Noontime position: 24 25.510 South, 99 28.891 East
A few days ago we had our first climbing lesson, to learn to scale one of the tall ships vertigo-inducing masts.Â
Meanwhile, our boat is also climbing - UP the ocean. In fact, on this trip so far, weâve already descended around 30 feet, and are now beginning to climb again, another 100 to go before reaching Mauritius. How is that possible? I wondered - isnât sea level a more or less constant height around the world â i.e. zero?
Meet Bert Vermeersen one of the chief scientists on board, taking extremely accurate, vertical GPS measurements on sea level height. Which is apparently quite difficult to do. Bert found Marcus and me on deck early morning, struggling to do some sit ups while the boat rocked and rolled about. We quickly abandoned this exercise in futility, and chatted with Bert instead.
âBelieve it or not, sea level can actually vary by as much as 300 feet around the worldâ Bert explained, âdepending on the relative depth of the ocean, the force of gravity, and differences in topography. The earth is a flattened elipse rather than a spherical globe â equator to equator the earth is 20 miles longer than at the poles. These differences in sea level height are measured with respect to the ellipsoid.â
And so, although the indigo blue expanse surrounding us looks perfectly flat, we are slowly, gradually inching our way up a marine mountain, at a pace so slow that only Bertâs high tech measurements will notice the change.
Climbing the mast on the other hand â this is a change noticeable enough to send my heart rate soaring! After a basic safety 101 from one of the deck hands, we donned our harnesses and scampered up the mast, as weâve been watching the crew do enviously for days. The view from atop is breathtaking. This is now a daily must!
AND THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT HIGH SPEED TRAWL CONTINUES
For the last few days, a group of around 10 eager men, lead by Marcus and Haico, have been wrenching, bolting, testing, and retesting a space age looking steel-torpedo device, rigged with an underwater camera and a long net. I stand with Redmond OâHanlon â the resident author on board, and watch the male tool circus unfold. He chuckles and says to me, âif you young ladies ever need to attract a man, all you need to do is drag out a wrecked car engine, leave some tools lying around, and wait for them to swarm.â
The idea was to create a high-speed trawl, with a camera that would capture footage along the way. The first try had the contraption bouncing and diving along the surface like a lovable robotic dolphin. The footage was mesmerizing â a crystalline underwater seascape â but the device still spins wildly.
And so Marcus is back in the workshop, welding another prototype. We all wait anxiously.
Still, weâve had a chance to trawl twice so far â both times yielding a trawl full of Portuguese Man O War (ouch!) and one or two plastic fragments. Weâre still far from the accumulation zone.