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Photo by Frank Park on Unsplash

Why do so many people cry when they see the ocean for the first time?

Have you ever witnessed something in nature that inexplicably made you cry? You think you're good—just happily enjoying some beauty or wonder of some sort—and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the tears just start flowing.

A viral video of a young woman from Oklahoma having that experience while seeing the ocean in person for the first time has people saying, "Yep. I get it."

At first, the woman just laughs out loud when she sees the ocean. "There's no ending! There's no ending!" she exclaims as she walks down the boardwalk toward the shore. Then, as she steps onto the beach, she has to pause and and put her hands on her knees, clearly overcome with emotion.


"Damn," she says, wiping away tears. When the man she's with wraps his arms around her, she sobs.

If you know, you know. And looking at people's comments, a lot of people understand her emotional reaction to witnessing the awesomeness of the ocean for the first time.

@genacamp80

I’m glad I captured this moment. ❤️

♬ original sound - Gena Camp

People reacted to the video on Reddit with their own stories of overwhelming awe at the natural world:

"The first time I saw the ocean was a big deal for me too. We drove all day, got there in the dark, and my wife, daughter, and myself stood in silence for a good five minutes in awe. The ocean is the only thing that's ever given me a religious experience." – Automaticwriting

"I was coming home from a business trip and was miserable after a long winter travel day. When I got to the hotel there was a dude out front that looked like he was on drugs. Mouth slightly open. Staring up at the sky and kind of circling. I asked if he was OK. He told me he had never seen snow before. It made my day. I hung with him for a bit to soak it in." – tinsinpindelton

"This is how I reacted during totality of the eclipse! I was surprised because I was looking up at it and then… suddenly I was crying?? lol" – alison_bee

"Such a beautiful reaction. You can never understand the powerful connection we have to nature until you have finally seen something you have always wanted to see in person…you should hear my kid talk about the Sequoias…" – Unique-Pastenger

"As someone who has never lived more than 1.5 hrs from the ocean, I felt the same way when I saw the sand dunes in Tunisia, awe inspiring." – IronicINFJustices

"I remember going into the Rocky Mountains for the first time a few years ago. We made it to a peak and I looked out into the continental divide and just cried. I’d never seen something that made me feel so small." – Choco_tooth

People also shared how the ocean still affects them, even when they see it frequently.

"I've lived within 2 hours of the ocean my entire life. I can't fathom what it must be like to see it for the time. To feel it. To smell it. I kinda feel that way every time I go to the shore." – timothypjr

"I cry when it’s been a long time and I see it again. It’s a powerful thing. It’s so deeply a part of us, our heritage, our survival. I could smell this video." – -Disagreeable-

"I've seen the ocean hundreds of times and i still act this way lol"diogenessexychicken

"I live right on the ocean and this is my reaction everyday. 🏖❤️" – NoCauliflower1474

There's something awe-inspiring about the ocean—its immense power and deep mysteries, the diversity of life it contains, the way it connects us to other lands across vast distances, the continuous rhythm of the tides, the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, the soothing blues, grays and greens it reflects. Perhaps there is something primal within us that it speaks to. Maybe it hits us the way a sky full of stars does, making us feel tiny in the grand scheme and putting our lives into perspective.

Whatever it is, when we see someone else profoundly affected by it, so many of us can honestly say, "Yes, I feel that too." Awe may hit us at different times and be inspired by different things, but the experience of it truly unites us all.

Science

eXXpedition sailing crews set out to tackle ocean plastic. Here's how we can all get on board.

The all-women crews of eXXpedition strive to problem-solve the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans. But because the problem starts on land, we all have an important role to play—and the tools to make an impact.

Photos courtesy of Sophie Dingwall and Emily Penn/eXXpedition

eXXpedition is on a mission to fight ocean plastic pollution.

What do sailing and STEM fields have in common? For one, both have traditionally been—and largely still are—the domain of men. Sailing is a male-dominated sport, with women making up 16% of all competitors and only 5% of professional competitors in regattas last year. And though women have made big strides in STEM, progress has been uneven and women are still underrepresented in certain fields, including environmental science.

Such underrepresentation is one reason the founders of eXXpedition gather all-female sailing crews with diverse areas of expertise to research ocean plastic pollution. Since 2014, the nonprofit organization has been on a mission to “make the unseen, seen”—the unseen being women in sailing and science, the plastics and toxins polluting our oceans, and the diverse solutions to the problem.

Emily Penn founded eXXpedition after seeing ocean plastic pollution up close while working on a biofuel boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Emily Penn founded eXXpedition to bring women in sailing and ocean plastic pollution into full view.Courtesty of Emily Penn/eXXpedition

“I’d jump into the water to wash and be surrounded by plastic, nearly 1,000 miles from the nearest land,” Penn told National Geographic. “We would then stop at these small islands, and see how they were struggling so much with waste management, especially plastic. And then we'd land on beaches of uninhabited islands that had more plastic on them. After those moments of seeing it first-hand, I just couldn’t really look back.”


During her first all-woman sailing expedition, Penn was amazed by the positive, supportive atmosphere aboard the ship. Having an all-women crew was a “magic” dynamic—surprisingly different from the mixed crews she’d always been part of—and thus eXXpedition was born.

Sea voyages are vital for environmental research, but they aren’t particularly visible to those of us on land. The eXXpedition team has utilized Facebook and Instagram to bring people aboard virtually and connect its community around the globe. With more than 18,000 Facebook groups dedicated to celebrating and protecting our planet, and environmental protection being one of the top three causes people donate to on Instagram, these platforms have been critical to driving support for the organization’s mission and sharing the results of its voyages.

In October 2019, eXXpedition launched a bold, two-year mission to circumnavigate the globe called Round the World. Multidisciplinary crews of women—scientists, journalists, activists and more—set sail to conduct research over 38,000 nautical miles, traveling through four of the five oceanic gyres where pollution accumulates in dense pockets. The crews sailed across the Atlantic, throughout the Caribbean, to Galapagos and Easter Island, and across the South Pacific Gyre to Tahiti, studying the issue and collecting valuable data.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Pandemic shutdowns brought the world to a screeching halt, and sadly, the remaining Round the World legs had to be canceled. But that didn’t mean the eXXpedition mission stopped; it merely shifted.

While eXXpedition voyages provide valuable research, the problem of ocean pollution starts on land, which means all of us need to be involved in this work. However, many people simply don’t know which actions to take.

So when COVID shut things down, Penn created SHiFT, an online platform to help people hone their own environmental actions even as they navigated the unfamiliar waters of the pandemic.

“Our research has shown us that the sources of plastic pollution are endless,” Penn tells Upworthy. “This means the solutions are too. There is no silver bullet. We need to tackle the problem from every angle.

“For many people, this message can feel overwhelming,” she adds. ”Should I switch my packaging to biodegradable plastic, glass or paper, or do I need to redesign my product completely? Should I put a filter on my washing machine, or make clothes from bamboo or rethink the way we sell clothing all together? We know we need all these solutions, but many of us need help to work out which one to use and when.”

SHiFT helps individuals and businesses whittle down those overwhelming options to a manageable one or two by guiding them to discover their unique strengths or “superpowers.”

“We need experts in every field,” says Penn. “It’s not about everyone becoming a marine biologist or everyone dedicating their lives to this, but it’s about saying, ‘Great, you’re an engineer, let’s look at ways we can do better waste management. You’re a chemist, let’s look at ways we can reinvent plastic or a biodegradable material. You’re a teacher, then talk about it. You’re a policy maker, then let’s legislate it.’”

More than 5,000 people a month from 133 countries use SHiFT to explore hundreds of impactful solutions and narrow them down to what’s most doable for them. Penn says the global community eXXpedition has created is where the real power of the organization lies.

“The many nationalities, skill sets, sectors and approaches to solving the plastics issue together is our greatest strength since we started our sailing missions in 2014,” says Penn. “Digital tools have helped us overcome the ultimate challenge we have, which is that with everyone spread around the world it can be a challenge to bring the community together. Now we have an opportunity to bring them together virtually to connect and collaborate and go on to really drive change on land.”

In addition to SHiFT, eXXpedition utilizes Facebook and Instagram to keep that community engaged and informed. The hope is to inspire people to action by sharing ambassador stories from women who have participated in voyages, debunking myths about plastics and pollution, making research accessible and understandable for everyone, and hosting virtual events.

The eXXpedition team is encouraged by the attention that plastics and ocean pollution has been getting and by how many people are interested in helping find solutions. On World Oceans Day on June 8, the SHiFT site will be adding even more tools to help people find their role and use their superpowers to tackle ocean plastic pollution.

“We don’t need everyone to do everything,” says Penn, “but we need everyone to do something.”

If you want to do something but aren’t sure where to start, visit the SHiFT platform. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram, join an eXXpedition voyage, help bring ocean pollution education and action to schools, donate to support eXXpedition’s mission or join the mailing list to learn about upcoming events and opportunities.

Follow eXXpedition research and explore solutions on social media:

eXXpedition—Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

SHiFT—Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Dan Fischer takes people's lost loved ones out surfing for "one last wave."

Dan Fischer understands grief. He also has some idea of how to cope with it—and how to help others through it as well.

Fischer has experienced tremendous loss in the past few years, losing both his father and his best friend. As a surfer, he's a believer in what he calls "the transformative power of the ocean." Originally from Montreal, Canada, Fischer has found healing riding the waves off Newport, Rhode Island, where he's lived for the past seven years.

Now he wants to share that healing power of the waves with others.


"After one of those faithful sessions, where I had written my dad's name on my board," he tells Upworthy, "I decided to throw out an open invitation on TikTok to others who were struggling with loss." On January 4, he shared a TikTok video inviting people to share the name of a loved one who has passed and said he would write their name on his board and take them out into the ocean.

"It felt right and I wanted to help," he says. "I knew how healing surfing had been for me, and I wanted the opportunity to share that with others in hopes of inserting some positivity into their lives."

@paradrenaline

Comment a loved one who you’d like me to include. #love #memories #dreams #surfing #oceanlover #saltlife

People started sharing the names and stories of lost loved ones in the comments, and Fischer started writing down names. A dozen soon turned to 100, which turned to 500, which turned to more than 1,000.

In just over a week, the one TikTok blossomed into a full-fledged movement Fischer has dubbed the One Last Wave Project.

"Something we always say out there is, 'one last wave,'" Fischer says. "There's always one last wave to catch and I wanted to give that to others. There have been so many stories shared about loved ones who always wanted to learn to surf, or how the ocean was their happy place and unfortunately, their families weren't able to get them there in time. I committed to ensuring that they got out there for that one last wave."

Fischer gets emotional sharing what the project means to him.

"I've spent many nights sitting out there alone at sunset, connecting with the beauty of nature to heal," he says. "Now, I have thousands of loved ones joining me…it's truly hard to explain just how truly moving that is for me. I just hope to help in some small way."

Right now, the project is just a one-man show, with Fischer spending hours a day connecting with people in the comments and writing down names. He knows he's going to need help collecting names and stories as the list grows, and he's already looking into getting more longboards to accommodate more names.

"It is important to me that every single person's story is told," he says. "I would love to see it expanded where surfers from around the world can join in the movement and take loved ones out into the ocean from wherever they are."

Fischer says people keep asking if it's too late to get their loved one's name on his board, and he wants people to know it's never too late. He's in this for the long haul.

One Last Wave Project isn't Fischer's first project impacting people's lives in creative ways. He works as an MBA admissions consultant, but he also founded Step Up for the Cure, a charity fundraiser for cancer research. He credits his mother's influence for his impulse to use whatever he has to give back to others in a meaningful way.

"When I founded Step Up for the Cure, I was trying to create a symbolic struggle—we ran marathon distances up stairs for 24 hours straight—to align those involved with those facing such harsh adversity," he says. "One Last Wave has a bit of a different vision. While surfing, trying to harness the sheer power of the ocean for a few fleeting moments in order to ride the open face of a wave is extremely challenging; however, this movement is more about the peace and healing that results when you do, letting go, immersing yourself in the sea.

"Surfing is one of my great passions," he continues. "It has changed my life, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be sharing that love with others in a way that provides hope and healing."

Fischer says he never imagined his project would resonate so deeply with so many people, but he's grateful that it has.

"I am deeply affected by every single story shared," he said. "Heartbreaking doesn't even begin to describe it, but when I connect with these people, we are bonded, and the board feels very much like a beacon of hope that their loved ones are set free to enjoy and shine once again. It's a way for them to be forever memorialized in a place they loved.

"I can't tell you how many times I've cried reading the stories, writing the names, and feeling them etched on the board as I paddle through the waves," he says.

Many of the commenters are parents sharing the names of children they've lost. Some of them loved the ocean, and some of them loved it but never got to see it. One commenter recently asked for her own name to be put on the board, as she's in hospice and the ocean has always been her peaceful place.

The simple act of reaching out, connecting with others, making an offering of what you have and bringing some measure of comfort to people who are in mourning is such a beautiful thing.

Fischer is working on getting the One Last Wave website up so that he can direct people to one central place if they want to add a loved one or find out how to help, but in the meantime, you can find him on these social media pages:

Tiktok: @OneLastWave

Twitter: @OneLastWave

Instagram: @OneLastWaveProject

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):


Ummm, yeah. An orca sighting is one thing, but this is a whole other story. Orcas have been known to knock large prey off of icebergs, so the whole "orcas don't hurt humans" thing doesn't feel super reassuring in this scenario.

The footage came from TikTok user @nutabull, whose now-deleted account stated she was from Vancouver Island.

The second video is even more intimidating.

The viral video sparked a debate about whether the sea lion should be kicked off the boat or not. The woman kept telling the sea lion it "had to go" with a frank "Sorry, buddy, that's life," message, though she never actively tried to push it off. Many commenters joked about yeeting the sea lion off the boat to avoid a potentially disastrous encounter with the orcas. Others were on #teamsealion, saying they wouldn't have the heart to boot the poor thing.

The reality is orcas eat sea lions—the circle of life and whatnot. Most of us just don't find ourselves in the middle of that circle, having to figure out whether the apex predators surrounding our boat are going to patiently wait for their lunch to come back or take it upon themselves to bump it back into the water.

Thankfully for the woman, the sea lion seemed to decide on its own that its options were limited and dove back in to take its chances with the orcas. But phew, that encounter would be harrowing for just about anyone.

Best of luck, sea lion. Hope you're an exceptional swimmer.