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Old 13-04-2006, 10:20   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Seattle area (Bremerton)
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Captive Longevity

Black and white visualizations of old Tarzan movies instantly flooded my mind when I read this morning’s newspaper about Cheeta. Cheeta the chimp, who starred in several, if not all of the Tarzan movies, was captured in Africa in 1930 and brought to Hollywood. Although I definitely dream and visualize in color in this case I could not because the movies were in black and white.

In the photo accompanying the article Cheeta appears frizzled and grizzled yet not all that bad for 74 today. He still has all of his teeth. Stated in the article is an interesting statistic: “Chimps rarely live past the age of 40 in the wild, but can reach 60 in captivity.”

This interesting statistic regarding a primate, not actually considered to be all that close to the class of primates called homo sapiens (supposedly we have a more direct connection back to the lemurs), is that I myself turn 62 this month, well on my way towards 74. Born and aised in captivity I have nonetheless managed to escape into the wild for several years before being reeled back in to the prison of our society barred with the steel security of health insurance, the purchasing power of money, and a myriad of technical objects captivating in their stimulation rivaled only by the responses elicited by the opposite sex resulting in male multiple orgasm (no, its not ALL about me).

Color takes over as I visualize the coral heads surrounded by several varieties of many fish which I attempted to record on film with my underwater camera in the water close to a tropical island 5 degrees north of the equator in the Pacific. Needing another breath of air I slowly moved back towards the surface only to face directly into the very interested coal black eyes of a rare long-finned Mako shark. In my opinion any animal larger than me seems to be VERY big, especially if it is a shark bristling with teeth. The Mako is the fastest shark in the open ocean, pelagic, and capable of running down large tuna raking them with those long teeth to slow them down for a more casual gulp. Much like a great white these smaller brothers are not to be ignored like some white tip reef shark patrolling its territory around the coral reefs.

One “test bite” by that Mako would render any health insurance as useless as a huge bank account in Switzerland for someone like myself having “cruiseheimers” and too remote and incapable of recalling anything other than, “I wonder what I should do now?” Take me to Hollywood, anywhere safe, no not safe there either, too many sharks! Now you should picture just what that Mako was observing. A potential meal with two black fins sticking out the back where they should be but what is that big boxy thing with two long stiff arms and two smaller boxes on the end? What is that fish? My camera’s underwater housing also had two long strobes attached by long arms and I was wearing an old pair of 70’s style ugly polyester pants to avoid scratches from coral (those pants just would not wear out even with the coral).

Without any apparent movement the mako rotated on his (her?) axis to face me directly. Still needing air I remembered Jacque Cousteau writing that one should swim towards a too-interested shark until entering its discomfort zone. Not understanding how a mako or a great white could have a discomfort zone I moved towards the now stationary animal. Then I discovered MY discomfort zone. Positioning the camera housing between the two of us I pushed the trigger and the two high-powered strobes put out a blinding light. Didn’t seem to phase the mako yet it did slowly rotate away and disappeared as I headed towards the boat and out of the water.

I doubt that 40 years of such experiences in the wild would I survive (Yoda: “Survive you would not!”). Yet I wonder, would 40 such years be better than 60 or more in captivity? I wonder, I wonder.
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Old 13-04-2006, 10:46   #2
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Excellent posting, I would love to see the photographs of the Mako. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder so is freedom vs captivity? Many need the blanket and warmth of security. At times it is hard to find fault with that, some never want to escape, it is too difficult. Me... I have done much in my life, however the past decade as seen my own captivity. That will soon end, and I hope to live out my life in the wild, so to speak. We will leave, God willing, next spring to sail into the wild, maybe that is a bit melodramatic. You wrote an excellent post and raise some very thought provoking questions.

Mike & Paula
S/V Tivoli
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Old 14-04-2006, 05:38   #3
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Wow, beautifully written! I think I crapped MY pants!

I have always suggested that the captive world of society has weilded it's own comfort and for some, the dreams of freedom are much more powerful than the reality of escape (hence the gross numbers of inmates).
I believe there was a line in a book that explained the part of the movie called Princess Bride that sums it up; The princess had jumped off the boat and was swimming for freedom when one of her kidnappers yelled that the waters were shark infested. She stopped her swimming. Then to further persuade her, he took a knife and cut his arm. He allowed the drops of blood to hit the water and she swam back to the boat and was "Safe in her captors arms" (From the book).

I too would LOVE to see that photo! It must have taken some serious consideration to swim into the Mako's discomfort zone.

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