Last night I went out for a drink with a couple of friends. As we arrived, the band was just leaving after playing for an empty room all evening and we had our choice of, well, all of the tables.

As I was sipping my Corona, there was only one topic in the room. This article will not be about the virus, because I am not qualified to talk about it. As I see it, the same could be said about many of the sources that bombard us with tips and so-called information about the current situation. Take a deep breath, think positive thoughts, put a purposeful smile on your face, and choose to give yourself a break amid the global craziness. 

When I was still an active diver, one of the things I liked about diving was the silence around me, broken only by the sound of the bubbles escaping from my own regulator. If I held my breath, there was no sound at all. Occasionally, the muffled sound of a boat engine would travel underwater, but mostly it was quiet and peaceful in octopus’s garden.

In that state of mind, the amazing views underwater added to the feeling of wonder, privilege and otherworldliness. Many of the creatures in the ocean are so different from what we are used to on land that they give us pause, and their special adaptations are fascinating. Take, for example, a common sea anemone or coral polyp, with its looks resembling a flower and its digestive system a cul de sac. These animals always have to empty themselves of the inedible waste from their last meal before they can catch the next. Binge eating is simply biologically impossible. Of course, some of them get help from small algae growing inside their tissue and releasing some carbon to the host organism. You might think about it as a kind of simple tax system or a rental agreement: The algae live in the coral, which provides infrastructure, and pay some of their solar income gained from photosynthesis to the host.

The deeper we go in the ocean, the less familiar its residents. Ratfish, or chimeras, are among the ocean denizens that many of us never get to see, or only when they have been dragged out of their natural habitat and thrown onto the deck of a fishing vessel. Any ratfish or chimera is an amazing sight, but in this family are some truly odd-looking examples. There is the Australian ghost shark, also called elephant shark or elephant fish. The names, as is often the case, are all wrong in terms of biological classification, because it is not a shark, but a ratfish. This odd-looking creature with large, wing-like pectorals and a flattened nose flap protruding from a high head with large dark eyes looks a little like a space shuttle design.

Even deeper in other parts of the ocean are creatures like dumbo octopuses, which are a group of octopus with eight short tentacles and large skin flaps between the tentacles. Their cousins are the vampire squid and also the piglet squid.

Look up any of these animals on the internet and you will inadvertently stumble across websites that announce them as weird, as monsters, and as scary. Once again, this has little to do with scientific information and more with sensationalism and the deep-seated fear of anything different. Nonetheless, the pictures are mesmerizing.

As I was reading through my emails and deleting the hundreds of calls to donate money to political candidates, I came across an ocean conservation ad adorned by the picture of a certain kind of frogfish. If you need a smile today, search your browser with the words “Richard Carey frog fish.” The image is precious. According to the ad, the frog fish is actually in the family of the anglerfishes, and the species depicted in the image can change color to match its underground. The individual in the picture is bright yellow and has what they described as a “perpetual oh-no expression” on its face. Its eyes are green and beady, its dorsal fin stands up like the spikes on a dragon, only with the spikes pointing forward instead of back, and its pectoral fins look like little feet, reminding one of a small dog coming out to bark. Frogfish use those pectorals to walk along the ocean floor, their big mouths to capture unsuspecting passers-by, and their fuzzy texture and camouflage coloring to remain undetected.

As the news is rattling our daily lives and things are crazy, it is a calming thought that there are crazy and weird living things that have been around for millions of years and are still able to appear to us as new discoveries, only to be seen when we expand our horizon beyond the top layers of the ocean.

If you are lucky enough to go snorkeling in warm tropical waters, you may also spot a porcupine fish, which looks like a big-headed tadpole in its usual state but if threatened blows up into a ball with spikes all around, kind of like a coronavirus. Sorry, it just slipped out. Stay healthy, stay calm and if you run out of toilet paper ... well, you’ll figure that out.

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