I get all overexcited about manta rays on the podcast Science On Top… an episode, since I left my Skype recording program on for the entire duration, that I rescued just for you!
Some context first. This happens to be one of my favourite essays by Douglas Adams (and you can also find a copy in his ‘last’ book, The Salmon of Doubt) – ‘Riding The Rays‘:
Every country is like a particular type of person. America is like a belligerent, adolescent boy, Canada is like an intelligent, 35 year old woman. Australia is like Jack Nicholson. It comes right up to you and laughs very hard in your face in a highly threatening and engaging manner. In fact it’s not so much a country as such, more a sort of thin crust of semi-demented civilisation caked around the edge of a vast, raw wilderness, full of heat and dust and hopping things.
Tell most Australians that you like their country and they will give a dry laugh and say ‘Well, it’s the last place left now isn’t it?’, which is the sort of worrying thing that Australians say. You don’t quite know what they mean but it worries you in case they’re right.
…I’ve never learnt the names of a lot of fish. I always swot them up on the boat and forget them a week later. But watching the breathtaking variety of shape and movement keeps me entranced for hours, or would do if the oxygen allowed. If I were not an atheist I think I would have to be a Catholic because if it wasn’t the forces of natural selection that designed fish, it must have been an Italian.
I was moving forward slowly in the shallows. A few feet in front of me the reef gradually dipped down into a broad valley. The valley floor was wide and dark and flat. Ian was directing my attention towards it. I didn’t know why. There seemed to be just an absence of interesting coral. And then, as I looked, the whole black floor of the valley slowly lifted upwards and started gently to waft its way away from us. As it moved its edges were rippling softly and I could see that underneath it was pure white. I was transfixed by the realisation that what I was looking at was an eight foot wide giant manta ray.
Read the whole essay in order to understand why I get all passionate during the latest episode of Science on Top Podcast 41: No Riding On The Manta Rays. If I was the kind of person that didn’t collect everything on my computer (like essays, stray recordings of podcasts that I’m lucky enough to be a panelist on, photos of manta rays while I’m on holidays) – it wouldn’t be here for you to enjoy. So, enjoy it!