Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
December 16, 2015
With the Gannets
Alongside at commercial port of Napier, NZ
Partly cloudy with a chance of rain, 16 C.
Art Deco and pristinely trimmed shrubbery all around. Seas: Calm.
Have you ever been stuck in a parallel universe? What?! You have? Wow. Well for the rest of you looking for that kind of experience, have I got the place for you: Napier, New Zealand. For the past two days, we have enjoyed strolling the streets of Napier, smelling that salty air, and imagining what this place might have been like in years past. It’s not too hard, though, because everything in this town was built in 1932. In Art Deco. I have never seen such dedication to font type in a single concentrated place. Even the plants are done in Art Deco. Each bush, every lawn, and every single square inch of all 5(I think?) public city gardens is meticulously manicured in this style. I was walking through America in the 1920s, in New Zealand in 2015. Parallel universe, folks. It was odd. But it was a lovely place and besides that creeping feeling that I had actually fallen into a worm-hole and had no hope of return, I would love to return to Napier some day.
Now, I’d like to say that even though Napier advertises pretty much only its architecture to its tourists, it does have more to offer. To start, it has a great assortment of restaurants and to be sure, between that and the giant America-sized grocery store, we all kept our bellies happy and full. But also, Napier has Cape Kidnappers to offer, and I personally believe that this was much more of a draw than the eerie resemblance to a retrograde America.
Cape Kidnappers has a huge significance in New Zealand’s history, as it was where one of Captain Cook’s (captain James Cook was the first European explorer to circumnavigate and map New Zealand, making it possible to colonize in the late 18th century). Tahitian crewmembers was mistaken for a Māori prisoner by local Māori and consequently kidnapped from the ship. The encounter ended with death. But Napier doesn’t use that at all for its tourist attraction strategies.
On top of that, Cape Kidnappers is home to some unreal geologic evidence, cliffs and natural scenery that could make you cry, and most importantly, to several colonies of the Australasian Gannets. Thirteen of us went to the Cape and took a tractor tour of the beach that led up to the colonies. After a majestic hike up a hill, we were greeted with hundreds of nesting birds. Griffin cried. Hayley cried. Gabbo cried. Maya passed out. Rocky cried. Ollie cried. Emma cried. We all cried, except for Jan the wizard who said “Ah, yes. The Gannet. Welcome.” A tiny crack of a smile broke on his face as he bestowed the birds with his presence. It was incredible. It smelled terrible, but I could spend hours watching these birds circle and land, finding their mate and feeding strange fuzzy undeveloped things. Eventually, when these fuzzballs become fully developed and gain the ability to fly, these seabirds will fly straight from New Zealand to Australia. Their first flight ever is this long-ass journey. I don’t even know how to drive.
Needless to say, we drove back to Napier in silence, trying to digest what we just encountered. Birds. Wow. And there was Jan, just smiling his sweet all-powerful, all-knowing smile. We passed through the time warp town and settled back onto Mama Seamans, unsure of how we could possibly relate to others what we just went through.
Tomorrow we will set sail again, leaving Napier and the Gannets of Cape Kidnappers behind. I will go back to the sailing routine a changed woman, knowing now the secrets of the Gannets. In awe and in love. One day, perhaps I too will take my knowledge gleaned in this semester of sailing and make my own trek from the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island to Australia, joining the rank of the Gannets. Perhaps. Sending all my love to my people back home,