Today I’ve been listening to The River of Doubt
Roosevelt’s adventure took place during what came to be known as the Golden Age of Exploration. I don’t have access to the internet or Google here, so I’m writing from memory, but as I recall, the twenty years from 1895 to 1915 saw Peary lead the first expedition to successfully reach the North Pole, while Amundsen claimed the South Pole for Norway. The Brits established their reputation for spectacular failures, with Captain Scott and his unfortunate cohorts reaching the South Pole one month after Amundsen and perishing on the return journey, Shackleton’s famous but unsuccessful expeditions to Antarctica, and Franklin’s mysterious disappearance while attempting to penetrate the Northwest Passage.
Incidentally, and less famously, the first recorded ocean crossing by rowboat also took place in that era. In 1896 two Norwegian immigrants, Harbo and Samuelsen, rowed across the North Atlantic in their boat, The Fox. Their voyage was tremendously brave, but utterly miserable-sounding. The Fox had no watertight cabin, so they slept in the bottom of the hull. As now, the North Atlantic was rough, cold and wet. But unlike now, they had no GPS, no watermaker, and no technical clothing. These guys must have been hard as nails.
There’s a well-written book about their voyage, called Daring The Sea: The True Story
“Fatigue clouds judgment and frays tempers. It leads to immobility and deep depression. George and Frank had far more than an indifferent North Atlantic to conquer. They began to realise they had to face the weakness within themselves. Ashore, one’s self can hide in the frenetic pace of daily life, and weakness can be ignored – an impossibility at sea.”
And this brings me to my point. The usual terminology in relation to mountain peaks, oceans and poles is that we have “conquered” them all. This term makes me wince. If anybody refers to my having “conquered” an ocean, I point out that it is by the ocean’s good grace and my own good luck that I made it across. It seems just plain daft to say that a 5-foot-4 woman can “conquer” a body of water that covers half the planet.
But it is true that, with the notable exception of the ocean depths, we have now explored, charted, and measured just about every part of our planet. So where does that leave the aspiring explorers of the 21st century?
I’d like to suggest that, having “conquered” the Earth, it is time we came full circle, and attempted to conquer ourselves. The evidence would seem to suggest that humankind’s basic instinct is to exploit the natural resources around us to the point of exhaustion. I’d like to see us overcome that instinct, and to find a more symbiotic way of inhabiting the planet. This is the challenge for the new pioneers – to chart a course and lead the way to a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future.
After a couple of frustrating days being sent way off course, I’m now back on track. Conditions are windy and wild, and we had a bit of a knockdown while I was out on deck yesterday evening. It wasn’t much fun at the time, but I was tethered to the boat and so no harm was done. Today the waves have been big, but mostly Sedna has ridden them well, rising and falling with the swells rather than tipping from side to side.
More frenetic activity from the school of yellowfin tuna below my boat again today. They are great entertainment value.
Gooseneck barnacles had started to grow on the grablines that loop around the outside of the hull of my boat. Today I noticed that they have frond-like appendages that they wave around outside their shells. I assume that these are food-gathering appendages, rather than the, ahem, masculine appendage that caused so much ribald comment before. Whatever, I needed to evict these unwanted hitchhikers, so removed them with a pair of pliers. Gross.
Bruce – thank you for the Ten Commandments of the good doctor. Wise words indeed.
UncaDoug – I am also plotting my likely arrival date, using a rolling average starting from the halfway point. But I’m not telling!
Rico – thanks for the intercession with Neptune. Appreciated.
Marie – very true! And lucky you, living in Carmel Valley. Beautiful part of the world. I’m daydreaming about a road trip through California next year….
Quote, in honour of Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt (26th US President (1901-09), 1858-1919)
Sponsored Miles: John Miller, Nicola Faith, Andrew Lueken, Doug Grandt, Bonnie Sterngold, Nick Perdiew, Alexandra Stevens, Jeffrey Green – Thank you! 34 miles since yesterday morning.