At Sea – Western Pacific
Day 9 – Sunday, September 30, 2007
From the Navigator
Today we are sailing on a southwesterly course with an average velocity of 17.5 knots. We will cover 420 miles of a total distance of 1112 miles towards Aomori, Japan. The weather forecast calls for an outside temperature of 53 degrees F and a southwesterly wind force of 6.
The Kuril Islands
The Kuril Islands or Kurile Islands in Russia’s Skhalin Oblast region, are a volcanic island archipelago that stretches approximately 700 miles northeast from Hokkaido Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia. There are 56 islands in total and many more minor rocks. The Kuril Islands are known in Japanese at the Chishima Islands, literally, Thousand Islands Archipelago. The name Kuril originates from the aboriginal Ainu: “kur”, meaning man. The Kuril Islands are part of the tectonic instability encircling the Pacific Ocean referred to as the ring of Fire. The islands are actually the tops of stratovolcanoes. The chain has around 100 volcanoes, some 40 of which are active, and many hot springs and fumaroles. The Japanese and Russian history of the islands are filled with conflict and the islands played a prominent role during World War II. Today the islands are home to about 30,000 people – mostly Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusian’s, Tatars, and Koreans. Their primary source of income is from fishing however, the islands are also a rich source of pyrite and sulfur.
Some curious sounds
I woke up several times last night just listening to the “sounds of the ship”. As the ship moves through the sea, she is beset by different forces of wind and wave, depending on so many factors, SOA (speed of advance) wind direction, direction of swells, etc. As these various forces act on the ships hull, the sounds in a quiet stateroom are never the same. For a few days we had an occasional vibration that sounded like a bird singing. At other times one could swear there is someone moving about the room. Any round object left on a flat surface will roll about knocking from side to side, until you get up and try to locate the source. And then last night there was this sound of a gigantic pale of water being dumped on a flat surface. This one I identified as the bow spray filling up the cavities that our port holes are inset into. Light sleepers need not apply.
It has turned out to be a bright sunny day, with calm seas. At his 1 pm daily update the Captain announced that we were sailing through some of the deepest waters in the Pacific. This afternoon we glimpsed at least one cloud enshrouded island. It reminded us of Mt Rainer when she hides. Tomorrow we should see more of this island chain.
Our next Port of Call, Aomori, Japan
The ships port lecturer, Frank Buckingham, gave a fascinating talk on Japan as a nation, its people, and the first of four Japanese ports of call; Aomori. Mr. Buckingham is an Englishman, with the usual Brit’s command of the English language, and a spellbinding speaker. We are doing Aomori and hopefully Hirosaki on our own, on a local train. This trip was recommended by an Internet acquaintance. Mr. Hideki Yamada was born in Japan and grew up in Aomori. Hideki and his wife live in Minnesota, but his mother still lives in Yokohama, Japan. He has been an excellent source of information about the Aomori area. He has even provided us with a few phases written in Japanese, to assist us with certain needs. We are so pumped for these next few ports, thanks mainly to Hideki suggestions and Barbara’s extensive research.
Food, have I mentioned FOOD?
The food on the Amsterdam is superb! From the fresh fruit in our room, daily, thru breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Lido Buffet is located on Deck 8; this huge room has large windows along the sides where most of the seating is located. This gives one the opportunity to “view” the world outside the ship during breakfast. Tastefully displayed are muffin bars, fruit bars, juice bars, eggs to order stations, all sorts of breakfast meats, and breads. Waffles, pancakes, and omelets round out the fare. Of course there is always tea, milk, and fresh brewed coffee,. Stewards are always available to carry your tray to your table. Such a great way to start the day. More about lunch and dinner later.
Tonight was the second of twenty-one formal nights, and was the traditional “Black and White Ball” evening. The dining room was dressed with a black and white theme, all chairs were decked out with white covers, and the stewards, and captains were wearing black shirts and white ties, with the maitre d’ in a sequined tux with tails. After the last show, the Queens lounge will be made over into a ballroom, for big band dancing throughout the evening. This will be a long night, as we set our clocks back TWO hours.
The gifs from HAL resumed this evening with two red compact umbrellas emblazoned with the theme of our 64 day voyage “Asia, Australia and Polynesia E X P L O Y ER”
Good night for now,
Jack and Barbara