Shark Chronicles 005 – The endeavour of the RV Heraclitus
Posted by Enrico Gennari & Toby Keswick on March 6, 2008
The world is still full of challenges. The main thing is you have to look for them, things just don’t happen all by themselves… So seek out adventures, as long as you can find them, as long as you can tackle them with energy and all of your effort, you’ll succeed on them.” SIR EDMUND HILLARY
These are the words you will find on opening the web portal of the Research Vessel Heraclitus (http://www.rvheraclitus.org/). Why is this relevant? Please read on and you will find out.
In the middle of a typical day for SAMPLA in Mossel Bay, we suddenly received a phone call from a mysterious boat which had docked in the harbour and asked for the “shark guys”. The shark guys could not resist curiosity and their interest to meet new people. Thus we were introduced to the 25 meter RV Heraclitus, a vessel constructed of ferro-cement. It is modelled on a blend of a ancient Chinese junk design and modern technology. It was built for deep ocean sailing, coral reef research and river exploration. At first sight, one wondered how such an unusual craft could stay afloat! The Heraclitus has sailed the world’s oceans for the last 33 years, answering any questions we may have had about her seaworthiness.
So we, the shark guys, were invited on grand tour of this almost mythical boat. We were led through the basic command centre, the minimalist sleeping cubicles, the warm lounge/theatre/meeting/dining area, an exceptional library and the cavernous engine room.
Our tour of the boat soon made us realise that it was awash with stories of the different people who have shared adventures on board, perhaps akin to the boat of a modern Sinbad. The crew hypnotized us with their tales of relentless, tempestuous seas, punctuated by dead calm and the impression of infinity implied by vast, open expanses of water. The crew were not always occupied by stories of the sea; they had visited all manner of continents and countries, met many people with their differing characters, cultures and traditions, and seen a multitude of landscapes, and natural wonders.
One feeling the crew definitely transferred to me was their deep symbiotic link with the ocean. I was enthralled by their stories of ploughing seas for weeks on end, and suddenly, all at once, while gazing out over the vast blue ocean, one starts smelling from afar sand, trees, land and unfortunately even pollution. Like the sailors of ancient times, The Heraclitus’s crews leave one continent, with its unique traditions, landscapes, technology, and reach another with entirely different stories, people and, in the end, adventures...
So, I would like to raise a glass to those people of adventure, and their traditions of not just travelling to reach somewhere but travelling to experience travelling itself. “Lacio drom” (have a good trip in a gipsy language) Heraclitus!!
End note: I recommend a little book called: “Vagabonding: an uncommon guide to the art of long-term world travel” (author: Rolf Potts) for anyone who wants to know more about the pleasure of the ‘travel’