Yesterday felt like it was going to be a great day just by seeing the blue sky when I woke up. Then I called home and joined in with some celebrating friends and cracked open my own bottle of fizz for breakfast, becoming happily tipsy under the morning sunshine. For the first time in about a week we had a 360 degree horizon and at it’s proper distance of a few miles away, rather than the fogged in version of 100 – 200 metres away that has wrapped us up recently. My world seemed huge once more and I lapped up the views, the blues, the calm and, to a degree, the warmth and lack of damp.
All creatures great and small
And it was a great day. We rowed (albeit slowly) in the right direction and from dawn to dusk it was full of birds of all shapes and sizes – from the tiny, frenetic storm petrels circling my boat and skipping across the glassy water, to the torpedo-shaped gadfly petrels hurtling about, the lonesome Arctic tern eyeing us from on high, through to my favourites of them all – the albies who glided majestically over the waves, soaring on whispers of wind invisible to anyone but the expert flier.
The calm gave perfect viewing into the planktic world too and I marvelled at the jellied things drifting and propelling themselves by. And of course my fish beneath the boat – they were all (five of them) busy wandering this way and that in all dimensions doing whatever fish do. I feel if only I looked more like a fish I could do a great fish impression, having studied their swimming and gawping and noseying so intently out here.
Cue the hottest part of the day. At this point I am struggling to stay focussed on the oars. Roasting hot and mind wandering, I manage only a few minutes of rowing at a time before thinking of other things to do or inventing things to check up on. The sea looked perfect for a swim and my muscles longed for cool so I looked over from my seat into the blue on my right to assess the situation …
Suddenly my biggest fish seemed to be metres bigger than normal: Team Happy Socks had just been joined by a shark. Right next to my boat, the silky smooth shape slid effortlessly beneath us. Grinning and gasping, I grabbed my Go Pro camera on a pole and plunged it underwater, hoping I wasn’t filming just the sea or just the boat or indeed that it had switched on properly. A few moments later and this beautiful creature was gliding back towards my camera for a look before hanging a left and dissolving silently into the blue once more. I have just played back the piece to camera which I recorded afterwards – I am grinning the hugest grin, giggling with excitement. Needless to say, I didn’t go for a swim. Though I did spend almost as much time gazing over the edge of the boat hoping for another moment with this king of the seas as I did pulling on the oars. I spent the rest of the day and night’s rowing, feasting on the encounter – far and away the most thrilling and touching of this year’s ocean journey so far. Privilege doesn’t even touch it – I felt like the luckiest person on the planet to be so close to such a predator, one so threatened by fisheries and the Asian appetite for shark fin soup (arguably the most barbaric and inhumanely-acquired dish you could ever eat).
As I kept look out for more wildlife, it left me wondering at the countless creatures – little and large, gilled, shelled or flippered – who come and say hello without me even noticing. I wondered, too, at just what I would have done had I not seen the shark when I did and merrily dropped into the water, only to come face to face with it moments later. I think we all know – squeal and leap out. I love being on the ocean for that, glimpsing only a fraction of the secrets it holds. Most of all however, I wondered at whether my future children will have any chance of seeing wild sharks in the deep ocean. I sincerely hope so.
And with that, I am about to rock out a much-welcomed and not-at-all welcomed Anchor day. The rest it provides is very much appreciated (I have had 3 hours sleep in the last 24 in a bid to row as much as possible) though the backwards miles it belies are not.
Until next time,
Sarah, Happy Socks and our good friend The Shark x
PS: Thank you everyone for your kind words to Lucy and I. If I can persuade some others to talk – we may well bring you some titbits from the team on what it is like to be involved in such an expedition. As many of you alluded to – it is not easy being at home, and there is a lot of psychology involved.
Replies to comments:
Bruce Ellen: A few fish left now – but none of the Tweedles. This lot are not quite so curious, but company nonetheless. No greenflash yet…
Susie Hewson: I would want a whole packet of biscuits with my tea, not just one J
James Ogilvie: I am limited by bandwidth out here so av podcast will need to wait until the other side. Do check out my Twitpic feed (homepage and gallery) for latest photos. As for psych/emotion – absolutely. It is the biggest challenge of all.
Michael Livingstone: What lat and long are Shumagin islands? I can pick them out on my world map. Sadly I don’t think I can row there this time but would love to expedition to the Aleutians some day.
Ian: Fog at sea is the same as fog on land – caused by warm moist air flowing over cooler air or vice versa. There is lots of it about at these latitudes.