Fourth Element 20th Anniversary
by Amanda Cotton
There is a whale, a young sperm whale, who lives with her family in the waters off of Dominica; her name is Digit. She is remarkable and her birth was celebrated by researchers who’ve known the enormous struggle these resident sperm whales have endured to survive in the increasingly harsh environment of our current oceans. She was a symbol of hope, a promise for a better future for these magnificent animals, until the heart shattering day biologists discovered she had become entangled in a rope. Fate had found Digit, like so many other marine animals in the ocean, hindered by a ghost net. Those awful, free floating, deathtraps of lost fishing nets, lines, or rubbish; discarded, lost, or tossed aside by humans. Digit now faced an uncertain future with a ghost net wrapped so tightly around her tail no human intervention was possible, leaving her unable to dive for food, and although many had hope, the outlook was grim. For three years she lived with this entanglement, assisted by her family to survive.
I met Digit before her entanglement, swimming alongside her and her beautiful family for many years before and during it. Her family protected her, never letting any divers too close. They nurtured her, fed her long after the normal span of nursing because of her inability to dive to deep to feed. Witnessing this was both beautiful and heartbreaking for those us who would return to Dominica year after year. Many cried, planned, some raised money for equipment and entanglement training, others lobbied for help internationally; but in the end there was simply nothing that could be done by us humans to get her out of a situation ultimately we had put her in. And then, one day I received an amazing email; an email from the one person more vested in the research, concern, and wellbeing of these whales than any other human on the planet, Shane Gero….’Digit is FREE, the rope is gone!’ Sorrow and worry melted away, after years in her entanglement prison she was free. Unlike so many other marine animals that eventually perish, Digit was lucky and had survived her run-in with a ghost net.
On a quick side note: Digit is now thriving and has grown quite a bit in the years since breaking free from her ghost net entanglement. She is understandably shy of humans when she is on her own, preferring to come close only with her family near by, but she is healthy and full of sass…everything you hope to see in a young sperm whale. Let’s continue to support companies like Fourth Element who are working to remove ghost nets from our oceans.
When Jim Standing first told me about Fourth Element’s OceanPositive products, FE’s concept of making a product line for the dive industry (and beyond) from recycled ghost nets my thoughts immediately drifted to Digit. At the time she was about a year into her entanglement. I didn’t mention to Jim about Digit at first, instead I listened to the incredibly progressive thinking Fourth Element had in their development of this line. Visiting the Fourth Element Headquarters in Cornwall, England soon after was like visiting an amazing family, and I was thrilled to see some of the OceanPositive products in person. With smiles and hugs we were offered the warmest of greetings before touring the headquarters, while learning more about their incredible OceanPositive line and their wonderful ideas for the future.
I adore Fourth Element: the people behind the scenes, the quality of their products, the style and attention to detail, but most of all I adore the FE family for their dedication to being proactive in protecting our oceans. Ghost nets are horrible and the destruction they leave in their wake can be devastating. I have seen firsthand what ghost nets are capable of, but I have also witnessed firsthand a small group of amazing individuals working together under one company to dramatically reduce ghost nets in our oceans. Fourth Element continues to be an inspiration in our industry and is making a difference for the betterment of our oceans’ future, as well as, the animals living in it right now. My hat’s off to you, Fourth Element. It is truly an honor to be a part of this amazing team. Happy Anniversary! Digit says hello too!
Amanda Cotton is a professional photographer specialising in underwater imagery. As an avid scuba diver and ocean enthusiast, Amanda’s goal is to help the general public embrace the beauty below the waves, in hopes that with awareness comes concern. The conservation and preservation of this ecosystem is of the highest priority to Amanda and she takes great pride in working with like-minded organisations that genuinely care about the planet and its inhabitants, both above and below the waves. Amanda’s imagery has been published in major publications and news sources worldwide including National Geographic, BBC, Discovery, Smithsonian Magazine, Times Publishing, CNN, Scuba Diving Magazine, Sport Diver Magazine, Natural History Magazine, Earthweek, and Science Daily.
Image credits: Amanda Cotton, Peter Allinson