Talk Description to Me

Episode 72 - Underwater

October 09, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 3 Episode 72
Talk Description to Me
Episode 72 - Underwater
Show Notes Transcript

How does life look underwater? What's a jellyfish like? How about coral? Are deep sea creatures really that bizarre?  This week, Christine and JJ don their virtual scuba gear (but not before describing it, of course!) to answer listener questions about the visuals of the underwater world.

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JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to me where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashed out in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

Today we're gonna talk about the world from underwater. And there's a few kind of threads of how and why we got thinking about this. And we've also had some listener requests around underwater sea creatures. And so we're going to talk about what things look like underwater like what it's like to look at stuff underwater and what things underwater actually look like. And so when I proposed this to JJ, he was you were pretty enthusiastic because you've done a lot of scuba diving, so I feel like scuba diving is a good place to start, just in case. The technical parts of scuba diving are new for some people. Can you give a visual of what a scuba diver looks like before they plunge into the water?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, absolutely. So a diver these days you're probably going to have some kind of wet suit on. depending on the temperature of the water, you might have a full wetsuit that goes all the way down to the ankles all the way up to the neck, you know right to the wrists, if it's if it's really warm water, maybe you'll have a shorter version of that so that you know that just is basically you know, shorts and a T shirt. But in a black neoprene so it's a skin tight outfit. And then on top of that you're going to have your, your vest and this is it feels a little bit like like a lifejacket because it can inflate This is your inflatable vest and so you can pump it up or release air from inside it so that you can either stay at the surface or drop down, you will also have on a weight belt. So this is just you know a belt that actually loops through weights and depending on how buoyant you are, you'll have more weight or less weight put on that belt and and then at the back of your bvd the back of your vest, there's a there's a slot for your tank and this is a big cylinder that's you know, as long as your arm usually a steel tank, and that's where your air is and that hooks up to your regulator so there's a hose that comes off of that tank that goes into your mouth. That's that's your main REG and then then that's the you know that slips into your mouth underneath your mask so that you can breathe, you have a second one it's a backup one that so you can also have a do buddy breathing if you're if your dive buddy runs out, that one is tucked into so that's a second tube that comes out of the tank and gets tucked into your vest so it's easily accessible to a person who's in front of you, they can grab it and and start breathing. And also coming off of that. That regulator it's called an octopus coming off of that is another tube and that leads to your gauges. And so that'll tell you how much oxygen and you've got left. And then you've got your you've got your your your mask, and you've got your, your fins, your flippers and, and that's your getup for, for diving.

Christine Malec:

Now what happens to your vision as you go underwater?

JJ Hunt:

It's really interesting, it's about the water itself, the water itself does a couple of different things. First of all, it blocks or attenuates more than more light than in the air so it's dimmer under water, the light doesn't penetrate in the same way that it does through air. But the water also blurs images. So if the sharpness is affected underwater, the sharpness of a visual image the contrast is affected. Stereo scopic acuity is also effective meaning it's harder to judge distances underwater. So things look about 25% bigger and closer when you're underwater especially when you've got the mask on that that messes with it further. So this often leads to really poor hand eye coordination. And as my brother Tim says, never trust a scuba diver who says they caught a fish this big, because it's 25% smaller than they thought it was.

Christine Malec:

Heh heh heh.

JJ Hunt:

And water also affects color. This is a this is a really big thing so water absorbs red light and also some yellow light green light and violet light too. So red basically disappears at only four meters depth. So what's left is blue blue light is dominant underwater. So when you're underwater, everything tends to have this kind of blue tint. It's a kind of a Bluey green tint visually. And when you're, it's the easiest way to describe it be like, if you were sighted, and you are wearing sunglasses with blue green lenses, that's kind of what everything looks like underwater. And then the final thing that affects is visibility, how far can you see. So if water conditions are, are perfect, there aren't a lot of particles in the water, there's not a lot has been stirred up, there's not a lot of rain coming down or anything like that, you might have really good quote unquote, visibility. So that'll give you maybe, maybe 80 meters in really clear water. I mean, that's fantastic. But on the other end of the scale, it's like being inside of a dust cloud underwater, you can't even see your hand in front of your face. So low visibility for scuba divers is anything can that like three meters or less, can you see three meters or less, that's low visibility. So that's really difficult to even see your dive buddy. And for many sighted people who died, that's really terrifying to be in not only a foreign environment where you're already maybe feeling a little bit vulnerable, but to not be able to see the sea creatures, some of which might be deadly swimming around completely silent and invisible. For sighted people that lack of visibility underwater can be can be really scary.

Christine Malec:

What makes a great dive?

JJ Hunt:

So a really good dive. First of all, you're calm. When you're diving your breathing is under control. And you're and you're going down you're keeping your body level. So your your your feet aren't down or up so your body is level, your breathing is really smooth. And that helps with a few things. I mean, it helps with your buoyancy, it helps with keeping your air supply in good shape. But it also is just it puts you in the space right to be that calm to feel the weightlessness, it's always cool to to discover some things that you haven't seen before. So if there are new fish, new, new kinds of coral that you get to experience or a wreck Rex are really cool. There are some places where you can have tactile experiences underwater. So bit of a delicate situation, because generally speaking, divers are told Do not touch anything. But if you're a blind diver, of course, that's going to be part of your experience. So there are some places where it is more appropriate to have tactile experiences. So discovering things that are new, and being in that calm environment. And then frankly, one of the best parts about a dive is is for me anyway is doing it with friends, and then getting back onto the boat immediately having a couple of a couple of cookies what they never like invariably, they keep cookies on the boat because you come up and you're ravenous and you have a couple of cookies. And everyone's like, did you experience that? Did you find that that was fantastic. And in sharing that experience for me, all of that makes a brilliant dive.

Christine Malec:

I'm assuming that dives in the tropics are always going to be better. Is that right?

JJ Hunt:

Well, I mean... Yes and No. I mean, certainly the flashiest stuff, the most amazing coral, the warm water that tropical experiences, like it's hard to beat, I mean, in the same way that like having a day at the beach is, you know, always better than having a, you know, a day in the snow. And there might be the case for a lot of people. But if you have a really cool snow day, that's fantastic. So there are diodes that you can go to in very icy situations and really cold situations that can be very cool. There are it really interesting wrecks in some places that aren't necessarily the tropics so you can have those experiences. And also if it's dark and murky, and you are an experienced diver and you bring the right equipment with you, maybe you're going to bring extra light that you can bring down into the dark environment, you then get to see something completely different. And the more experienced you are, though I think the more you're probably going to be craving those kinds of adventures. So just going down to the easy to reach coral and seeing the beautifully colored fish along with the 200 other tourists who are taken to that same reef that day. Yeah, you know, as cool as that is. Maybe if you're experienced you want that you want that cold water dive in the far north that has some a little bit of danger involved and you know that experience is perhaps richer for an experienced diver.

Christine Malec:

Finding Franklin's lost ship.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, exactly.

Christine Malec:

Let's break down some of the things you've mentioned. Can you describe coral?

JJ Hunt:

Yes, so Okay. corals wild the thing we're trying to describe almost anything underwater it's impossible to summarize because it's so varied it's every it's varied and it's weird so it's difficult to try and come up with one or two descriptions that will that will fit everything so coral is it's alive. These are marine invertebrates they look like plants maybe sometimes it'll like plants on the ocean floor. Sometimes they look like rock beds like rock gardens that are teeming with life. But they're all over the place so some look motionless. But in fact if you get in really close there's a lot of movement. Some of them fluoresce at night so they have their they glow and light is is you know it's Shawn upon them. They some of them have polyps like the tentacles like little tiny mini occupy I mean they're all over the place so I love some of them are spiky, like shrubs or bushes and have what resemble like Fern like leaves. Some look like bare shrubs with bare twigs. I'm thinking of like a staghorn coral. Some look like mushrooms with big flabby caps that are similar to like oyster mushrooms. Then there are pillar coral. The pillar coral has fuzzy looking cones with rounded tips that's there somewhere between like a pussy Willow and a cat tail flower. Then there's brain coral brain coral, really does look like a human brain it's got the you know the inter woven ridges I mean it's a brain if anyone's ever have felt or had a tactile experience holding a you know, a version of a brain some kind of model it's exactly what brain coral looks like.

Christine Malec:

When I was a kid we I went to the Caribbean and I was given, or bought - whatever -some some pieces of coral and I'm a little confused now because the texture of what I held in my hand was dry and rough like like a very light stone raw like some kind of clay and so how does that jive with the things you're describing because you're describing things that sound more motile and alive and organic in a way that these things did not feel to my tongue.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I mean that's part of the thing with coral is it's a huge I mean there's there's a lot of different coral out there. The coral that you would get in a store, that's dead. So it's that's kind of like the skeleton of that coral. And so some of it and so a piece of brain coral that's how it will feel when it's out of the water and dead if you were to touch the live coral as it's growing under water which is generally frowned upon for most people although there are some there are exceptions made for for blind and low vision divers because that's part of the experience and if you can do that in a responsible way, but if you were to feel a piece of brain coral that was live, it would have more of a spongy quality to it. A little bit softer, a little bit more plant like and so some of these things are, they have plant like quality to them they will they'll be leaves will things that we would look like leaves that that sway back and forth in the water and some that have like really like octopus tentacles that come out that are that feel around these polyps that are alive and they search for food. But if those die, then what they turn into is this yeah this it's quite a it's a very very light stone. Kind of quality and different coral. dies and is different and like I'm not sure if some of the leafy elements would would turn into that they might just disintegrate they might just you know dissolve in the water so I know that this is a thing coral, it's so all over the map you can't possibly you can't possibly sum it up.

Christine Malec:

And what about color and coral.

JJ Hunt:

So a lot of the color in Coral again is, the way you see it when you're a diver it because it's underwater. We're missing out on the reds. So a lot of it is looks more muted. But that said muted and credibly very there are golden yellows and there are Bluey greens and there are there are even some pinks, it depends on how deep you are, how deep this coral is. And then there's the fluorescing so there's a thing that you can do on a night dive, which is I've never done this before. It's called UV night diving. And this is where you use blue light. So instead of bringing a regular light under Do you bring a blue light underwater, and some underwater creatures and lots of different kinds of coral react in a very interesting way to blue light. They fluoresce in bright, brilliant neon colors. So scientists don't really know why they're doing this they think it's kind of like a sunscreen. The coral doesn't like the blue light and so it it shines it glows in different colors as perhaps as a as a way to mitigate the effects of this blue. It's really strange. So then you get these really incredible neon colors, neon blues and greens and pinks and purples. Again, talk about psychedelic right like swirls of color really trippy repeating patterns. It's very very strange and, and the kind of thing that you can only get with blue light and and to inspire this fluorescence.

Christine Malec:

Phew. So on the topic of strange Can we talk sea creatures? There's a few things I want to ask about. But we did have a specific request from Anne in Toronto around jellyfish.

JJ Hunt:

So jellyfish, there are lots of different kinds of jellyfish, but the classic jellyfish shape that a lot of people know there's a there's kind of an umbrella top to it. So kind of like a mushroom cap top. And then hanging down from there are very long, thin hair like tentacles. And perhaps in the center of that, you know that dangly bit of hair, there's something that looks like leafy lettuce, like a hanging column of, of leafy lettuce, and there, they're jellyfish, they are jelly, like they, they they have this goopy kind of barely intact it's, it's kind of like a holding loose jello. Like, they really do have that kind of feel where they're, they're barely held together. And again, the colors are really different. Depending on how deep you are, you might find jellyfish that have some oranges, or yellows in them, but often they are super translucent, blue, so you can barely see them at all. And you'll catch them on the beach, you know, drying out and dying, but also, you know, in the water and you know, in cold water and warm water. They're they're, they're really neat and weird. That's the classic jellyfish, there are other kinds as well. But that's the one that most people are most familiar with.

Christine Malec:

I'm used to thinking of underwater creatures as extremely streamlined, like a shark or a fish in order to move efficiently through the water. But that's not what a jellyfish sounds like at all. And so how does sea creatures break down in general? Are they usually streamlined like a fish?

JJ Hunt:

They can be. There are lots of those kinds of fish that are streamlined to but even streamlined in different ways, right, like sometimes you've got fish that are that are flat. And so they move with their, their, their flat bodies parallel to the sea floor. So they're streamlined, they can, you know, move in like a in a straight pattern or you think of something like so you think of something like a stingray or a manta ray that is flat to the ground and has long flapping wings, basically, that's very streamlined, not shaped like that classic fish. And then you certainly get those, you know, the classic fish that most kids would draw or if you were given a tactile representation of a fish, you know, it's going to be cylindrical with a pointed nose and kind of have something not dissimilar to a shark like body. That's another version of streamline. So I mean, again, super varied even just within the category of fish. It's super varied. And then you get, like I said, you get res and you get other kinds of creatures, the different ways that the sea creatures move, whether they've got a wave to their body, where they've got a flap on the tail, they can, you know, push themselves propel themselves through the water and in lots of different ways. A jellyfish has a pulsing movement, so that that cap on the top kind of pulses, and that's what what pulls them forward is this pulsing action that that pushes water that is kind of trapped under the cap away, and that propels them forward. That's how they move.

Christine Malec:

Oh! Oh my god.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah.

Christine Malec:

Whoa. I am firmly not a fish or seafood eater and my partner and a friend wants we're having a lobster meal, and I learned to just leave the house when this happened, but the poor hapless lobster was in the sink and so I touched it and I was so creeped out I'm still traumatized, and I thought that is from another planet. That does not look like something I would expect on earth anywhere and so it it made me think about bottom feeders and sea floor things and I've read about things underwater vents very far down where warm waters coming up and so there's life there but life unlike anything were familiar with and so can we talk about some examples of the the very deep water stuff that's looks like it's from like another galaxy?

JJ Hunt:

That's absolutely right. It really does look like these things are so foreign to our understanding and so it's not surprising that a lot of these things have been turned into space creatures in science fiction because no our imaginations only go so far and then you look underwater it's like well that's weird enough to come from outerspace.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha. That's scary, we'll use that.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, we'll take that!. So I've pulled up, I've just googled "deep sea vent creatures" and done an image search and again super varied super wild. Everything from like a classic starfish So again, it's this is a star shape but it's a starfish underwater is a fleshy kind of object it's got a coloring that's not on like raw chicken a little bit pale and blue and a little bit sickly in some cases in some versions is really deep down. And a little bit pocked like pimpled like cold flesh and so that's you know, that might be a starfish that's the top of it then the underside is that little suction cups on I mean these are strange strange strange creatures. And then again, some that look more like plants like I'm looking at these like deep sea event animals, but they look to me like plants like these kind of feathery creatures but the but the feathers that so these are a series of red feathers that are coming out of very thin tubes and I think that these feathers kind of pop up and then come back down and they are searching for food and I think they trap the food in the in the hairs on the sides of the feathers, little tiny particle foods and then they pull them back down these very thin vent tubes super strange. And then of course there are then you get the the microscopic close ups of some of these things that are and that's when you really like come on now. there this is weird enough we didn't really need to do this. So you go look Come on. Oh, there's one here that's that looks like a white slug. No eyes, a mouth inside a mouth. So the outer mouth has white spikes all the way around it that look like fleshy teeth and that mouth is pulled back and open and inside honestly just like from the movie aliens there's a second moat that's popping out and this one's kind of got a pinkish color. And it looks like the teeth are are part of the jaw line like an extension of the jaw line so not separate teeth embedded in gums, but the fleshy gums become teeth and that's the mouth inside the mouth on this deep secret I don't know and then then the crustaceans like the crabs very strange crabs really spiky crabs and fish that look downright evil like they designed for these big open louds with long long needle like teeth and eyes that are very close together and but on the sides of the face so there's a you know a kind of sharp narrow snout to this one fish that I'm looking at and there are there's one I like a button like AI on either side looking directly out to the periphery nothing facing forward. Oh, I just all over the place and super super super strange, man.

Christine Malec:

As someone who's done diving and really enjoys it What's your dream dive? Where do you want to go that you haven't gone before and why?

JJ Hunt:

I've had a very limited amount of experience doing wreck dives. I would love to do more wreck diving. I love the idea of... I mean, there's a story built into your dive so how could I not love that?! Going underwater, especially if you're like do a night wreck dive so then you go down at night you've got your lights and so you're looking at what you're shining your light on. And there's a real feeling of discovery in those moments, right like obviously, someone's found this ship before but but the idea of being underwater and searching, searching, there it is and then you find it and then you get to go in and and explore perience that and imagine what was happening in this room of the ship or what was happening over here and trying to piece together if there's a mystery to it, even if it's a mystery that's been solved, even if this is on every tourist dive route, you know, that kind of experience, a night Wreck Dive for me, kind of has it all.

Christine Malec:

As a bonus this week, JJ and I want to let you know about a description rich event we're involved with, that's coming up soon. It's called radio Lumi. And it's the audio only experience of the Luminato festival Toronto's October programming, along with audio describer Rebecca Singh and media personality Ramya Amuthen, JJ and I will be helping to present unique and innovative content geared to a blind and low vision audience. JJ will be describing film and art from prestigious indigenous artists. In conjunction with the artists insights and perspectives. I'll be interviewing an internationally renowned photographer with questions from a blindness perspective, Rebecca will be describing a remarkable dance piece and Ramya will be part of unpacking an immersive experience about protest and police accountability. This is really only the tip of the iceberg of what you'll hear on Radio Lumi there will be five days of programming running 6:30pm to 10:30pm. Eastern, starting Wednesday, October 13, to Saturday, October 16. And

then 10:30am to 10:

30pm on the final day, Sunday, October 17. Our coverage will range from lively and fun to asking hard questions. And it's an incredible opportunity to hear arts programming curated and presented with a blind audience in mind. To find out more and to listen, go to www.luminato.com that's L-U-M-I-N-A-T-O, and ex lore the access hub. There's lo s of content already available t ere, and our programming will live there later as podc sts. Luminato festival, Toront has made a huge commitme t to accessibility and inclusion And JJ and I both feel honor d to contribute to this wor . We really hope you'll check it out. That's www.luminato.com a d go to the access hub unde the accessibility