From Pole to Pole. My journey with fourth element
The 2018 European ROLEX Scholar,
Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society
Èric Jordà Molina
We live in a planet that should be called Ocean, not Earth. More than 71% of the surface of this dot in the universe that we call home is covered by water, the oceans and seas containing more than 97% of all the water present on it.
As human species, somehow, we have ended up evolving to spend our lives on the ground, on Earth. We do not have gills; we are not hydrodynamic enough to swim efficiently and cover large distances and we are not physiologically adapted to cope with the pressure below water.
For a large part of society, I believe, the oceans are seen as a decorative asset in our lives. Truth is, though, that we depend on the oceans and on what is going on in them more than we think.
Oceans control the climate, they feed us, they provide us with goods and services, they house thousands of products and substances that can heal us, they harbour extremely diverse ecosystems of incomparable beauty. However, paradoxically, we know less about the oceans than we know about the surface of the moon, or about the solar system!
I guess that this lack of knowledge coupled with the vastness of this blue world was what raised my curiosity early in my childhood days and pushed me to discover more about the submarine realm. Since I was a little kid, I spent my holidays snorkelling the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea in La Costa Brava, in Catalonia, north-east of Spain.
It was in the warm waters of these beautiful coves where I spent hours plunging and diving among the Posidonia meadows, feeling their gentle stroke on my belly, watching octopuses hiding between rocks and staring at dark overhanging walls full of incredible incrusting marine invertebrates.
After studying marine sciences and specializing in marine biology and ecology at northern latitudes I realized that scientists are not very good at communicating to people the importance of the oceans. We usually publish papers in well renowned journals that are mainly read by other scientists. But the message gets lost for the general public in between complicated graphs and technical conclusions.
As I finished my master studies, I thought that I needed to find a way to understand what was the best mean to transmit our discoveries and the alarming changes that are happening in the oceans all over the world.
So, when I received the news that I was the selected candidate in a year-long adventure, diving all over the world and discovering the ocean’s secrets, working alongside top-class leaders in marine projects and disciplines,I could not see a better opportunity to find an answer to my question.
I have learned about underwater photography from some of the world’s best practitioners of the craft including Alex Mustard and had the opportunity to work on this in the Philippines whilst participating in a coral restoration project at Amun Ini resort. I qualified as a PADI divemaster in the UK, followed by completion of a GUE Fundamentals class and some entry level technical classes, before the HSE Scuba course, which gave me the qualifications necessary to participate in a research project in an area that most interests me in the future, cold water benthic ecology, in the -2 degree waters of the Antarctic.
I was able to participate in two Chilean scientific projects sampling marine sponges in Greenwich Island and sampling benthic substrates in the Antarctic peninsula to study the trophic interactions in marine invertebrates. Those were unique experiences, not only because they gave me invaluable hands-on experience in polar research, but also because it allowed me to appreciate the science carried out in these extreme environments, where collaboration and teamwork are essential skills in order to have successful expeditions in such a rough and hostile place.
My adventures took me further than I could ever have imagined, and after diving hydrothermal vents at Strytan in Iceland, and teaching a scientific diving course in Alaska, I finished my year in the home of modern day evolutionary science, the amazing Galapagos Islands.
During my year as the 2018 European ROLEX scholar of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society I have had the fortune, among others, to have Fourth Element supporting my year. They provided me with the amazing suits that would allow me to dive in the most diverse conditions and environments imaginable.
In Egypt I had the pleasure to test the new amazing 3mm surface suit which is made from a natural, sustainable alternative to neoprene (out later this year).
On longer dives, I relied on the 5mm Xenos wetsuit as I fell in love with photography depicting the amazing colourful marine fauna and needed its protection to cope with long periods of inactivity trying to get the best shot.
But, the one piece of equipment that has been a real game changer for me was the Fourth Element Argonaut 2.0. Since I started the scholarship year, I knew that cold-water diving and polar research was going to be one of my main focuses. During the last three years studying above the arctic circle, I developed an urge to understand and know more about these environments that are under the threats of our actions all over the globe. After crossing the Drake Passage and arriving in the South Shetland Islands, I realized that my life-long dream meant to dive in -2ºC waters. Thanks to the Argonaut and fourth element’s layering system, I was able to accomplish my dream without getting cold…. Well, the normal cold of diving in freezing Antarctic waters at the end of the world!
This incredible year has just come to an end for me. Through my experiences I have been able to share what I have learnt with the general public; through blogs, magazine articles, social media, etc. I have been able to reveal to those who rarely get to go underwater the amazing wonders of the submarine world to hopefully inspire them with the desire to preserve and conserve the important marine ecosystems that keep us alive. And I am so grateful to the OWUSS Scholarship Society, Rolex, and all my other sponsors, including fourth element for their support.
Let’s keep exploring the oceans!
Are you aged between 20 and 26, with a passion for the underwater world? Do you know someone else who is? The Our World Underwater Scholarship Society offers three scholarships and several internships every year, to help foster the careers of the future leaders in the underwater world. Find out more, or share with someone you think could be interested at www.owuscholarship.org