Day 72

For us, it is Happy Autumnal Equinox. (Technically, we will be in autumn after we leave the Maldives and re-cross the equator, but close enough. I just wanted you to be as confused as I am). This is our last sea day before reaching the Maldives tomorrow, with the usual range of activities. I noticed something quite unusual this morning: looking out the balcony, the sea was essentially flat, that is, no waves or swells. It has been a smooth ride all day.

The first lecturer, Captain Don Walsh, is new. He has a long list of credentials and experience; a Naval career, ocean researcher, onboard the Trieste for the world’s deepest ocean dive of over 36,000 feet the Marianas Trench, Presidential awards, and other professional acclaim.

Well anyway, he wanted to tell us all about the oceans in 45 minutes, but he admitted it was impossible. He gave us lots of facts, figures, maps, and slides, starting about 3.7 billion years ago when the oceans were formed. The earth today is 70% water. Salinity may vary, but averages 3.4% and there is a “Constancy of Composition,” meaning there is a constant ratio of ‘salt’ components with the continuous mixing of the oceans. By the year 2100, the world will have its first “climate refugees” as sea levels rise. Eight out of ten of the world’s largest cities are on the coast. He displayed theoretical maps after water rises of 1.5 – 2 meters showing the impact and reshaping of land.

Where we are going, the Maldives, could become the first refugees. The highest spot of land is 7 feet 10 inches, making it the world’s lowest nation. He spoke on wave motion and ocean currents powered by wind and solar energy. These act as a global thermometer transferring warm and cool water, raising the question of what would happen if this transfer slowed down, stopped, or reversed to the climates on the affected land masses? He continued onto continental drift and the early theorists who were criticized for having this crazy idea, only to have it become more accepted as science validated the concept. There were maps of the world’s 14 plates and the earthquake types that appear where the edges interact. Eventually, in about 250 million years, the world will be one land mass again, Pangea 2. The next lecture will concentrate on the Indian Ocean.

The next talk by Michael Scott was on our next destination. The Maldives is made up of 1,192 coral islands comprising 26 atolls stretching over 400 miles and a population of 430,000. The main island, Male, has 90,000 residents and is fully developed, based on Google Earth photos. The neighboring island was filled in to create an airport runway. Electricity is created by diesel motors, salt water purified by reverse osmosis for drinking, and human waste is shipped to other uninhabited islands for land fill. He showed us colorful pictures of fish living near the coral. There are more than 2,000 species of fish living near the Maldives. Some of the coral reef is experiencing die-back, as waters warm from last year’s Indian Ocean El Nino. The algae was driven out by the warmer water and the coral, unable to feed on the algae, underwent whitening, a temporary suspension phase for about six months in hope that the algae returns.

If not, the coral dies. The atoll will slowly lose its defense against ocean waves and storms with fatal consequences for the sandy islands.

Specifically, with regards to the Maldives’ history and political climate, it is in turmoil. Historically, the usual colonial powers were there for 400 years, starting with the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British, who allowed the Sultans to rule over local matters up through full independence in 1965. As a republic, the first president was elected in 1968. There was unrest and corruption. The prime minister was exiled in 1975, the president fled to Singapore in 1979. President Gayoom lasted 30 years, surviving many coup attempts, but the 2004 tsunami destroyed 80% of the island, killing 82. Unable to deal with the economic and natural disaster, he lost the 2008 election. Their Supreme Court intervened and invalidated the election and appointed a president. Now last month, the Supreme Court admitted that prior justices may have been unduly influenced on their election decision, but the current president forced the judges to reverse their reversal. He is not well liked, but that is what we are going into.

State Department’s advice is to use extreme caution and avoid crowds. I guess that means stay away from potential riots. Most of our activities are off the main island and along the resort waters of the atoll, except for our walking tour of the city. He concluded with pictures of some land-based tourist sites and mentioned locations of these highlight areas on the Google Earth map.

The noontime game was similar to Family Feud. It was fun trying to guess the responses from the sample groups, but our team was not in contention for Regent points. After this, Bob and Art, who were on other Family Feud teams, agreed to play some ping-pong. Pat went back to the room and I went to play with the boys. There were several good matches, a couple of games each with Bob and Art. Near the end, one of our Trivia team players, Mark, walked by and asked to play me. Bob and Art reached their limit and went to lunch. I played one game with Mark, while his wife watched and cheered him on. He was pretty good, for someone of his age, but I squeezed out a win. At the end, he and his wife, Joan, invited Pat and I to join them for dinner at the Compass Rose at 7:30pm.

Pat, here. At the end of Don Walsh’s lecture, I decided to attend the “Walk Around the World of Wines” Tasting event hosted by Head sommelier Nixon and his team. Those attending were able to sample all the white and red wines available in any dining venue on request.

There were wines from California, New Zealand, Italy, France, Chile, Australia, and Spain. I tried some new ones on the list, but many I had already tasted over time and already knew they were very tasty. I stayed for less than a half hour and then joined Mac a bit into Michael’s lecture.

We had a Tex-Mex lunch today and then I headed to another card-making workshop with Julie. Our project was a paper folded butterfly card.

They all came out very well and a bit unique. While I was in the dining room with fellow crafters, Mac went to the “Top Toss” challenge. He was surprised at the large number of people participating, many newbies from this segment. No points today, but I met him here for the 3:15 game of “Target Croquet.” We were a team, but didn’t do well in the first round. In the second round, we came in second for 2 points each.

No points today in trivia, but Mark invited us to join him and Joan for dinner tonight after their (Mac and Mark’s) ping pong match. This was the first time we really got to know Joan, because we see Mark every day on our trivia team. It was a delightful dinner. This is their second world cruise and they have travelled extensively for years.

Tonight’s headliner was vocalist Monique Lualhati from the Philippines. She had a very powerful voice, especially for a small, slender young woman. She sang R-E-S-P-E-C-T, The Power of Love, I Only Love You, and other songs from Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, and Whitney Houston. A great performance overall.

We turned our clocks back 30 minutes last night and are now only 9 hours ahead of east coast time. Tomorrow we tender into the Maldives for a city walk followed by snorkeling. It should be a fun day.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac