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closeup of a deep blue ocean wave
Deep blue ocean wave. Photo by Gaetano Cessati

A special news update for April Fool’s Day

AAG caught up with Ocean on a sunny day near Null Island recently, where she is filming her latest epic adventure with veteran filmmaker Rock “High Tide” Anderson, Calm on the Surface. Ocean was wearing a thin veil of plastic bags that seemed to weigh her down, sipping a cool glass of–what else?–brine, and fending off Knob-billed Ducks and Bottlenose Dolphins.

Long regarded as an indie darling, Ocean first made her high-water mark on the public consciousness in the breakout sleeper-with-the-fishes hit, The Archean. Cast in a number of big projects over the years, she has often been a mere supporting player or plot device, especially in the box office hit Castaway, a project she sums up briskly: “I was upstaged by a volleyball.”

[Ocean has too often] been a mere supporting player or plot device, especially in the box office hit Castaway, a project she sums up briskly: “I was upstaged by a volleyball.”

The underappreciation of Ocean should be of concern for all of us, says Dawn Wright, Chief Scientist of Esri and a longtime friend of Ocean. Writing in 2018 about the dangerous deoxygenation Ocean currently lives with, Wright said, “We must connect important discoveries about the nature of the world with public perception and current policies that shape the habitability of the earth.” The article provides resources for doing just that.

Ocean’s new project could raise greater awareness of her abundant talent and starfish qualities. “I love working with Rock. He’s so understanding about my needs on location. And he pushes our creative boundaries. Other directors I’ve worked with might be content only to explore the Seven Seas, but not Rock. He knows, when you’re the Ocean, practically everywhere is a viable location, especially with the way the coasts are shifting these days.”

Of course, Ocean can’t be everywhere. “I’ll admit, I’m a little blue about how much more money Space makes, how much more attention is directed to Space’s projects, the much larger scale. But if I let myself get too salty about it, I think it would distract from the absolutely crucial work I do, you know? I have to stay focused on the depth of the issues, the many lives relying on me to stay healthy and active and pull through. I can’t get distracted.”

We couldn’t resist approaching someone who is uniquely qualified to weigh in–former NASA astronaut and NOAA administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, who in 2020 also became the first woman to go to the deepest point in the Ocean floor. In a matter of days, Sullivan will speak at AAG 2021 as our Honorary Geographer.

“I’ve adored both Ocean and Space for decades and would love to see them unite on a project,” AAG Honorary Geographer Kathryn D. Sullivan says. “I’m sure the results would be stellar!”

Such a partnership doesn’t lack precedent. During our interview, Ocean didn’t bring up her periodic, not to say tempestuous, lifelong relationship with Moon. When we pressed the question, she grew becalmed for a moment. “I can’t deny the pull of Moon’s influence over my life and current projects,” she said. “We’re in a dark phase right now, but I feel sure that Moon will come around.”

Asked where she finds her strength to keep her water above heads most days, she doesn’t hesitate. “I have to give credit to the members of the geography community who study me, the oceanographers, climatologists, meteorologists, polar geographers, economic and business geographers, political geographers, animal geographers, human geographers concerned with migrations, and so many more who map me, monitor me, and appreciate me, even at my low points. I sometimes can’t fathom the depth of their devotion. They have never lost faith in me: They know that, appearances aside, I’m not a casually renewable resource. I have to be cared for. I have to be understood and protected. Geographers get me.”

Just then, Ocean was called for her next scene. “Roll,” she said, waving us off as she surged toward the set. “I’m ready for my close-up.”

Want to get a sneak peek at Kathryn D. Sullivan before AAG’s event? Check out her 2017 talk to the Academy of Arts and Sciences.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our April Fool’s Day treat. Remember, protecting the ocean is no joke!