The island of Los Roques is attached to an archipelago of approximately 250 islands and is the second largest living organism on the planet – second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef.
The island itself is of volcanic origin and has small rock mountains (really hills) on the Atlantic side while the archipelago side is flat and sandy. At the southeastern Atlantic edge of the island – and archipelago – is a tiny cove which is really just a curved beach with a small volcanic hill slightly offshore. The small hill is covered with all types of sea birds and the water swirls through the chute between the island and beach with incredible force. The beach is virtually inaccessible from all sides; to get there, you must hike, traverse a lagoon, rock climb, shimmy around edges and corners before finally dropping onto the sand..
I had that small cove in my sights as I arrived on the island, but it took me some weeks to find time, when the weather permitted, to make my way there. I packed a small bag of supplies one morning and headed out. Three hours later, I arrived at the small strip of sand, maybe the smallest beach in the entire archipelago. The beach sits next to a large reef of dead coral. The Atlantic was so strong that the huge pieces of coral were crashing together in the waves and making a sound like a symphony. Hence, I named the spot “Singing Coral.”
I stood there completely alone, in awe of the coral, the ocean, the sky and the fact that I had made it around the world, around the lagoon and around my life. The currents seemed so strong but I had an overwhelming urge to swim. It was like everything in the universe pushed me to the water. I dropped my pack and swam towards the middle of the cove where the water seemed slightly calmer. I lay there – floating on my back – looking at the sky and then rolled to my stomach to look down into the depths of the cove. When I turned and opened my eyes, I realized that I was swimming in the middle of a school of barracuda. Floating there, it seemed as if thousands of barracuda swam around me in their slow, silent, circular funnel that continued as far into the depths as my eyes could see. I lay there still, shocked, terrified and strangely invigorated…
As slowly as their circular path, I began a small paddle back to my little beach. Slowly, slowly I moved and breathed and swam until my feet touched sand. Standing back on the beach, I let out a whoop that could-be-heard-around-the-world and thought, “I will never be afraid of life again.”
That was the day that I started my journey to Project Alabama, and now Alabama Chanin. To this day, I strive to live my life with the same courage and conviction I felt as my whoop joined the song of Singing Coral and the universe.
To the next decade – may we all find the courage to swim with barracuda and sing to the stars…