Thursday, September 1, 2011

Water, Sky, and Two New Plates...

Blog Entry #8

9:00 am Thursday September, 2011

Greetings from the North Atlantic!  We are now NE of the Azores, and due west of Lisbon, Portugal, and less than 2 days from Casablanca, Morocco – hard to believe.

Morning Thursday, Sept 1, 2011
We have had beautiful weather in the 2+ days since my last entry, and are now 6 days out of Montreal.  Life on the North Atlantic has taken on a familiar rhythm, as we settle into classes and life on the ship.  One thing that continues to impress: the ocean is VAST and IMPRESSIVE!  I know I knew it intellectually, but now it is impressing itself on me experientially that what I am experiencing here, day after day – long expanses of ever-changing sea and sky – is actually the vast majority of the surface of the earth.  Land has receded into a distant memory here.

Ship's Position 7:00 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We of course are lucky to have GPS on board, so with a glance at Google Earth we can tell where we are on the ocean at any point in time.  Hence I could celebrate crossing our first plate boundary as we sailed over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge yesterday: off the North American plate, and temporarily on to the Euro-Asian plate; by tomorrow we should have crossed on to the African plate which will be our tectonic home for the next several weeks, until we sail to India from Mauritius.

View from Cabin 4077

Morning Sunshine off the Bow, September 1, 2011
Without GPS and satellite imagery, it would be very difficult for a lay person like me to have any idea where we are.  In fact, one of the fascinating films we watched a couple days ago is called “Longitude” which chronicles a famous competition in England in the early 1700s to find a way to determine the Longitude – how far east or west a ship is from a particular point, in this case, Greenwich, England – a very difficult task that required keeping accurate time at sea.  Latitude – how far north or south of the equator one is – had long been able to be calculated by the North-South position of the ship, length of days, etc. – but this was not true for Longitude.  A truly amazing story and accomplishment.

Ocean Blue!

Sunset, August 31, 2011

The main theme of this blog entry is “Water and Sky – since that is dominating our days here.  It’s clich√©, I know, but the varieties of seas and skies here seems endless. 

I’m drawn, of course, to the dramatic sunrises and especially sunsets, but mid-day is equally fascinating.  One thing I had not anticipated is how deep blue the ocean is now that we have left the continental shelf – “Crater Lake Blue” I call it, for it reminds me of the deep blue of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in North America and prior to this voyage the deepest water I had been on.  Very different from the dark green we experienced off of Boston and Newfoundland.

New Friends at Sunset on Deck 6
It is nice to be settling into a rhythm of teaching my 3 classes here, and so far the students seem genuinely engaged and interested, which is delightful.  I’m still adjusting to the rocking motion of the ship while I teach – a couple times I have nearly landed in a student’s lap when the ship lurched – but overall I seem to be adjusting well. 

The North Atlantic on this crossing has been far different than what I imagined – warm temperatures, mostly sunny, seas relatively calm (although we did have a couple days of fairly large waves and whitecaps, but still relatively smooth sailing) – in fact I have grown to really like the gentle rocking of the ship at night when we sleep.  

Waves outside Cabin 4077

Fortunately neither Pat nor I have experienced much in the way of sea-sickness – knock on wood.  I know we will encounter rougher seas at different times during the voyage, but it is a confidence builder to have nearly made it across the Atlantic without any nausea.

Sunset, Tuesday, August 30, 2011
2 days until Casablanca!  Pat and I will be leading a trip with students to Marrakech, and then into the Atlas Mountains to visit several Berber villages.   The Atlas Mountains!!  This is the North African sibling range to our Appalachians, formed when Africa and North America collided tens of millions of years ago, and separated by the more recent spreading of the Mid-Atlantic ridge – the world’s longest mountain range.  (Oh, and the cultures are bound to be interesting too… J )  My brother, Stu, spent 2 years in Morocco in the late 80s as a veterinarian with the Peace Corps and has given us lots of things to look for while we are there; stay tuned for these experiences.


  1. Dan, it's been wonderful to read about your experiences and to see your pictures of water and sky: wow. Keep them coming! I can't wait read your impressions of Morocco--it's such a colorful and fascinating place, both geographically and culturally. (On a lighter note, I recommend buying a rug if you have the chance. You won't regret it!) :)

  2. beautiful photos and descriptions--I'm glad the voyage has been good so far!

  3. Dan, my husband Rick and I were thrilled to discover your blog tonight. I was enjoying every word and picture from the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic. I especially loved your shots of Quebec city and the farms along the river. My dad's family is from Quebec and Montreal.. And THEN, what a surprise, I saw my son in one of your pictures! (Tim Roe, far right, with Univ of San Diego t-shirt.) We'll be checking back regularly! Dianne Piche