Travelog from captain Seidl in the Pacific Ocean
Marcus Albert Seidl, captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl for almost 30 years, has recently returned home after leading the longest continuous voyage the ship has ever completed: 35 days at sea from Valparaiso in Chile to the Pacific island of Tahiti. Joining him on the voyage across the Pacific were 90 anxious students from the University of Bergen and the ship's permanent crew. Here he shares some of his thoughts on the historic voyage in the Pacific.
Our voyage across the Pacific Ocean, or Mare Pacificum - the peaceful ocean, as it is named in Latin, was actually the calmest sailing voyage that the undersigned has had the pleasure of experiencing during that many continuous days on the open ocean.
With the exception of 2-3 days of «fresh» wind conditions just after our departure from Valparaiso, we had more than 30 days of calm, Trade wind-like conditions that could be enjoyed - and not least exploited - to do all of the activities that we had set out to do during the 35-day long leg.
With 90 students and staff from the University of Bergen (UiB) on board, who in addition to watch duties and sailing the ship also were to undergo curriculum classes and studies, and the need for the professional crew to complete important exterior ship maintenance work, the conditions were as ideal as could be expected for most of the voyage.
Going to sea with a large group of people, most of which had never been on a ship, and much less on an ocean crossing on a sailing ship for more than 5 weeks, is arguably a risky undertaking. Not in the sense that the voyage itself is considered dangerous for the ship or the voyage crew, but rather because of the potential psychological challenges, caused by seasickness, homesickness, boredom, fatigue and the general dissatisfaction that some may be prone to experience, such as not having the possibility for external communications, or the constant rolling in the ocean swell.
It was, however, rather surprising - and not least comforting - to see that none of these challenges had been evident as a noteworthy plague to any degree amongst that otherwise enthusiastic group that was comprised of 10 different nationalities. In fact, they quickly became quite able seafarers and managed to «handle the braces» after a relatively short period at sea.
Our main concern before setting off, was that it would get uncomfortably hot on board during this long leg in tropical waters, but we were fortunately protected from the otherwise burning heat of the sun by a constant veil of cloud-cover that appeared almost daily and then disappeared again during the evening and through the night, letting the sparkling stars and the light of the various moon-phases become visible.
On one of the nights that this did not happen as much as we had hoped, was during the total solar eclipse on the 15. -16. of May. There were, however, enough breaks in the cloud-cover to allow a partial observation of this historical event over several hours and it was an awesome sight to behold.
Although we had our two fishing lines with the most advanced lures on the market trailing astern in the ship´s wake - day in and day out - we caught disturbingly few fish on our nearly 5 000 nautical mile long voyage. Whether this is due to a normal absence of fish in those areas and depths, an increase in stock depletion due to over-fishing, or the changing climatic conditions, is not for us to say, but I am pretty sure I remember that we «always» used to catch fish during our voyages on all oceans as recently as a couple of decades ago.
If nothing else, at least we managed to research this and other incidences in both the ocean and the air to our best abilities within the very stringent limitations that the various countries` scientific regulations would allow. We can only hope that the results will be able to contribute to understanding of what is happening with the oceans that we all are so dependent on - both for catching fish and for the human existence in general.
In addition to the ideal conditions that we were fortunate enough to have on our side during this «epic» voyage, it was - as it is on all of our voyages - the motivation, open mindset - and not least - the endurance of the people on board that ensures the good morale along the way and also the success of this whole voyage and we therefor thank the students and staff from UiB for their good cooperation throughout. I am personally already looking forward to new voyages together in the Pacific very soon.