Fiji Shark Studies
A Journey of Discovery, by Merry C
My parents advised me not to fall in love in high school. They warned me it would never last and could only end in disappointment. Yet, here I stand on the edge, eyes tightly shut, lips pursed, heart racing, ready to take the plunge. With a splash, I enter the crystal clear water and open my eyes to all that I have been missing.
My passion for exploring the ocean started four years ago, when I grew bored of the same old summer camp routine and longed to experience what the world had to offer. Eager to see what lay beneath the waves, I embarked on a Scuba diving trip in the Caribbean. As I drew the first breath of cool, dry air from my regulator and glanced around at this otherworldly place, my love affair officially began. The colorful corals swaying with the soft current, the rainbows of fish darting to and fro, and the lazy sea turtles slowly trekking through the endless blue inspired a sense of curiosity for a place I had seen mostly from above. Since that summer, I have traveled all over the world exploring the secret wonders of the world’s oceans and continuing my quest to see where this passion leads.
After exploring the coastal waters off Honduras and the Red Sea of Egypt, I was ready to learn about the creature that has intrigued me most. This past summer I completed an academic trek to Fiji, where I studied sharks for a month in the most personal way possible, observing them in their natural environment. My heart raced when I saw that first torpedo-shaped figure dart into sight, and my body froze in fear as a 13-foot bull shark snatched a fish head just three feet from my face. Yet, strangely enough, at these moments, my fear turned to fascination.
By the last couple of dives, I leaped into the water and searched around as if looking for old friends. With my new knowledge, I saw these “man-eaters” in a different light. The characteristics that most people fear did not look so daunting once I realized their powerful jaws and speedy agility are the perfected products of millions of years of evolution. When I started my shark studies, I had a healthy respect for and a bit of trepidation about these feared creatures, yet by summer’s end, I felt like I was leaving my fears behind and bringing home in its place a renewed passion for the ocean and all of the creatures that reside in it.
My sense of adventure has started me on a journey of discovery. Exploring new places, learning new things, and experiencing different cultures have become seeds within me that I will continue to nurture. My travel experiences have enriched my education beyond what I have learned in the classroom. From the migration patterns of sharks to the proper way to drink Bedouin tea, my discoveries of the world have coincided with my personal discoveries. I have learned that there is no fear that I cannot face, and that new situations and new people cause me to feel excited rather than anxious. Each new culture I experience teaches me to appreciate differences; diversity is what makes us unique. Most important, I know that a smile can overcome any language barrier.
I guess my parents were wrong. My first love has never disappointed me and continues to excite me. I look forward to each new adventure; whether beneath the earth’s waters or on the earth’s surface, there is a lifetime of learning that awaits me. This is one high school romance that may lead to a life-long commitment.
By Merry Cherney
Signing off, Merry C
You need to see what a Band 6 Discovery essay looks like before you can write your own. That’s why we’ve included one below. We recommend reading it carefully and breaking down what it does so successfully. How is the introduction structured? How does the student analyse evidence? And how do they bring it all together in the conclusion? Once you’re finished, apply the strategies you uncover to your own AOS: Discovery essays. We also have a detailed overview of how to write creatives in our Our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English – Part 6: Writing Creatives.
‘An individual’s experience of discovery is determined by their context.’ To what extent is this statement reflected in your prescribed text and ONE text of your own choosing?
Band 6 Discovery Essay
The unique context of an individual is what defines their process of discovery and in so doing, shapes their perspectives on interpersonal relationships, personal identity and existential outlook. These ideas are exemplified in both Robert Gray’s poems, Diptych and The Meatworks, and Matthew Thorne’s short film, Where Do Lilacs Come From. We see in these texts that discovery can only take place when our context challenges us, whether it is a change in context or the confronting nature of situational context itself. Only then can transformation occur.
The contexts in which the interpersonal relationships of an individual take place are what fuel discoveries to occur. In Gray’s Diptych, elements of the persona’s family life are embedded throughout, in particular the ongoing tension between the persona and his father. The father’s dialogue, “Nothing whingeing. Nothing by New York Jews; / nothing by women,” provides insight into the personality and character of the father. The anaphoric repetition of the harsh, despairing “nothing” portrays the father in his limited relationship with the persona, denoting the disconnect between the two and the persona’s negative perceptions of his father as a result. However, the transformative powers of context are revealed after the character experiences the death of his father. It is only after this event that he discovers newfound feelings towards his father and reconsiders their past relationship. His death provokes a newfound acceptance and nostalgic fondness within the persona. The accident, “my pocket knife slid / sideways and pierced my hand – and so I dug with that one / into his ashes,” is central to the persona’s final emotional discovery. The mixing of his blood and his father’s ashes symbolically unifies the two, highlighting the change in perspective that has occurred with this change in context. Therefore, it can be argued that an individual only truly discovers his feelings towards others when their relationship is challenged by a change in context. The experience of loss following the death of his father caused Gray’s persona to reflect upon their past relationship and in doing so, he discovers feelings of clarity and acceptance that replaced past feelings of resentment and hostility. In other words, contextual experience has the potential to re-determine one’s interpersonal relationships.
Similarly, Matthew Thorne’s film Where Do Lilacs Come From explores the transformative powers of context. Much like Gray’s Diptych, Thorne depicts a change in context, in particular one that challenges an individual’s personal beliefs, as a fast catalyst to self-discovery. The film follows Chris, an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, as he struggles with the strain his condition places on his relationship with his son, Michael. This is symbolised by the reoccurring large spaces which separate the two characters in each frame, implying their emotional disconnect. A tracking shot of Chris chasing his younger self down a long, brightly lit corridor symbolises his desire to rediscover his lost memories. The responder is able to gauge from this Chris’ perspective on his condition. Senility is a burden on his identity. However, at the end of the film Michael discovers he is able to reconnect with his father by showing him home movies. The movies, displayed as hand-held camera footage with a muted colour palette evoke the same sentiment of nostalgic fondness that changed the persona’s perspective in Gray’s in Diptych. The restorative experience of bonding is shown by a return to the metaphor of distance as the space between two characters is breached and the pair embrace. Not only does this show the characters re-discovering their love for each other, but the discovery they are still able to bond is a revelation within itself, one that allows Chris to view his Alzheimer’s in a new context. He is able to challenge and transform his personal beliefs of his condition, coming to terms with his ageing as he rediscovers hope. Therefore, not only can a physical change in context shed new light on interpersonal relationships, but the way in which an individual contextualises their unique experience within their own mental framework can transform one’s very identity.
However, a change in context is not the only determining factor of personal discovery. One’s contextual environment alone has the immense ability to provide incentive for internal transformation through the process of discovery. In Gray’s poem, The Meatworks, the persona’s existential contemplation of life and death is entirely due to his experience working at a slaughterhouse. The self-discovery commences at the start of the poem, as the persona reflects upon the other workers and their disregard for the lives of the animals. The compounded sensorial imagery of the passage, “Most of them worked around the slaughtering / out the back / where concrete gutters / crawled off / heavily, and the hot, fertiliser-thick, sticky stench of blood / sent flies mad,” establishes and sustains an oppressive sense of death. The use of alliteration in ‘s’ and ‘h’ creates a cacophony of emphatic sounds which combine to create a disturbing synesthetic response, illustrating the violent nature of death. It is this horrid setting that facilitates the persona’s inner discovery of existential turmoil, and with it a renewed appreciation for life in all its forms. The symbolic gesture of hand washing in, “I’d scoop up the shell grit and scrub my hands, treading about through the icy ledges of the surf”, illustrates the persona’s desire for purification following his change in perspective. The use of personification in the poem’s last line further conveys the persona’s changing belief regarding the lives of animals: “the ways those pigs stuck there, clinging to each other”. The persona discovers that in death, animals and humans are the same. This revelatory, existential experience perfectly exemplifies how the process of discovery is shaped by an individual’s contextual environment. It shows the true transformational power of context to shape an individual’s outlook and their very understanding of life.
In conclusion, it is highly evident that an individual’s context, whether it be their physical environment, or the experience of a change in context, determines their process of discovery. Robert Gray’s poems Diptych and The Meatworks, and Matthew Thorne’s short film Where Do Lilacs Come From, all convey these ideas to a great extent. In these works responders come to understand how the relationship between context and individual experience define the discoveries which impact interpersonal relationships, personal identity and one’s very perceptions of existence. Only when our context challenges us can we discover, and it is the impact of our discoveries that define who we are and our unique, individual experience.
Want to take your English skills next level?
Found this article interesting or useful? Share the knowledge!