It’s a great day in the Pacific, which thankfully at the moment is living up to the name given it by Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan—“Mar Pacifico,” meaning “peaceful sea.” Our weather forecast is unchanged so we know that this won’t last. The ocean has gone from blue to grey, the underlying oceanic swells have more of a purposeful movement and we are responding by double-checking that all of our equipment is safely stowed and secured.
We spend our working lives on the sea and feel a deep connection with her—in many ways we might say that we are defined by the sea. We react to her moods, relish the vibrancy of diving in the world’s largest and least understood ecosystem, love the sense of exploring the depths and we are obviously affected by storms.
And yet, this is 2014 and we are on our beautiful expedition ship, the Hanse Explorer, which weighs in at 885 tons, carries enough fuel to travel 8,000 nautical miles at 11 knots and is equipped with the finest suite of safety, navigation and communication equipment. In the last 24 hours we have sailed 275 nautical miles and our only contribution to the effort has been to eat a lot of great food—which must help, since we’re lightening the load, right?
Given our comfortable passage I can’t help but wonder about the early Rapan settlers who traveled these waters 800 years ago: Triggered by winning or losing battles, changing climate, crop failure, disease, poor fishing, overpopulation or the desire to explore, the Polynesian people sailed thousands of miles in dug-out canoes with sails woven from padana tree leaves and made legendary landfalls after navigating by using only the sun and stars, wildlife behavior, cloud formations and their feel of the sea. They could actually “feel” the land even when it was still over the horizon and therefore impossible to see.
We don’t know who these early travelers were and, unbelievably, we don’t know where they came from. They could have originated in any of the Polynesian islands and could even have come from Easter Island (Rapa Nui) but one thing we know for sure is that they were brave, committed seafarers whose expectations were a lot different than our own. Even with the incoming bad weather we know exactly when and where we will make our landfall at Rapa Iti. The early Polynesians had to take much bigger risks and would not have known when, where or even if they would survive their explorations.
The Pristine Seas expedition to Rapa is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.