Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thoughts on the Last Leg

As we begin the last leg of our journey, I would like to describe my experience aboard the Robert C. Seamans to you, but I am afraid it is inexpressible. You see, this is one of those moments in life that you have to experience for yourself.

During our journey thus far, the sea-sickness monster had its way with many of us, including me. However, we have gathered as a community and overcame our obstacles. No longer are we eating saltines and ginger ale for dinner (to all you parents, that is not what they serve us for dinner but a great option when feeling sea-sick). No longer are we awkwardly stumbling over our feet as the waves rock the boat by-and by. We have earned our sea legs. We watch each other’s backs. We heave and ho as a unit. We cook for each other. Clean for each other. Care for each other. We have learned that one strand of string can easily be broken, but a rope entwined with many is strong enough to brace a mains’l. We work as a community, not afraid to get on our hands and knees together and clean the soles (floor of the boat) with a sponge and bucket of water. [I am inclined to say that the boat is cleaner that most of the people on the boat! We keep the boat even cleaner than my home in Tennessee. My mom would be proud.] I will spare you the details (you may not know how much you will appreciate this courteous gesture) of the smell that we are acquiring as our journey progresses. It is not the smell of the ship or the oceanic specimens we have collected. My dear reader, it is that of your loved ones. It is the smell of a shirt that remains unchanged---for days; it is the smell of your child who has not bathed in a week. If you could only see the beaming smile on one who flaunts a freshly laundered shirt or washed hair after a freshwater shower (even if it lasts only a few hours).

As we embark on our journey, some of us like to imagine ourselves as sailors, others as scientists, and some as pirates. Personally, I succumb to my generation’s media and glorification of a pirate and will hesitantly admit that I find myself every so often singing “A Pirate’s Life for Me” or humming the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song while on lookout at the bow.
Epicness in its entirety.

Together, we have embarked on the ultimate adventure. I yearn to describe to you the way the world looks from the bow during a clear starry night. The way the deep velvety waters cloaks our path like an ebony satin sheet. The salty mist of the sea spraying our sun-kissed faces as the sun plays peek-a-boo with the horizon. How the stars sing to us in their own version of Morse code while the night’s shooting diamonds wish us a safe journey home. A photograph cannot capture the electric blue pigment of the ocean or the magnificent bioluminescence as the night waves crash against the side of the Seamans. Words cannot articulate how the moon manifests its mastery over the night sky or the majestic fashion in which the Milky Way transcends the heavens. I wish you could share our joy as we cry “Land ho!” together when we first see the contour of land silhouetted against the azure sky. If only I could bottle up the smell of the sea and bring home with me.

If only I could share the feeling of having absolutely nothing in sight for miles or take you along with me on the head-rig as we sail away --with dolphins swimming along our bow. Only here have I been able to watch the sun completely traverse the sky, rising in the east and setting in the west; a recurrent phenomenon I will never forget.

This is a humbling experience, to say the least. The power of the ocean dominates our course and its mystery enchants our intellect.  Being one of 39 people on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I cannot help but imagine the thousands of souls that have sailed this ocean before me and have lost their lives to the high seas. It is far too easy to look over the rail and see the water and the sun—what is viewable to the human eye—and forget about the beauty that lies beneath the ocean surface.

-Calah Hanson

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