The Darwin Bridge, The Pandemic, and ‘Living’

The Collapse of the Darwin Bridge, at the tail end of the pandemic, provides perspective: life is short.

The geographic structure associated with the man who challenged deeply-ingrained societal assumptions collapsed into the sea this week. Sixteen years ago, my wife and I were there.

Evolution was Charles Darwin’s religion, and it flew in the face of every assumption humanity had believed through millennia. That is no small thing, and when it takes place when humanity itself is challenged by a global pandemic (the likes we have not seen in a century) it’s telling.

Life is very short.

The Darwin Bridge sits 984 miles off the Ecuadorian coastline and 183 miles from the main Galapagos Island, Isabella. Darwin Island, isolated at sea and closed to public access, does not cater to landlubbers. It caters to sea-faring explorers, and more often than not, Scuba divers.

This is not a place for snorkelers or diving nubes who earned a ‘resort diver’ card at some poh-dunk Cancun retreat. Only experienced Scuba divers venture to this destination in hopes of swimming with whale sharks.

This is also not a place that caters to those who fear sharks: there are thousands of them. For those who do, I recommend traveling to Long John Silvers to partake in their all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet.

We were novice ‘advance divers’ when we dropped into the seas for our first dives in the Galapagos chain of islands. We earned our ‘advanced’ diving degree at a flooded and freshwater rock quarry in Pennsylvania. Needless to say, it was a bit overwhelming.

And we were challenged. On one of our first dives, the seas swept me away. Shortly thereafter, I ran out of air 40 feet beneath the surface. The Galapagos humbled me.

My wife and best friend, who I love and adore, dropped into the seas with me in the Pacific and we were lucky to have had the chance to do so. Married for a single year, the backstory about our engagement and Scuba diving were bound together. The deal was simple: I’d only bend the knee to ask for her hand in marriage if she agreed to get Scuba certified. She thought it sounded pretty cool, and 19 years later, the deal has stood the test of time.

That ‘deal’ also included an agreement. Before we had kids, we decided to take more adventurous trips. This included trips to Fiji for our Honeymoon, the Galapagos, South Africa, New Zealand, and liveaboard dive boats where one dives 20 to 28 times over the course of a week.

Her first liveaboard experience (and my fourth) was almost 1,000 miles away from civilization in hammerhead-infested waters. If that’s not a testament of love, what is?

The ‘liveaboard’ dive boat is the only way to experience Darwin Island. Tourist boats can’t visit because land travel is restricted (thank God). This is not the place to take granny on a family love boat vacation.

The divers who joined us were veterans of the seas. One gentleman from England had been Scuba diving since the early 1970s. An accomplished diver, he had surpassed 1,000 dives in his lifespan. He was still doing so in his late 60s. He was one of the early pioneers who strapped on primitive rubber gear and used charts, rather than modern dive compasses and depth monitors, to explore the ocean beds.

He shared one story of a dive that went south down under. When he and a fellow diver spotted a tiger shark diving in the great barrier reef, he was thrilled. Moments later, after a brief turn of the head, he turned back to see his fellow diver was missing his.

Yet here he was, with two ‘novice-advance’ divers and a dozen others sharing his story over dinner on choppy seas.

This gets back my original point: life is short. When you’re a father and you are in the throes of parenting, it’s easy to forget how much adventure lies afar. Even if it’s a simple camping trip you wish to take, but your toddler is too young for such an excursion. When he or she is old enough, adventure with them.

My advice is to treat life itself like a short story.

Do not assume for one minute you’ll have the physical or mental capacity to enjoy serious adventures in your late 50s or 60s. Make it a point to live a healthy lifestyle so you’re better conditioned later in life. Drop a bad habit, set long-term goals so when you do have the chance to ‘adventure,’ you’re prepared to do so.

450 years ago, Darwin cast his eyes on the rock formation that would be named after him.

450 days ago, no one gave a rat’s ass about Wuhan, face masks, or concerning themselves with the inability to see a loved one in person and hug them. The latter was a given assumption.

We should take this pandemic for what it is: a calling to those still above ground to experience all that life has to offer.

There are no do-overs.

This life is more than just a read-through, to quote the Red Hot Chili Peppers song.

In other words… LIVE!

Pictures from our land excursion on Isabella Island, Galapagos:

If you enjoyed this story, check these out on Rookie Father:

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