[Excerpts from blog entry on August 30, 2010 – Aboard IO, A two year Pacific crossing, Authored by Hyo-Jung]
46.6’S 179?19.7′ E
When at sea, the passages turn into a big blur. But on the charts, it is a significant event to be crossing a certain mark such as the Tropic of Cancer, the equator (to the southern hemisphere), the international date line, and now to the eastern hemisphere…
We had a relatively benign four day passage from Vava’u, Tonga to Savusavu, Fiji. The first three days were rolly polly going dead downwind. Mike had a birthday en route. Good thing we had an early celebration with friends. After we passed the easternmost Lau group, the seas were calm for the last 120nm. I said “benign” passage, but to be honest, I’m much relieved to be done with this passage as it was loaded with uncharted hazards.
Before we entered Tonga, we passed over the Tongan trench. This feature in the earth’s crust is a subduction zone where one tectonic plate is being pushed under the other and results in a very active geological area. The trench we crossed over reached a depth of over 9,000 meters (29,000 feet)! We passed over the deepest place at night and while it was not technically different than any other of our crossings, it was kind of eerie to know there was over 9 km of water under the keel! Also, given its remoteness, it remains one of the least explored regions of the sea depths. I spent the night wondering what beasts must be watching us pass above aboard tiny IO. Tonga is then on the other side of the interaction, the part where the opposing tectonic plate is being pushed up above the ocean’s surface. West of the Tongan islands lies many “hotspots” where volcanic activity is widespread. You may recall a while ago an email was passed around where a sailboat was sailing past a new island that was being pushed up out of the sea right before the sailor’s eyes. Magma was being spurted out to form new rock and in a very short time, an entire new island was formed. After we left Tonga, we sailed passed this and 50 other such sites of “new land” that no one has had a chance to chart properly. We had a sketchy list of “uncharted dangers” that was compiled from other sailors that had either seen one of these anomalies or had been wrecked on one in the dark and had survived to tell the location! I must admit I was nervous on that 3 day passage and kept getting up in the night and looking out expecting to see a volcanic eruption dead in our path. At times the sailing business is bloody stressful!
We are now in the northern island of Fiji called Vanua Levu which apparently has a very large East Indian population from way back when they moved here to work on the sugarcane plantations. Upon arrival, as usual, we went through the check-in process with the Health inspector, Customs & Immigration, and Quarantine/Agriculture. While completing the paperwork, one of the customs officers sitting in the cockpit asked, “What is that contraption?”, pointing to our propane heater inside the cabin. We explained that we once had three inches of snow on deck in Victoria two winters ago. We received blank stares of disbelief. Once the “ship’s master” (me) has signed the form detailing that we did not have plague, cholera, dysentery or any deaths aboard during our passage caused from these illnesses, we were permitted to go ashore.