Day 38

Another laid-back sea day is here. We settled into the theater for the two enrichment lectures beginning at 10:00 a.m. The first was by Professor Losey, “The Great Barrier Reef.” In prehistoric ages, Australia had other barrier reefs on the NW side of the continent. Overtime they died off, the land rose, and can now be seen as cliff formations. The GBR benefits from a warm current coming down from the Polynesian Islands. The government has created a highly protected national park stretching from above Brisbane to Lizard Island, and is continuing to impose restrictions further east on fishing and recreational use. He showed many under water reef pictures and aerial shots of islands near the reef where exclusive resorts exist.

The second lecture by Dr. Alan Stern was on “The Exploration of the Pluto System by New Horizons.” He was the lead scientist on the program directing over 2,500 people. He discussed how his initial team of 150 submitted science proposals to NASA for approval and acceptance. This process occurred over 11 years with 5 previous proposal rejections until this last one was accepted. There were so many interesting slides and facts with many “firsts” for the space program. He didn’t go into detail but there was extensive mathematics involved in all the trajectory and timing calculations. The extra booster rocket and the miniaturized size and weight pushed the craft at the highest speed ever achieved by NASA, at 35,000 miles per second. The flight path intentionally flew close to Jupiter to get an extra gravitational boost in speed. Still, it took almost 11 years to get to Pluto. It’s amazing to think about hitting this moving target 11 years down the road and be close enough to carry-out all the scientific experiments in the short fly-by time. He described it as hitting a golf ball from California to NYC and getting a hole-in-one. After travelling almost a billion miles, the Pluto craft had to pass through a calculated window about 20 square miles in order to pass at the right spot for the experiments and mapping to be successful. His book on this experience will be released in May, “Chasing New Horizons.”

There was a special soup and stew buffet on the pool deck, so I tried one of each. They were both so good. In the afternoon, I retired to the internet lounge for more tax work and to send special request pictures to the grandchildren to help them better visualize where we really are and what the ship was like. Pat went off to play other games (she finished third in croquet) and we met back at the trivia location for an unrewarding outcome there.

Today is Valentines’ day here and the ship was decked out in lovely red heart balloons. At dinner tonight with our friends Trish and Jeff, Trish and I were surprised to be presented with a single red rose as we entered the dining room by the maître d’. All the ladies received one. This took a little pressure off the guys for not being able to get cards, flowers or candy for their wives. This was a nice touch.

Elton Jack performed again tonight. He dismebarks in Sydney tomorrow. He did a nice assortment of ballads and love songs and ended with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Circle of Life, and Can You feel the Love. I had no idea he wrote the lyrics for Lion King, I love those songs.

We will be entering Sydney Harbor about 6:30 AM and passing under the bridge and past the Opera House to dock. Our excursion to the Blue Mountains meets at 8:30, so we are hoping to get up early to see us pass under the bridge. We’ll see.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac