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How the Love of the Ocean Sparked a Mission

Robert Andrew Provan

By Robert Provan

My love and appreciation of the sea began at the age of four when I crossed the raging North Atlantic with my family on a cruise ship to Britain. This trip was a transformative experience, to say the least. For on this same cruise, I informed my family that I would be joining the Navy and getting the tattoo of a parrot on my shoulder, having no way of knowing at the time that both of these childhood predictions would come to pass.

As a youngster growing up in a landlocked New England state, I enjoyed gathering around the T.V. with my family, fascinated by the exploits of Jacques Cousteau, Marlin Perkins on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, David Attenborough, and the like. These shows sparked my imagination, love of the ocean, and desire to explore the natural world for myself. My window to the world, as it were. By the time I was six, I had owned my first mask and reveled in looking for sharks in cold mountain streams inhabited by the elusive but seldom violent, wild brook trout. Equally as cool to a young explorer, and there was much to see in those streams and lakes.

Upon graduating from High School, I fulfilled my goal of joining the U.S. Navy, and my journey to oceanic world travel began.

In the Navy, I never tired of watching the seas.

Across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, through the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan, I savored the rolling blue river of life because I never got bored of being on the sea. I was no longer seeing the ocean via a television screen. Instead, with a sea breeze in my face and the spray of the sea about me, I saw Humpback whales and giant Manta Rays off Hawaii, sharks in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, albatross off equatorial New Guinea. To this day, I savor these journeys and the many that followed.

Upon this foundation, I labeled myself a “water person.”

A lifelong fisherman and snorkeler, my explorations went to the next level twenty-plus years ago when I finally made the time to take scuba lessons. I have hundreds of dives under my weight belt now, across many locations throughout Florida, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Famous spots like the Florida Keys, James Bond Wreck in the Bahamas, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Curacao, Jamaica, Turks/Cocoas, Santa Rosa Wall in Cozumel, and more recently, the Pitons Reef in St. Lucia.

Sixty percent of the world’s corals have died over the last thirty years, and I have witnessed this statistic firsthand in the Keys and Caribbean. Similarly, the world’s oceans have had their fish stocks decimated by over-fishing by long netters in that same time frame. If the world’s oceans are to survive, they will need our help.

As with the oceans and the world’s coral reefs, the family structure is also under constant attack by the electronic diversions of social media and our ever-present devices. Electronic devices have their place, but they can’t replace appreciating the world around us or the time spent reading. So, I wrote Ronnie the Raindrop for my daughter to explain where the rain came from and snuck in a friendship tale of loyalty and trust. Both are seemingly vanishing commodities.

The mission.

 My passion is to inspire children to read while at the same time sparking curiosity about the world around them. I hope this spark will lead to a love for the natural world, a love of the ocean, and a passion for protecting it and living in it more sustainably.

I have three more books in the works that involve how vital mangrove forests and coral reefs are to the ocean and our environment. So we invite you to gather with family and friends, lock up your electronics, and share the adventure with Ronnie and his friends. Then go find your adventure, whether in your backyard, the beach, or the mountains. It’s out there. I have seen it myself!