (Yes, Schmidt, like Eric and Wendy, the Google execs providing the ship and tech support.) 

The café is the size of Colorado, part of the 40% of international waters in the world ocean, “belonging” to no one and everyone, ie needing extra protection.  And you think your café is special?   The shark café is being proposed as a World Heritage Site; this expedition will give them more info for the application.

What does this have to do with Blue Theology, our ministry of ocean stewardship and spirituality?  What’s the White Shark Café’s good news?
-God loves each and every creature and wants every single one of us to have food and family.
-God gave us brains for a reason and is happy when we use them. 
-Faithful readers will know I love Pope Francis’ insistence, in his “Laudate Si” encyclical on environmental stewardship, that we must do a “careful inventory” of all God’s creations in order to protect and preserve them. 
-And don’t you think that God loves to hang out, meeting and eating with friends, just as much as anyone else, wet or dry?

If you are a pray-er, hold in your prayers these researchers on this long dangerous trip.  And pray for the sharks as well, who are not at all the mean violent creatures of the movies, just boys and girls looking for dinner and a date, maybe kids.  Bless them all.
I write about Blue Theology every Wednesday here and at Facebook.  Six different groups of youth and adults are coming to our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove this summer to learn about ocean stewardship and spirituality, with a “spiritual” tour of the Aquarium, service work on dunes and beaches, whale watching and kayaking optional.   We are proud of our fine church latte machine, and we surely do a lot of eating and meeting – perhaps we should call ourselves the Blue Theology Café.

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