By Niels Footman

In September of this year, scientists from Newcastle University made an astonishing discovery.

Using an ultra-resilient rig they’d built themselves, the team sent bait, traps and HD cameras to the unimaginably cold and forbidding depths of the Atacama Trench off the western coast of South America. Plunging 7,500m beneath water level, the trench is one of the deepest, most mysterious places on the face of the Earth.

And when they got there, they weren’t alone.

Despite the gargantuan pressures that prevail at such depths, scads of strange creatures call the area home. And after examining their footage, the team discovered an entirely new species: the snailfish (pictured above).


Big Fish in a Small Pond

Existing in such unusual and extreme conditions requires very special traits. Snailfish have gelatinous bodies, with no skeleton besides teeth and some inner-ear bones that provide balance. Though they are not especially large, the cold and pressure keep bigger creatures at bay, ensuring that snailfish are the dominant predators in their realm. “They seem,” said one of the team, “to be quite active and very well-fed.”

But the snailfish’s resilience brings with it an unavoidable vulnerability. So attuned are they to the crushing weight and temperatures of the deep sea, as soon as they are brought nearer the surface, their bodies simply melt away. Dominance and comfort in one domain breed fragility in others.

At Early Birds, we are fortunate enough to have one of the most enticing and supportive environments of any club in London. Though we generally avoid applying the kind of intense pressure and bone-chilling cold faced by snailfish, the club’s grand venue and pedigree do, we hope, engender a sense of pride and achievement in what we do.

But if you were to be removed from this milieu, and transported to the alien surrounds of a different venue, club or atmosphere, might your confidence simply melt away?


Beyond the Petri-Dish

Sadly, we can’t always address people only from our wonderful and secure home at Freemasons’ Hall. Which is why occasionally breaking free of the EBS petri-dish and seeing what the rest of Toastmasters has to offer can be such a rewarding experience. 

So while our home has unquestionably made us confident, “quite active and very well-fed”, let’s avoid the fate of the snailfish when transported away from their native environment. Let’s experience the rough and tumble of speaking to completely new audiences, or discover the many and varied ways our fellow clubs operate by going to evaluate them.

Don’t be a snailfish! Expand your horizons to other clubs and environments.