After my launch event last week Jane Stevens of the TOPP Program (Tagging of Pacific Predators at www.topp.org) handed me a box of 4 curious-looking little gadgets - tiny assemblies of circuit boards and wires sealed in plastic with antennae sticking out of them. These were tracking tags, to be fitted to my boat Brocade.
One was designed for turtles, one for an albatross, another was an experimental unit and the fourth was for collecting data. These tags will send back my position from the ocean to the TOPP website (in addition to my MarineTrack beacon). By looking at the TOPP website you will be able to see not only where I am, but also what other wildlife is in my bit of the ocean.
I received an email update today from Michelle Hester of non-profit Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge to let me know that ten new Black-footed Albatrosses were tagged last week from NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, just north of my launch area, and they named one of them "Roz" in my honour. These are the details for Roz the Albatross:
Species: Black-footed Albatross
Life Stage: Plumage Class 2
Gender: TBD (they can't determine gender until genetic blood samples are analyzed - let's hope other albatrosses find it easier to tell the difference...)
You can adopt my namesake at the Seaturtle.org website. Or just go there regularly to check on his/her movements around the Pacific.
These magnificent birds are one of the species most at direct risk from plastic pollution, as they mistake plastic items for food and eat them. The plastic garbage accumulates in their stomach - as it can't be digested or excreted - and eventually it kills them. Please help stop Roz dying a slow and painful death by reducing your use of plastics.
Departure update: Rick Shema, the weather guy, tells me that the next weather window will open on 26th July. Fingers crossed that this one holds steady for long enough for me to depart....
[photo: a tagged sealion wearing a tag - photo courtesy of TOPP]
I received this very nice letter from Dr George Simpson of the Association of Ocean Rowers. Click here to view it (scroll down, and click on "Download document in original format" to view.)
Those of you who actually know Dr George may be amused by the formality of this announcement. To put this in context, most of the comments on my FaceBook wall are from George, as are any scurrilous photos that may have made it into the public domain. If you haven't yet seen my Facebook page or Savage Seas group, please check them out now. And George's.
I am trying out a few new things on the website over the coming days - videos, podcasts, etc. I would really appreciate feedback on any technical problems you encounter, so hopefully we can address them before I set out to sea (date still to be confirmed - hectic correspondence going on with my weather gurus on a daily basis. Currently departure not expected to be before Friday, but it's in the lap of the weather gods....)
[photo: me at an ocean rowers' gathering last year - George not pictured - and if you look at the pics on the Savage Seas group you'll soon understand why...]
... so I will delight in trying to prove him wrong. And he says I'm 'kinda cute' so maybe I'll forgive him. It was nice to get a mention - along with some photos of me and the Brocade - on the Regis and Kelly Show. Thanks to Nicole, my 'press agent' (wow, that sounds grand!) for sending them the pics.
It would be lovely to leave on this huge wave of publicity and goodwill that is surging at the moment, but unfortunately the weather seems to have other ideas. The weather window that was expected later this week has now broken up into three smaller windows. It's like wanting to get a grand piano through a window, but having three little windows instead of one big one - no use to man nor beast.
I just hope I can get away before we reach that embarrassing stage of, "What, are you STILL here?"
I received a very thought-provoking question via my website's contact form the other day:
"Q: Excuse my directness.... Do think that your original motivations and narrow responsibilities of your Pacific rowing challenge are being tainted adversely by the solicitation of sponsors, a book deal, and speaking engagements, etc? Perhaps during your crossing you may allow contemplation that this exercise is now a responsibility to others and a future income, rather than pursuit for self?"
This made me pause briefly, before knowing that I have already arrived at the answer - an answer that I am comfortable with.
"A: I would love it if my row were a purely solitary enterprise, giving me an opportunity to think about what life is all about and what I want out of it.
But I also want to make a point, and that point is: I spent most of my life being materialistic and unhappy, defining myself by what I owned rather than who I was. Now I own a lot less, but my life is much richer. I'm not saying that this will be the same for everybody, but I tried it, and it makes me feel good. If I can help anyone else at least consider this as an option, then I will feel like I've done something worthwhile.
So I do have an inspirational/environmental mission and this necessitates writing and speaking - so I will blog, broadcast, video and interview.
But I can combine this with my need for solitude. I am learning to confine public obligations to set periods of the day, allowing the rest of the day for me to reflect and contemplate.
I could do without the hassle of the sponsorship drive (money buys freedom, and the lack of money restricts it) but I count myself lucky to have a generous and sympathetic sponsor in Brocade, whose values are so closely aligned with my own. I do not think too much about money, or about the future (I believe that, if I carry on doing the right things, for the right reasons, these things will take care of themselves) so the sponsorship money is mostly used to increase the outreach potential of my adventure - to pay the satphone bill, finance the website and so on - not for my own use. Beyond my daily caffe latte, and enough food to eat, I don't need much out of life!
I hope this answers your question.
P.S. If you're wondering what I'm doing with my time while I wait to embark - believe me, it's not a problem to stay busy. Today I finished the latest round of edits to my Atlantic book, and went to the Apple Store to find out how to get my Xacti video camera to talk to iMovie - then spent the rest of the day figuring out how to get my video files as small as possible (I reckon I can send back 30 seconds of video in 30 minutes of transmission time - at a cost of $35. Hmmm.) I could be here another month and still be finding things to do....