National Geographic Orion
The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished. – Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony The moving Moon went up the sky. And nowhere did abide; Softly she was going up, And a star or two beside- - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner The National Geographic Orion departed Broome, Australia last night, just as the sun was setting in the west and the full moon was rising in the east. But this was no ordinary full moon that we were navigating under - it is the biggest and brightest full moon of the year, truly a super moon. A super moon occurs roughly every 13.5 months, when the moon appears as much as 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than a regular full moon. That's because the moon's orbit around the Earth is elliptical and lopsided, so that it's closer to the Earth on one side of the orbit than the other. On average, the moon is 384,000 kilometers away, but it is about 363,000 kilometers away at the closest point, its perigee. And it is around 406,000 kilometers away at its furthest point, its apogee. Last night the moon came into being full within the hour of it reaching perigee, at a distance from the Earth of only 356,896 kilometers away. The scientific explanation does not diminish the attraction most humans have with full moons. As the ship departed the tone was one of excitement and anticipation of what lie before. Our destination today was Rowley Shoals, a group of three atoll-like coral reefs south of the Timor Sea, about 260 kilometers west of Broome on the northwestern Australian coast. Rowley Shoals Marine Park was established in 1990 and expanded four-fold in 2004. Each atoll covers an area of around 80-90 square kilometers within the rim of the reef. Upon arrival we circumnavigated both Clerke and Imperieuse reefs searching for any possible location to safely offer snorkeling. Our crew launched a scout Zodiac and expedition staff went to evaluate in person the conditions at our planned snorkeling site. Sustained winds approaching 25 knots created surf and waves that prevented us from approach the edge of the coral reef. Our Captain positioned the ship as safely as possible to Rowley Shoals providing us a glimpse of this remote and pristine atoll. In the end, the view was beautiful, one few ever are privileged to experience, but we will have to wait to snorkel another day.