News and Reflections | Pacific Voyagers

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News and Reflections

What a treat! Last night was news catchup time as Joe brought out a few Fiji newspapers from late April and the entire set of games on DVD that saw Fiji win the quarters, semis and final in the Hong Kong Sevens Tournament. Our crew couldn’t help but be excited about the games as Fiji played superb sevens rugby throughout. Any time we beat Australia, Argentina, England and then New Zealand in four straight games it’s time to celebrate! Made us feel closer to home. Then just this morning as we docked we learned Fiji won the last leg in London beating New Zealand and Samoa along the way! Made us proud as we paraded to our welcoming ceremony.
As we read and reread the newspapers the number of articles that had a nautical or marine science theme became evident. The interest in the ocean and its resources continues to escalate as more and more people attempt to exploit it for profit. Some activities are less disturbing than others and may well actually be a positive influence on marine conservation as is the case with the ecotourism of shark diving. The economy in Fiji surrounding those that come here to “dive with sharks” is impressive and should provide the impetus required to help our lawmakers see the benefit and need to ban shark fishing in Fiji once and for all. Manoa Rasigatalei and friends of Fiji’s cartillaginous creatures keep up the great effort on their behalf.

However not all articles read were positive. We discovered that off the west coast of South America hundreds of porpoises have been found dead. There’s a hypothesis that due to the large numbers dying at once that the cause may be generated from the deep sea mining Sonar probes that generate high amounts of sound energy that has the ability to disrupt the delicate homeostatic systems of these mammals causing hemmoraging. We’ve learned that deep sea mining searches have begun in Fiji. It is hoped that similar probes are not used here!

The tuna fishing industry remains in the news. Will the largest remaining migratory stock of tuna in the world, the South Pacific one, be depleted by overharvesting caused by too many vessels with the capacity to extract too many tuna too quickly? The saga continues as people line up on different sides depending upon their particular interest in tuna. What we do know is what we’ve observed during our ocean odyssey. The tuna stocks in different parts of the Pacific Ocean have been depleted by systematic and regular overfishing caused by long liners and purse seiners. We went for many days at a time without seeing a feeding flock of birds, bait fish or tuna schools, nor did we catch large numbers of tuna while trolling.

There were articles about big game fishing [hopefully catch, photograph and release]; surfing; competitive sailing and paddling; swimming and water safety; global warming and coral bleaching; sharks; and a very disturbing article about survival at sea that hit home for a number a reasons. The details are worth discussing for a moment.

The incident took place in mid-March of this year. A Panamanian man and two friends went fishing in a small fishing boat off the west coast of Central America. Their motor failed and they drifted with the winds and currents for 16 days without help arriving. Their food supplies were meagre and there was little water and no rain. On the 16th day a large ocean liner passed close enough to them so that they waved a red sweater to indicate they required help desperately. Bird watching passengers saw them through spotting scopes and photographed the boat while reporting their sighting to the liner’s administrative officers as they were not permitted to enter the bridge. Nothing was done and the cruise liner sailed on leaving the boat to drift another two weeks and two of the three men died of exposure and lack of water. The third man was rescued by Ecuadorean fishermen near the Galapagos Islands. He drank rainwater he had collected which saved his life. Here’s the fascinating part. We could have been very close to this boat as we were sailing between Cocos Island and Galapagos during that time! We did observe cruise liners passing, but never close as the rules of the road necessitate that a motorised vessel will always gave a wide berth to a sailing vessel.

We checked back in our log book which we fill out every three hours or when an event happens on board or at sea. Indeed we were in the vicinity, but as the article does not give co-ordinates we do not know how close we really were! The tragedy of course was the decision made by the authorities on the cruise liner that the man waving a red sweater miles at sea didn’t require assistance is mind boggling! Wouldn’t you think that maritime law requires vessel captains to err on the side of safety and not expediency? What is a delay of an hour or so for such a liner when compared to the lives of those men?

During late night watches when one is all alone with his thoughts standing on the bow and observing the “endless” ocean, it is not too difficult to imagine being stranded – falling overboard and floating – waiting for a rescue that may never come. This occurred at a time when many on board the UnY were reading the best seller “In Harms Way” the true story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during WWII and the aftermath of that disaster. Over 1100 crew started on board and less than 400 survived the torpedo sinking, the paucity of life saving equipment, sharks, salt water hallucinations and the major bungles of several key people in the US Navy.

Often the intangible, but very important factor that separates those that survive from those that die is man’s indomitable spirit, his will to live. It’s something our voyaging ancestors had in large amounts! That spirit of adventure, the mana they brought with them from their ancestors and a healthy respect for the vastness and power of the ocean.
What have you done today to contribute to the rebirth of our ocean? Tabo soro……..

next stop Rarotonga!

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