August 21, 2000.
Why Voice from the Sea Pieces?
Today's log talks about how exposed we would feel were we to lose our ship the way the crew of the Essex did theirs. The old whalers and explorers were often defeated by loneliness, describing as "appalling" even the most beautiful places, the greatest wildlife spectacles-places like South Georgia, the Arctic and the Antarctic-places that are now among the most desirable tourist destinations on earth-places that only the well-to-do can afford to visit. That seems to be because when pushing across the frontiers of the era in which they lived, the ships were slow and home, therefore seemed so far away, that everything that even the most intrepid explorers saw became clouded by loneliness and homesickness.
As we have crossed this vast ocean, we have never gone a day without seeing at least one storm petrel. Out here, more than a thousand miles from land, they are thinly scattered, fluttering about, making a living. That's because these land-nesting birds really live at sea, are at home on on the sea. The natural condition of Storm Petrels-their storm petrelness-is that they live solitary lives, far from land. They apparently miss no one. They are well fed. Comfortable. At home. Upon the broad face of the ocean and miles from land, they can comfortably settle themselves before the fire and read the day's news from the pages of the waves around them in peaceful, self-contained, contentment.
For years I have wanted to take up residence on the sea, not just to cross its vastness, but to live there, far from terrestrial madness, drifting tranquilly in some distant ocean glade, until I too grew to feel as at home on the sea as a storm petrel. It is a thing that is never done these days. Deep ocean seems to be viewed by those who venture upon it as a resource, or an obstacle between ports, or as something to be gotten across as swiftly as possible, or worse, something to ransack. I have long thought that by taking up residence upon it that one might become a voice from the sea. Judging from how humanity usually treats it, it seems clear enough that the ocean needs as many voices speaking on its behalf as it can get.
© 2000 - Roger Payne