The Final Frontier
"What a pity!" were the first words that my dad uttered when I showed him this picture.
The first thing I saw as soon as I opened my eyes today and checked my facebook newsfeed while still in bed, was a post by Fabio Agius showing pictures of things that were built by humans and reclaimed by nature. The first one was a very recognisable sight; that of the MS World Discoverer, the ship that my dad worked on as second mate for many years.
The World Discoverer was an adventure cruise liner that was owned by Society Expeditions at the time when my dad worked there, a company that has been liquidated since 2004. As an adventure cruise liner the ship was not about luxury buffets, spas and comforts, but about taking tourists to exotic and remote places, including in uncharted waters.
Even though it was not an ice-class vessel it still braved the antartic, resorting to ice-breaking ships ahead of it to clear its path. As a child, I always imagined the ship to be boldly going where nobody went before like the starship Enterprise did in Star Trek. My dad had spectacular photos from these voyages, many of which were kept in our home in the Philippines but were destroyed with one of the massive floods and landslides that are a usual occurrence in Aklan, Kalibo. I remember pictures from the Easter Islands, the Galapagos, Barbados, the Amazon river, the Emperor Penguins of Antartica, Icebergs that looked like they were Bob Ross paintings.... all sadly lost.
But I bet that all these memories come rushing back to my dad's mind the minute he sees the vessel with which he journeyed around the world so many times. Most of his career on this ship was spent on it while it had the red and white livery which was then replaced by the white and blue, which is how I remember it from the last time I remember it docked in Malta for its last time in the late 80's.
I bet you are asking the question of whether or not my dad was still on the ship when it hit the uncharted rock in the Solomon islands. The answer is of course, no. He had already moved on to work with the offshore energy companies in 2000, but true to himself my dad probably thinks that if he were onboard and on duty on the bridge that day at 4pm it might not have happened. He told me how in such uncharted waters one should have visually looked out for changes in water colouration and in the movement of waves and ripples, which give clues to the dept and rock formations beneath the surface. Yes my dad is an old-school skipper.
He still has this officer's ship plaque hung in his bedroom proudly showing how a large part of his life was spent journeying the world on this ship, even if it was work. So it was really interesting to read comments on this post from around the world about how much they would want to visit the shipwrecked World Discoverer and how beautiful it was that it was being reclaimed by nature. I was like yeeeaah right.. I was actually on it when it docked in Malta in our Grand Harbour.
There I am on the deck of the ship, proudly showing off the new SONY WM-75 Sports waterproof Walkman that my dad gave me as soon as I went aboard. Yes kids, you needed one of those in order to be able to carry around 60 or 90 minutes of music on tape in 1987. I was the son of a sailor who liked music and the stage as much as his dad loved the sea.
But you never know - that walkman is the drop in the pond that leaves a lot of ripple effects in a human being. That walkman perhaps and the gift of music, was one of the small things that led to this:
I will probably never see even a fraction of the world that was seen by my father, but he did gift me and support me in music, and as they say: Art creates an unreal world which is more real than the real. With theatre and music I can fly and journey without physically moving, by exploring the uncharted waters of other people's stories.
The MS World Discoverer, for me it was a love-hate relationship. It was the ship that as a child made me proud to have the coolest dad imaginable. I mean seriously... I am the offspring of a real-life Jack Sparrow who worked on a ship registered in Singapore no less. But it was also the ship that kept us apart for months. Because of its non-routine, my dad used to spend even up to 9 months away from Malta, in a time when the internet, satellite telephone, messaging, emails, did not exist. I wrote hand-written letters to him and sent them to Singapore head office, or Germany or Brazil, depending on where he was, in the hopes that a change in staff or a scheduled visit to a port would bring the mail to the ship. Long distance relationships at the time without the technology we have today, were truly long distance relationships.
Now, when I see it shipwrecked in the Solomon islands I'm in awe of the fact that the final resting place of this ship is so beautiful. The ship that journeyed thousands of miles of uncharted waters has a fitting burial site. Apparently there were some salvage attempts which were stalled because the tribes of the region claimed it as their own and started scavenging it, so the eventual new owners that bought out Society Expeditions and their ships, simply baptised a new ship as the World Discoverer, now known as the 'Silver Explorer', which is a more modern ice-class vessel so it was a certain improvement. There is a romantic end for it though - a vessel that brought people so close to nature and far from the busy cosmopolitan parts of the world, to be so reclaimed by nature. Nature always wins, which is why we should never be at odds with it. The planet does not need saving; we do, because the planet will be completely fine without us. Indeed our final frontier is inevitably that - to be reclaimed and recycled by nature. We are after all, simply atoms and molecules reorganised temporarily in the way we are, until they get otherwise reorganised when it is our time. So don't take life too seriously... but rather we should strive to be like the World Discoverer, which is to journey as many miles as we can in uncharted waters, not being afraid of taking risks as long as we are certain we have a great skipper that can really recognise those dangerous situations. But they too are inevitable... eventually nature will one day claim us back, but when it does, make sure you leave something of yourself behind and making a monument out of that legacy. So fall in love, as many times as it takes. Learn new things, learn new languages, change your jobs, live in different countries, have more children, change your mind on anything. Life is too short to be governed by fear, and may people remember fondly how much mileage you've journeyed in this life, and brought people close to beauty and all things true.