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Jonathan Stull | 07.01.2017

Zoom out several million miles from the Earth and you’ll find it hanging in the cosmos, a little blue dot. Not brown or green or white—blue.

Oceans characterize our planet more than any other feature. The stretch for hundreds of millions of square miles and cover 71% of the Earth’s surface. Few places have such an enduring and variegated impression on the human imagination as our oceans. From the swarthy and swashbuckling adventurer to the sailor hell-bent on the kill, itself a metaphor for the American experience, oceans and those who travel near and upon them have a long tradition in our imaginations.

Think of Moby Dick: Toutinely called the greatest work of American literature, its words, style, and voice were inspired by Richard Henry Dana Jr., the descendent of one of America’s earliest families of European origin. Destined for a life in the practice of law, an abolitionist in less egalitarian times, the Harvard undergrad suffered from the measles in 1834 and nearly lost his eyesight.

If a file in a woodshop inspired the greatest conservationist in environmental history, John Muir, to undertake an adventure that would span his life, the measles had the same effect on one of the most inspiring sailors in literary history. Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s degenerating eyesight inspired a sea voyage, and being a proper heir to the age of colonial subversiveness, he forwent a long sea voyage for Europe and instead sailed around Cape Horn to the California coast, at the time the claim of Spain and its Catholic missionaries.

In 1835, he made landfall at Dana Point, where he and his fellow sailors hucked pelts from the cliffs to the beaches for shipping to the ports on the East Coast. His experience, his words, his thoughts—memorialized in an 1836 memoir called Two Years Before the Mast—passed into Moby Dick and the American literary legacy. Richard Henry Dana Jr. and Herman Melville are but two examples of the ocean’s provocativeness, and there are countless others.

Beaches alone comprise nearly a fifth of the adventures we’ve published at the Outdoor Project. That doesn’t count the paddles, surfing, and campgrounds that lay near the ocean’s roar. A sunset, plumes of seaspray erupting from spouts, historic lighthouses—our long and storied relationship with the sea endures in the way that we enjoy our time there today.

For this installment of the #52WeekAdventureChallenge, we celebrate the ocean, and we’ve covered it extensively. Check out one of our blog posts for the best beaches, lighthouses, and other ocean destinations.

Oceans

Beaches

Tide Pools

Lighthouses

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