The Turkish coast, the water is warm; almost too warm. And it is like nothing I’ve ever been in before, with the calmness of a lake, but the salinity of the ocean. Diving in, I momentarily forget that this is the Mediterranean Sea and not the freshwater my intuition knows; as my body breaks the water and I taste salt along the inside of my lips, for a second, my instincts feel deceived, and I suspect there’s something wrong with the water.
By the time I surface, however, rationale – always the slower companion to our instincts – has reminded me that it is only a nook of the Mediterranean, which in turn is only a nook of the world’s oceans and is, as such, salt water.
I wipe the water from my face, pressing the flat underside of my knuckles to my brow. The water clings to the skin, latching to the body even where it is submerged below the surface, and after several separate efforts across my face, I can feel that the salt molecules remain. I acquiesce.
The body floats easily in salt water, rendering swim and play more enjoyable; leisurely. The entire boat – over a dozen of us – dives into the water from the railing.
The water, however, though it is welcoming, also corrals us away from the sloping, rocky shores; though nearly dead in sea life, one creature prospers here.
“Sea urchin,” we decipher through the charades of one of our boat companions, whose English, much to our amusement, offers the initial translation of “sea eagle.”
Sea urchins, all along the shore, with needles that cannot be pulled out, she warns us – as attempting to do so leaves broken fragments buried beneath the skin – and must instead be doctored with olive oil.
“You cannot go onto the shore.”
I nod, but am skeptical, sensing that the warning is not a real danger but rather the precautionary result of one or two accidents shared between boat captains after tours like ours.
I wager that the shore could feasibly be conquered around the sea urchins.
However, our next anchoring, pulled closer to the shoreline, reveals, just under the surface of strikingly clear water that occasionally rivals the Caribbean, dozens of black mounds the size of tennis balls tucked between rocks only a little larger. The ratio of urchin to rock is roughly 2:3.
I quickly calculate the logistics: urchin density, foot size versus footing size, likelihood of accurate foot placing.
I decide that they’re probably right.