An update from my Mom, who's on a trip that's given me a glimpse into what I'd like to do when I grow up and retire:
A bit of drama on the high seas for this report. We are now only a few hours from Ascension Island, finishing the third of our days at sea since St. Helena. This afternoon the captain saw a fishing vessel without appropriate identification within the restricted waters that surround Ascension, so we varied from our course to catch up with it and get the numbers and name painted on the side. It seems to be either Chinese, Japanese or Korean, and is very similar to one the Endeavor – the Lindblad sister ship – identified on this same voyage in 2008. All of the information has now been forwarded to Ascension, just as it was then, but since Ascension is without any real fishing patrol boat, apparently little can be done.
While all that was going on, the ship doctors were arranging a med-evac for one of the women on board, who has been ill for two days now, with symptoms that the limited diagnostic equipment on board fails to identify. She is the wife of one of the National Geographic photographers, so she is going into the hospital on Ascension.
Then, the decision was made to send the ROV (Remote Observation Vehicle) to investigate a sea mount, which is an underwater volcano that has been eroded by seawater so that the top is essentially flattened. This particular one is three miles in diameter and 50 feet deep. The diver/naturalist on board reported that he now has the first photographs taken of this area. He most probably will organize the images for a report within the next couple of days. Bert was on the bridge to watch all this, and is bringing home the fathometer profile.
And, finally, the crew went fishing for our dinner and brought in a very large yellow-tail tuna and a wahoo, both more than enough for one of the dinner options. They also struggled for 45 minutes with an even larger fish, this time close to the ship, so there was an opportunity to watch. Eventually, the line broke, but there was plenty of entertainment. Plus, when they were exiting the side gate to get into the zodiac to go fishing, a very small Portuguese man of war washed in, so we were treated with an up front and personal look at a cereal bowl full of potential menace!
Up early tomorrow morning for a zodiac tour around Boatswain Bird Island, home to thousands of birds, and a full day tour of Ascension, closing with a late night visit to the beaches where the turtles are laying their eggs. What's fascinating is that the males never come on shore, but the females may come on shore more than once, each time leaving behind as many as 100 fertilized eggs. Because they are vegetarians, though, they breed here, but don't feed here. Instead they swim all the way to the coast of South America to feed. Obviously, they can go months without eating. If they swim west, finding that coast isn't difficult. What IS difficult to imagine is their finding this island when they come back, and even more so the little guys who are born here, and also make that journey. Whew!