When I was in 5th grade one of my classmates announced that she and her family (they were a family of singing folksingers) planned to take a trip in a boat they had built around the continent. In that class were were all required to give talks on various topics of our choosing, and she gave a talk on that. We were all impressed by many aspects of the planned adventure, but one thing stood out: During this trip the folk singing family would pass dangerously close to Haiti, which was on very bad terms with the US at that time (I believe it was a Soviet Satellite or something along those lines) and storms could blow their boat into Haitian waters and that would be trouble. This was especially impressive to those of us who had transferred into that public school from the Catholic school nearby, because we knew of “Haiti” as a synonym for “Hell.”

The next year she gave the talk again and told the story about how their boat actually did get blown into Haiti, they were picked up by the Haitian authorities, and actually treated quite nicely. Go figure.

I imagine that a lot of maritime stories go that way. There’s a big plan, and a small boat, and a huge ocean, and things don’t necessarily go the way they are supposed to go. But, in May 2009, when a team of scientists, teachers, conservationists, and sailors launched their journey on the good ship Ocean Watch, intending to circumnavigate the entirety of North and South America, their grandiose expectations were destine to be met, for the most part.

This was a voyage designed to make several points, about the ocean, the culture of the littoral, the conservation of the sea, the effects of climate change, and all that. They encountered major storms, cuddly polar bears, ice, and everything. The voyage started out in Seattle and went north, crossing west to east across the Arctic sea. Sea ice might have deterred them but ultimately they would have Nunavet. They rounded the Northern Continent and visited many cites in the US, Puerto Rico and other islands, several South American countries and the Falklands, Mexico, and then worked their way back along the US coast to Seattle. This took 13 months.

And, when they were done, they made an amazing coffee table style picture book called: One Island, One Ocean: The Epic Environmental Journey Around the Americas. The book was written by Herb McCormick who also wrote Gone to the Sea, and includes photos by David Thoreson. David Rockefeller Jr. wrote the Forward. It looks like this, but much bigger:

The book is nicely printed, 240 pages long, and is a good deal of fun.

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    December 14, 2012

    I believe it was a Soviet Satellite or something along those lines

    Since you are about the same age (plus or minus a few years) as I, this would have been during the regime of “Baby Doc” Duvalier (who had inherited the title of President-for-Life from his father, “Papa Doc”). The Duvaliers, especially Baby Doc, were nasty dictators, and many Haitians tried to emigrate to Florida by homemade boat. Many did not survive the attempt. The ones who made it to Florida before getting caught by the Coast Guard or INS were almost always sent back to Haiti because they were considered “economic refugees”, which were not welcome. (Contrast with the Cubans, who were generally welcome in Miami after making the much shorter crossing from Cuba.)

    Baby Doc apparently wasn’t nice enough to the US; his government fell in 1986, and he fled into exile.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    December 14, 2012

    That sounds about right.

  3. #3 Lars
    December 14, 2012

    (they were a family of singing folksingers)

    Which of course immediately suggests the existence of non-singing folksingers, veritable koans in the flesh.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    December 14, 2012

    Right. They were one of those singing families. Of folk music.