We left the island of Maui in the afternoon and we cruised south for 4 days toward the equator and thus entered the So. Pacific. Our first destination was going to American Samoa. This island is an incorporated territory of the United States.
On the second all-sea day, I felt very excited to be visiting this region of the world which I had read so much about as a child.
My curiosity about the South Pacific began as a youth when I started reading Moby Dick. One of the characters was the chief harpooner Queequeg aboard the whaling ship Pequod and sailing with Captain Ahab. Queequeg, according to the book, left a Pacific island in order to see the world. The tribal tattoos throughout his body made him a distinctive figure. According to the book, he was once a cannibal. I learned on this trip that a few of the European missionaries that began settling these islands in the 1800s did "die" after landing on some of the Polynesian islands with cannibals.
Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived and is buried in Samoa, wrote Treasure Island. His book, which I also read, highlighted pirates in the Caribbean Sea but I learned as a child that there were also pirates in the Polynesian regions. In fact, even to this date, Southeast Asian waters, in addition to the African coast, still has a major pirating problem.
I was excited and intrigued to read these books and the best was yet to come. I still remember seeing the creative book cover of Jules Verne Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I was captivated once I entered the imagination of this prophetic author.
I enjoyed reading about the exploits of Indian Prince Dakkar (commonly referred to as Captain Nemo) and his submarine, the Nautilus. I wondered what it would be like to walk underwater and see the creatures all around. I kept imagining and was fascinated with the issue of what one would see if one traveled through the five oceans. So exactly why do we refer to our planet as Earth when it is 70% salt water? By the time I finished this marvelous book I was full of dreams and thoughts of someday traveling around the world and whenever possible, peek under water in those areas. I couldn't put the book down. Once I completed it, I couldn't wait to read his next book.
Next on my reading list was Monsieur Verne's book Mysterious Island, which evolved on a fictitious South Pacific island. Jules Verne described the So. Pacific in such a way that it seem like paradise.
A quick side note. My mother required that I also attend elementary school in Mexico. Thus, I would attend evening school. My teacher assigned these wonder books. I found the Spanish version to be far more descriptive. Her class presentations about the themes of travel and exploration made Verne's vivid stories even more memorable. ?íGracias maestra Montes!
I recall that I couldn't wait to see the Walt Disney movie version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In the movie, the Nautilus was propelled by nuclear power. This was a major deviation from the book. The idea of that type of self contained power source for propulsion seemed intriguing. This topic in the book, and the movie, introduce me to the fears of uncontrolled use of nuclear energy. I was deeply disturbed and saddened as I grew up to learn that France conducted 193 atmospheric nuclear explosions, and the US 150, in the South Pacific.
These were open air nuclear explosions which allowed nuclear dust to spread by air and currents throughout the Pacific. What was the impact on the other islanders in the vicinity? What was the long-term contamination to the sea life? 343 open air high-yield hydrogen, nuclear explosions in the Pacific Ocean! Each of these H-bombs are estimated to be 1,000 more powerful that the one dropped on Hiroshima. What were we thinking back then? What were we trying to prove by contaminating with long term nuclear radiation the largest water source on our planet? (Between 1946 and 1996 approximately 2,000 open atmospheric nuclear explosions had occurred. 1000+ by the US, Soviet Union (700+), France (200+), United Kingdom and China (45 each). Source, United Nations)
What were the policy makers, and those that elected them, thinking when they were exposing our ecosystem to worldwide nuclear contamination?
At 1:00 pm we officially crossed the equator. Thus, we officially left Spring behind and entered the Fall season. The outside temperate is expected to remain constant in the mid-80s but we will begin to see daylight hours decrease in a day or two.
Throughout my life I have also seen gorgeous pictures of the Polynesian islands and now, in a few days, I was going to find out firsthand if they were real or fictitious.
We have two more days in the open ocean before we reach American Samoa.