Saturday, 22 March 2014

Watery Reflections

 Hello all! We are still bobbing about like a cork, waiting for the waves to calm so that we can squeeze in a little bit more science before having to return to Punta. With fuel-bunkering and port facilities booked in for the 24th, after about 3pm this afternoon we will have to begin the two day steam back to Chile.

We still have some 6-7 m waves to ride!

Yesterday, I telephoned my grandparents who, both in their mid-nineties, live just up the road from a beautiful little bay called Cwm-Yr-Eglwys in West Wales. I was wondering how long it would take for some of the water molecules thrashing about in Drake Passage to reach that little bay back at home. As a rough guess the surface waters would probably take tens of years to reach the UK, winding their way around the ocean gyres. For deep waters, to complete an overturning loop of the globe and pop up somewhere near the UK, we’re talking a much longer time – something like 1000 years. And, did you know that because there are more molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the sea (!), if I emptied a cup of water into the Southern Ocean now and then scooped a cup of water out of the Welsh sea twenty years later, I would most likely grab some of the original molecules!

Whilst on the phone, my nanny, Joy, described how as a girl, her mother used to read her ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Coleridge. She reminisced about how she had imagined what it must be like to watch the great albatrosses soaring across the waves. And there one was – right outside my cabin window. It was one of those moments when a hand from the past reaches out and grabs you, and I realized (again) how fortunate I am to have made this amazing journey.

View over the back deck of the JCR

So here is a snippet of the poem, along with a super sketch by Heather (who is from Somerset where, according to Wordsworth, the inspiration for the poem was seeded as he walked through the Quantock Hills with Coleridge. They were discussing the book ‘The World by Way of the Great South Sea’ by Captain George Shelvocke, which Wordsworth was reading at the time….):

Albatross Sketch by Heather

And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'

'God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look'st thou so?'—With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
Albatrosses enjoying the high winds!

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