Friday, November 2, 2012

South Atlantic Crossing

The 10-day crossing from Cape Town, South Africa, to Buenos Aires, Argentina was a unique experience. Apparently very little travel or trade takes place in this route across the South Atlantic. We saw nothing, no ships, no land, no boats, no planes, and hardly any sign of life. A few albatrosses were following us for several days, giving an even more eerie feeling to how alone we were in the world. I didn't feel isolated, but instead felt deeply connected to the ocean. The water and skies looked different every day, depending on the clouds, the light and the time of day, the depth, the swells, and various factors that paint a different picture for us. The crossing was peaceful and fun. I don’t know another time I will ever be removed from society for such an extended period of time, especially with the uniqueness of being in the middle of nowhere, yet surrounded by a shipboard community sharing the experience. I've grown to love the days at sea. I am going to miss having the Atlantic Ocean as my front and back yards. Numerous magical moments seem to occur, like looking out a cabin window and seeing the moonlight illuminate the black sea in the middle of the night suddenly remembering that I’m going to bed in the middle of the ocean, someone yelling “whale!” as a rush of people move towards the edge of the deck, sitting outside in the sun and being surrounded by the ocean on all sides, looking at flying fish gliding over the water before diving back in, dolphins who seem happy to see us as they swim along with us, watching the sun set along the horizon every day, always different from the previous one always hoping for a green flash, having breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day with great friends and an ocean view, or staring out at the night sky, getting lost in the blackness and the multitude of stars. I’m going to miss a daily routine that I will likely never have again, especially when I think of all the experiences unique to life on the MV Explorer, such as the shipboard library, Glazer lounge, the field office, the purser’s desk, Tymitz Square, the Union, main dining room, garden lounge, snack time, the piano bar, cabin stewards, dining hall crew members, bridge tours, bing bong announcements, the tv loop, special dinner, cabin parties, extended families, trying to shoot a three-point shot or lift weights during a rocking ship, Mexican dinner, ice cream cake and cookies, deck 7 pool, gym, and bar, powerful wind, Sea Olympics, Neptune Day, talent shows, explorer seminars, the gangway, shipboard time, dock time, pre-ports, post-ports, always carrying around a water bottle, global studies, walking up and down flights of stairs, trying to walk in a straight line down a hallway, never having the slightest idea of what day it is but instead operating on A-days and B-days, never having a wallet or keys, and everything that makes up our days on the ship. Living with students, staff, faculty, lifelong learners, and dependents makes for a fun and interactive shipboard community. Since I work on a college campus back at JMU, I think I will miss having the close interaction that I currently have since we all live and work together on the ship. The MV Explorer has truly become my home, and all of us on the ship share a special connection in the way we experience a college semester on a ship, an experience unlike any other I've had before. Some people say that going on a cruise afterwards is absolutely nothing like the Semester at Sea experience, which seems obvious and makes sense, and also makes me a little sad to know that our sailing around the Atlantic this Fall, especially on a long 10-day crossing surrounded by nothing, nothing but the vast ocean, is a unique experience that simply cannot be replicated; how happy and grateful I am to be here.     


  1. Amazing, interesting and you put it all together so well. You gave me a unique feeling of your days on the Explorer...I almost felt that I was living it. Thank you Jonathan.

  2. I'm going to give a shout out here to Andre, Tom Hoffman, and his little dog Ember in Chantilly, Virginia.

  3. Do not have telepathic intercourse with these beings!