To climb to the highest peaks

By: Danika Kritter, high school alumna High School Adventures, Scuba

“To climb the highest peaks, to travel through… celestial space, to turn our searchlights upon domains of eternal darkness, that is what makes life worth living.” – Auguste Piccard (quoted in “The Eternal Darkness” by Robert D. Ballard)

The rasps of regulators were the only sounds in the abyss. The divers’ fins stirred the water and ignited a galaxy of bioluminescent plankton as our group ascended. It had been a breathtaking night dive, filled with playful cuttlefish and impressive lobsters. While the other divers turned their dive lights to the surface for the ascent, I snuck a final peek at the underwater landscape. My light’s beam pierced through the clear, Caribbean water and fell upon the creature that ignited my passion for discovery.

Illuminated by the dive light, the octopus twisted like a glowing orb in the eerie darkness. Breathlessly, I watched its tentacles grapple along the bottom, its eyes gazing toward my light with startling intelligence. Confused by my awkward, bubbling presence, it desperately tried to camouflage itself. Its skin swirled in a kaleidoscopic pattern of green, burgundy, and pale blue, and patches of rock and sand texture rippled across its skin. I was overcome by sheer awe at the alien-like octopus and its mysterious underwater realm. If something so stunning was waiting six meters below the surface, what incredible sights existed six miles below? It was the beginning of my love affair with learning.

When I returned to school that year, my new perspective changed how I approached my high school subjects. Geography was more than memorizing obscure capitals; it was a way to travel the world. The formulas of Algebra II and Pre-Calculus gave me more than mere answers; they provided a glimpse into the lives of the philosophers who spawned them. Watching cheesy sitcoms in Spanish III, the intricacies of the language were a taste of Latin culture. Even John Keats’s deranged, depressed mental state was betrayed by the alliteration, symbolism, and Romanticism I highlighted on my worksheets in English class. My teachers recognized my love of knowledge, and at the end of sophomore year I collected the academic excellence award in every class.

Two years later, that octopus’s effect is still evident in my fascinated approach to life. I want to continue to illuminate the darkness, to climb the highest mountains until the marrow of my bones is filled with knowledge, because that is truly what makes life worth living. Seeing that bizarre octopus instilled in me a thirst to turn my searchlight upon the domains of eternal darkness.