February 21-24, 2010 (At Sea & Guam)

FEBRUARY 20 & 21 – AT SEA

After leaving Yokohama we headed south. Did you know that there is constant volcanic activity in the Pacific Ocean and that it is 24,000 feet deep in spots? Just imagine the creatures that live in those depths… in absolute pitch darkness and utter stillness. I wonder how many ghost ships are down there too?

I had a conversation about “ships disappearing without a trace” with a Watch Captain near the Bridge yesterday – and rather wish I hadn’t. Every day vessels of all sizes are lost at sea… and many simply vanish without a distress call, and no wreckage is ever found. The Captain delighted in telling me what he thinks happens. Mariners among you may not want to read on…

In every ocean around the world, underwater volcanos “burp” and send a methane gas bubble to the surface. The bubble expands as it moves upward. In very deep water, that bubble has a long time to grow into a massive size. If a boat/ship happens to be in the path of the bubble when it “pops”, it will sink instantly, sucked into the depths, without warning of any kind. This happens because water pressure keeps boats afloat. When the bubble reaches the surface, the pressure is gone for a short time before it goes back to normal. By then, passenger and crew are on their way to Davy Jones Locker. Okay, so I’m not a scientist… but you get the gist.

I didn’t get much sleep last night. Burp.

FEBRUARY 22 – GUAM (Maiden Call)

Guam (one of the Northern Mariana Islands) is a hot and humid military stronghold for the USA. It was surrendered to the United States in 1898 as part of the Treaty of Paris following the Spanish American War. In December 1941, Guam was captured by the Japanese, hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and was occupied for 2.5 years. During that time, the people of Guam suffered terrible atrocities including torture, beheadings, and rape. They were forced to adopt the Japanese culture. American troops recaptured the island on July 21, 1944 – a date commemorated every year as Liberation Day.

Guam’s economy is supported primarily by tourism, with visitors almost exclusively from Japan (how’s that for irony). It is a tropical mecca for college aged kids (but not in a “slimy sense” like our stops in Malaysia/Thailand). There are about 12,000 military personnel living on the island as well – which keeps things under control, I’m sure.

Much of the island is overbuilt with hotels and high end shopping. This was our half way point between Japan and Papua New Guinea, making it a convenient place to stop and stretch our legs – other then that – not much to talk about.

FEBRUARY 23-24 (At Sea)

On the 23rd, Steve and I kept watch for methane gas bubbles sneakily disguised as waves.

On the 24th, we crossed the equator! The water in the toilet now swirls in the opposite direction when it flushes. How cool is that!

We had a Crossing the Line ceremony on the ship. Steve and I have “crossed” on a previous voyage – so we didn’t have to participate, whew, good thing. It was messy…

The tradition dates back to the 13th century, when it was decided that the world was round, not flat. The excitement of sailing into the southern part of the world became a special event commemorated in a mythological play involving King Neptune and his court who were “crossing the line” for the first time. These initiations took on various forms, some of which were highly dangerous. “Pollywogs” were coated with various nasty liquids found in the bilge of a ship and then suspended by the ankles and plunged into the sea. The modern day ceremony has changed little over hundreds of years and still contains a speech by King Neptune which originated in 1393. A “Pollywog” becomes a “Shellback” after the initiation. On the Queen Mary 2, Pollywog crew members were bombarded with pulverized foodstuffs from the galley. Some of it bordered on violence… making it clear who wasn’t well liked. Passengers were handled more delicately. Everyone was forced to kiss a fish. It was all immensely entertaining. Later on that evening… the severe equatorial sunburns radiated nuclear heat. Hello? Equator = Scorching Sun. Duh.

 

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