Aziz Sonawalla (YR 41/2016, India) will be spending this summer as the only human on Race Rocks Ecological Reserve Island. He will be monitoring species activity, collecting environmental data and protecting the reserve from illegal boating practices.
It might just be a Pearson thing to think of the most insane things you could do, and then do them – I suppose you have to be a little crazy to start with to have come half-way across the globe to finish high school. That’s probably why the ridiculousness of spending 3 months alone on a small Pacific lighthouse-island didn’t really occur to me until I started describing my summer job to other people. In fact, it truly hit me as I was dropped off on the island and saw my ride going back to campus. It’s in that first minute when you’re waving goodbye to the boat that you go “Uh-oh!”. You turn around to look at this entire island that you now have to yourself, and stand there completely clueless as to what to do with all these animals you’ve been asked to babysit.
It’s kind of like being home alone for the first time – there’s that sense of awkwardness and uncertainty at first, but then thrill of it kicks in. For me that was this realization that I am sitting alone in the eye of this tornado of nature’s might. I wake up every morning on a little rock in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as some of the fastest and most unpredictable currents and winds on the coast make the entire house creak. I walk through the island being outnumbered by every other species – dodging a seagull here, walking around an elephant seal there – just to check on the solar panels and pump ensure that I have enough water and electricity for the day.
The importance of a place like Race Rocks cannot be overstated however – it’s a lone oasis of untouched natural beauty in a busy commercial channel. Conservation efforts over the last decades have allowed Race Rocks to become home to an incredibly diverse ecosystem, with a collection of wildlife and marine life unlike any other. Monitoring this ecosystem and collecting data is my biggest task here – species counts, water temperatures, weather activity –information that is crucial to helping us measure the impact humans are having on our natural environment.
Race Rocks may be a small island, but the ever-changing environment and countless life forms make every day, every hour, completely different. The experience of observing this perfectly balanced system evolve around me has been unreal – over the last 20 days that I have been here, I have learnt something new about this place each day. I do my best to photograph and document my time here to share with people across the globe, because I believe it’s crucial for everyone to stay connected to their natural surroundings and witness everyday happenings in the ecosystem that otherwise go unseen. Taking the time to stop and observe around you is the only way to truly appreciate the immense world beyond the human species.
Never in my wildest dreams growing up in Mumbai did I imagine spending this much time isolated on an island, but it’s been an unbelievable adventure so far, and I cannot wait to see what the coming 2 months have in store for me!
Aziz regularly posts pictures and stories from the island on his Instagram photo blog – you can follow his adventures on this link: www.instagram.com/azizsonawalla .