What will I do for New Year's 2011?
First, Le Pingouin (LP) and I will have a chat as she has a lot to say about being middle aged. Boats live in dog years.? It is about seven years to one human year so she actually just broke through 60 years old. She also has more circumnavigations under her voluminous brazier than I do. She has done this race twice before and the Vendee globe twice as well, so this is her 5th solo circumnavigation race while it is my 3rd. It is quite amazing to think that she had more than 150,000 miles in global racing mileage before we even started this adventure. The ole girl is still one of the fastest monohulls ever conceived. Combined LP and I have spent more than a year of our lives hanging out down here in the most remote place on Earth. I still feel hardly welcome and am a strong advocate for the "tread lightly and garner safe passage" theory to get through this inhospitable but beautiful place.
Following my chat with LP, I will speak with the animals that constantly escort me along my route. The birds here are fantastic. They seem so fragile as they fly in circles around the boat and flitter about in the wake of LP as we charge along. Regardless of the weather they are always there and seem genuinely interested in why I would be asking for permission to transit their private place on Earth. The flock of birds I constantly encounter represent as many different sizes and shapes as the fleet of aircraft man has built, and they look their part. The Albatross look like B52 bombers with huge glider shaped wings and robust torsos as they fly forever while seemingly never flapping their wings. On the other end of the spectrum are the petrels which are like little compact fighter jets that zip around and jet through the waves, flapping their wings to give them super speed like they are using an afterburner.
Finally on this special transition to 2011, I will speak to the things that I hopefully won't see. This includes the whales (of which I have only seen one since leaving Cape Town) and the icebergs which harbor so much of our world's ecosystem in their frigid existence.
The primary message that I will try to convey to this watery world as we enter 2011 is an apology. I'd like to be an "eyes wide open" witness to the impact our human existence has on this place. Maybe I am a lone ambassador of sorts? As I write this I am sailing in 9 degree Celsius water in a place that should have far cooler water temperature. I am sailing deliberately further north than ever before because the Antarctic convergence (ice zone) is hundreds of miles further north than when I first sailed the Southern Ocean in 1998. The birds are far less in numbers than I have ever experienced, and the whales... well, we all know that story. My message will be a hollow New Year's apology because I need to be honest with my friends down here. There is really nothing being done that will change the tide of globalization and human growth. We can hope that the pioneers of sustainability and green energy will be rewarded for tangible results. We can hope that rather than a typical New Year's resolution that is a lot of promise and little movement, that maybe the human population of our fragile home will put some action behind the rhetoric.
I don't pretend to know how much we affect this place through our actions and I am a firm believer that cyclic global temperatures are a natural weather occurrence, so I don't wish to be tied up in the politics of it all. I just speak of plane facts that we know we can change. The whales are gone because we kill them for food and resources we no longer need. The bird population is off because we kill them with bad fishing practices and by throwing trash in the water that they eat. This planet is 70% covered in water. The life and delicate balance that water provides is the brine from which all known life came. Can you imagine if that balance is upset? Water can take the life away just as easily, and in a much shorter time, than it was given. The oceans provide every ounce of water we drink. If the ice caps were to melt (which they are) the vast majority of the world's cities will become submerged. The sun and water are the two things that make every weather anomaly occur.
For crying out loud, the human body is something like 80% water isn't it? We better start taking care of our oceans or they aren't going to be here to take care of us.
This will be the somber but special New Year's message I will share with my friends in the Southern Ocean. It will be a very "glass is half full" conclusion, basically stating that mankind is good and wants to continue to exist, and that we will do as a race what we have to do to survive.
Happy New Year's and may you all take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of the natural world in 2011.