At Sea, Approaching the Pitcairn Group

Apr 01, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


This is our second day at sea, crossing brilliant blue waters under bright sunshine in the far southeast corner of Polynesia. The incredible expanse of the Pacific, the largest physical feature of the planet, surrounds us and envelopes us in its own distinct world, in the true nature of our world, Planet Ocean. The surface of the earth is mostly ocean, more than twice as much water as there is land. Think about that. All the land you’ve ever seen, near your home and in distant destinations, around the car on long drives and far below on cross-country flights, multiplied by two, still doesn’t equal the area of all the world’s oceans. This may give a small window into the world we are traveling through now, with the deep blue water extending to the distant horizon all around us.

The sky is the other half of this world, and it is as full and ever changing as the surface of the sea is featureless. The ocean changes day by day, sometimes in just a few hours, as storms and sets of swells come and go, but the cloudscapes of the tropical Pacific change every minute, from the first light before sunrise until the light fades again in the evening. There is almost always a beautiful layer of small, puffy cumulus clouds low over the sea, moving quickly in the surface winds. Sometimes the larger ones trail grey tails of heavy rain below their flat bottoms, squalls that come and go in a few minutes. Much higher in the sky there are multiple layers of cirrus and alto-cirrus, usually only wispy horsetails, sometimes gathering into broad, textured mackerel skies. The sunrise and sunset light play through these various clouds like a symphony, one layer after another, golds and pinks and purples swelling and fading like movements of music, building to a crescendo, then slowly fading into day or darkness.

This is the true face of Planet Ocean, our home.

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About the Author

David Cothran

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

David has worked for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic since 1993 on six continents and in over 65 countries. David is interested in many of the natural sciences, particularly ornithology, geology and marine biology; he most enjoys contrasting the broad perspectives provided by world travel with detailed investigations of local ecosystems on land and in the sea.

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