What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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Field-Tested by Whitney Pastorek
in St. Lucia, Caribbean
I read Susan Casey's The Devil's Teeth while sitting on the porch of a villa on the island of St. Lucia, and when she described looking out over the vast ocean and seeing “the curve of the earth,” I glanced up from the page to see, live and in person, what that meant... and I was sold.
Our environments could not have been more different. I was swinging in a hammock beside the Caribbean Sea, well-fed, tan, warm, and happy after a day of snorkeling with the parrotfish; she was trapped on a tiny, freezing rock in the middle of the churning Pacific off the foggy coast of San Francisco, a few tenuous yards from dozens of hungry great white sharks. But we were both alone, both engaged in an obsessive pursuit undertaken at the last minute, and both enthralled by our surroundings.
She'd cashed in her entire life to follow a fever dream of studying the great whites during their annual return to the Farrallones, stumbling brazenly into an ecosystem more fragile than either she, or the scientists she'd stalked to be there, could have imagined; in the end, that hubris damn near killed her. I was just out on a serendipitous travel writing assignment a gig that started cushy but would, in the next week, get a little hairy after I idiotically drove my rented Jeep down several roads that I was not skilled enough to drive, narrowly escaping flash floods, empty gas tanks, getting lost in the middle of the night, and once dead-ending in front of a villager with a machete who looked none too pleased to see me in his front yard.
So neither one of us appreciated the wildness of the places we'd temporarily claimed as our own. But reading Casey's saga sure put my marginally exotic vacation in perspective. After all, while my villager had a machete in one hand, he also had a puppy in the other. I doubt that sharks keep pets. I turned the final page with a shiver and have spent the past year raving to anyone who will listen about ‘the shark book.’ Take it to the tropics. At the very least, it'll cool you down a few degrees and will really make you appreciate the rum.
Read the next Field Test by Christopher Phin