Day seven in the Solomon Sea dawned cloudy but still calm and flat. We were in the Southern Hemisphere.
To celebrate I walked right around the ship factory – be hanged if I’d worry about their hydro-blasting. I was careful, though and waved at the workers as they wielded their spray.
I noticed when you walked towards the stern, it appeared we were travelling at a greater speed than a leisurely stroll towards the bow, going forward into the waves.
I was sure doctorates would have been written about that physics hundreds of years ago but it struck me as an interesting phenomena as the speed really does seem to increase to an eerie extent; a cargo ship zipped past, dare I say at the rate of knots (whatever that means) in no time at all.
The sounds outside, apart from the bow where they were hydroblasting this day, were accentuated by a little wind picking up chains as they hung on metal struts and clinked against their supports, the hiss of airco vents and rumble of other engines apart from the main engine, the water blasting and the fizz of taps affixed and, depending on where I was on the ship, the slap and splash-sizzle of freshly ploughed waves rolling back from the bow.
The land of lightning clouds the night before was indeed the tip of Papua New Guinea. I checked on the Bridge. As we had travelled through that dramatic portal of clouds and flashes, the sky began to cover itself in shame. During the next day we still bore pennants of grey. Above them, fluffy clouds tried to expand themselves like angry toads. But they were no match for the whip strikes of dark clouds over the flat sombre sea.
Today El Mar was covered in wavelets, ready to rise up at a moment’s notice, should the rain retreat. Those heavy disapproving clouds were spilling rain, dropping moisture sucked up from the hills of the Solomon Islands, places with unwieldy names like New Britain or New Ireland featuring bays and inlets, that on a map printed in 2007, were still unsurveyed. Third Officer Myo Han said if there were no profit, no trade or commerce, to be made there there was no reason for it to be surveyed. Wonder what Alfred Russel Wallace would have made of such cynicism from a twenty-five-year-old.
This day also brought more shipping into view. The first things I saw out of my window were two tankers stretched out upon the flat.
I had been onboard for a week. I remembered how the strangeness and impossibility of being on one train for six days had gone through the hourglass just as surely as this fortnight would too. I was half-way through my journey to Auckland.
The comfort level on board ship was far greater than the basic camping I had encountered on the TransMongolian Railway. I found it intriguing, my mental mind-mapping of the size of time adapted to the length of time. Again, I was sure doctorates existed to explain the perception of time – how long is a long wait – a Robert Lepage play of nine hours is definitely shorter than an occupational health and safety lecture of one hour (especially in Spanish). And an ocean voyage may well be perceived as longer than a flight if turbulence was involved!
Some people were in a hurry. Perhaps I had a long life to look forward to and could afford to take my time. Perhaps I had a slower brain.
I watched ‘Bridge of Spies’, another Tom Hanks classic directed by Stephen Spielberg. (Captain Phillips not on the hard drive!) Another travel film (in a manner of speaking – okay – they went to Berlin and talked about Russia) it was big, slick and beautiful. It was about the rule of law, insurance policies and how nice Americans were. Every frame was as elegant as a Wes Anderson film. The art design was flawless. The colour palette across furnishings and wardrobe was perfect; shapes of cars, furniture and sculptures spoke clearly of time and place.
I didn’t believe Tom Hanks had a cold. Perhaps he had to protect his make-up? Mark Rylance was breath-taking in that he really did take his time. He was settled into Abel like a chicken on a clutch of eggs.
Given the current politics in the USA I wondered what audiences made of it even as they were being brought to heel. No longer should they fear the red under the bed. The red didn’t count anymore. Only money counted. Some of their best online friends were Russian.