Rebecca Clark - Science Manage onboard the Odyssey.
Photo: Chris Johnson
January 10, 2001
Paths to the Sea
Hi, this is Rebecca Clark speaking to you from the Odyssey.
On June 27, 1898 Joshua Slocum made his mark in history by being the first person to complete a single handed circumnavigation, which he describes memorably in a now Classic book, " Sailing Alone Around the World". Although it has been over a century since Slocum's epic three year circumnavigation, there are certain parallels between the beginning of his story and my own.
The opening line to Slocum's book reads:
"In the fair land of Nova Scotia, a maritime province, there is a ridge called North Mountain, overlooking the Bay of Fundy on one side and the fertile Annapolis Valley on the other."
Slocum, although an American citizen, was born and raised in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia. His family later moved to Brier Island, laying at the entrance to the Bay of Fundy, where two years later Slocum ran away from home to work on fishing schooners. Thus began his adventurous love affair with the sea.
By comparison, I was born in the United States, but moved to Annapolis County, Nova Scotia when I was two. I was raised on the Bay of Fundy side of North Mountain, not far from where Slocum lived. I would often walk the shores, watching the sea, watching the changes of the seasons, and wonder what it would be like to live on those lonely waves.
I did not have an opportunity to experience working on the ocean until college, when I spent my summers on Brier Island engaged in whale research. Nova Scotian's are proud of their maritime history and I had many opportunities to hear island fishermen regale me with stories of Slocum's accomplishments. These tales impassioned my curiosity and love for the ocean and its inhabitants. I would lay in bed at night, wrapped in deep blankets to keep the chill of fog from my bones, listening to the diaphonic blasts of foghorns, and dream of sailing the sunny South Seas.
After finishing college I lead a nomadic life dedicated to marine research. I worked as a field researcher and environmental monitor for various organizations. Jobs were seasonal and far-reaching, ranging along the Eastern Seaboard, the Mississippi Delta, and the Cape Verde Islands (where Slocum briefly stopped in September of 1895).
In October 1999 I was invited to join the Odyssey during an expedition in the Sea of Cortez. Now, several years and many miles later I realize with amazement, that my dream, inspired by hometown legend Joshua Slocum, to sail the equatorial Pacific has become a reality. Although our paths to the sea began in the same areas, our voyages have taken different directions, crossing only occasionally on remote island such as Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas (and will cross again in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea).
Now I lay on the deck at night, feeling uncomfortably warm under a thin sheet, looking at the stars. They remind me of Pacific islands, scattered, each as remote as space surrounds, as stars in the night sky. It was to these islands, the vast continuous galaxy of Polynesia, that the mariners of ancient history were drawn. Whatever their reasons - curiosity, starvation, religion, war - they came to these islands with only their knowledge of the ocean and stars for guidance. They arrived more than three millennium ago, when the Greeks were discovering the Mediterranean and Homer was telling the wanderings of Odysseus.
I am now on my own odyssey. A three year circumnavigation, much like Slocum's, but for the purpose of collecting baseline data on the health of the world's oceans. As I stood on Odyssey's bow departing San Diego, on our official launch of the Voyage, I was reminded of Slocum's words:
"A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt that there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood."
Log by Rebecca Clark