SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
December 17, 2016
Is That a Volcano?
37° 03.5’S x 176°36.0’E
Bay of Plenty
Ship’s Heading & Speed
320° True, 6.8 knots
Motoring under the Stays’ls on a starboard tack
Clear, light breeze out of the northwest
There are a few questions one does not expect to ask when stationed at lookout; “Is that a volcano?” is one of them. Yet I asked it at about 0600 this morning, and the response was a definitive yes. Just after sunrise the white cloud of steam rising broad on the port bow heralded our imminent arrival at Whakaari, also known as White Island. The white plume stood out markedly against the blue morning sky, a lone cloud standing out from its breathren stretched out astern of the Seamans to indicate where we had left the North Island behind (the Land of the Long White Cloud was aptly named).
With low winds and gentle seas, we enjoyed a picturesque view of Whakaari upon our closer approach. A post-lunch photo-op accompanied a pause in sailing to simply enjoy the fascinating geological marvel. Despite the obvious activity below the surface, life bloomed on the island. Patches of green blanketed the northern and western faces, and our charts indicated that it was home to a wildlife sactuary, promising more than just plant life on the rocky slopes. But our visit was short-lived, and soon we were motoring away once more, crossing the Bay of Plenty on our way to Auckland.
Exciting as it was to see the volcano, it is sobering to realize that today was our last Saturday of the trip. A week from now, many of us will be back in the United States or continuing our travels where we will. We have been confinded together in a fascinating social experiment for almost five weeks now, and it is strange thinking how soon our family will part ways for the last time. For while we are here, we are a family, a community, in a world all our own. Our brief respite in Napier was a taste of something we had not seen in weeks, and I think it is starting to sink in that upon their return home, each and every one of the individuals on board will be changed in some way or another. As we are in the land of Middle Earth, it is fitting that this trip began with a Tolkien reference, and I will end it with another. We have gone “there and back again” as Captain Pamela promised. But at this point I think of a scene in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:
Bilbo: Can you promise me I will come back?
Gandalf: No. And if you do you will not be the same.
We have all been changed by this experience. Both the students and the professional crew have gone to places they have not seen before; this adventure will live on in their thoughts for years ahead. And these experiences are worth more than any souvenir.