Wednesday, November 21, 2018

#741 The Mysterious Zero Zero Buoy

Latitude zero, longitude zero is a point in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ghana where the Equator and Prime Meridian cross.

We've been lucky to visit this spot on the Spring 2011 and Fall 2013 voyages with Semester at Sea.

Before both visits to the 0,0 spot, we heard stories about a buoy anchored there. Both times upon arrival we didn't see a buoy. After each visit, we were shown photos allegedly taken from the ship of the elusive 0,0 buoy. Often the photos were accompanied by doubt-inducing commentary.

So as we approached 0,0 on this Fall 2018 voyage, we were excited to find this note on our cabin door: 
"The Captain invites you to the bridge for the 0,0 crossing at 13:20. Deck 8 forward."

Believe me, we were on time for this appointment! Upon arrival Captain Kostas, binoculars-in-hand, tells us he's looking ahead to spot the buoy.

And in just a few minutes, we spot the buoy!

It's real! There's a buoy at 0,0. I was so excited my hair stood on end.

Then so many questions come to mind. Who decided to put a buoy at 0,0 and why? How does it stay at 0,0 where the ocean is over 16,000 feet deep?

Making good use of satellite internet, I learn the buoy is part of the PIRATA (great acronym!) array deployed by a consortium of countries (including the US government agency NOAA) to collect data.
That answers the 'who' and the 'why'. But what keeps the buoy at 0,0 given the depth? One widely-held theory: the buoy is fitted with GPS and motors its way back to 0,0 if it floats too far away.

So I emailed NOAA asking about the 'how'. NOAA's reply came quick and strong with diagrams and deployment photos.

Yes, the 0,0 buoy is anchored to the ocean floor. This cartoonish drawing makes it seem simple. It's not. A more complex drawing followed with details.
At the bottom lie over 2 tons of anchor weights made from recycled rail car wheels.

It takes a big ship to deploy the assembly.

Once the sensors are installed, deployment is complete.

Yours in thanking Captain Kostas and NOAA for bringing the zero zero buoy up close and personal,

Monday, November 19, 2018

#740 Neptune Day 2018

Our Fall 2018 voyage crosses two lines at the same time, the Equator and the Prime Meridian.

For a moment off the coast of Ghana, we float across latitude 0, longitude 0.

Green King Neptune, Queen Minerva, and their costumed court celebrate this maritime event by initiating a pitiful flock of first-time equator-crossers, derisively known as pollywogs 😏, thereby bestowing upon them the prestigious title Emerald Shellback.

The Royal Barber is on duty, keen for head shaving.

And of course, fish kissing is required.
Yours in enjoying maritime tradition,

Sunday, November 18, 2018

#739 Global Mamas

In Ghana, we spent an inspiring day with Global Mamas.
Previous Semester at Sea voyagers raved about Global Mamas, the Ghanaian fair-trade cooperative started by eight women in 2003. We've seen Global Mamas handcrafted products from Ghana for sale in a shop down the street from our home in Indianapolis so we know the Mamas have grown to be a worldwide creative community. But we want to know more.

So while in Ghana, we visit both the Global Mamas store in Accra and their modest facility in Cape Coast where we learn about their 350 producers from 7 communities all in Ghana supporting local entrepreneurial women and their families.

Then come their products, beautiful and useful.

But when Global Mama Mary Koomson takes us to her batik workshop things get really interesting.
Sponge patterns. Organic cotton. Natural dies. Brilliant colors. Drying sunshine. We have so much respect for the hard work and skill invested in making batik fabric! 

We come away impressed with Mary Koomson's fine craftsmanship and much better clothed. 
Yours in Ghana,

Monday, October 22, 2018

#738 Solving a Canary Islands Mystery

Why did we spend part of one day on our Fall 2018 voyage of Semester at Sea aboard the MV World Odyssey anchored off the Canary Islands' coast? 

Was it to enjoy the vibrant blue Atlantic Ocean and distant mountains backing the port city of Las Palmas deemed by one study as having "the best climate in the world"? 

Was it to view the large collection of drilling ships anchored nearby? 

It was none of these.  Instead we were there to meet a tanker ship for refueling.

But why take on fuel in this relatively remote place? Aren't 'island things' always more expensive?

I found one answer in the reference section of the MV World Odyssey library where the very last print edition (2010) of the Encyclopedia Britannica resides. In Volume 2 the entry for the Canary Islands ends with this paragraph:

"The Canary Islands manufacturing industries are small scale outside Santa Cruz de Tenerife whose petroleum refinery processes large quantities of crude oil."  

Yours in mystery solving in the library,

Monday, October 08, 2018

#737 Spanish Architectural Extremes

Everywhere we go we find architecture. In Spain, we find architectural extremes.

Antoni Gaudi designed a rural hillside to be an exclusive neighborhood for Barcelona's elite. But when circumstances doomed those plans, the real estate failure launched one of Barcelona's major attractions, Park Guell.  Ornate and wildly ornamented, it opened to the public in 1926.

Across town, sleek, clean, and free of ornamentation, Barcelona Pavilion, the reconstructed modernist masterpiece designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1928 stands in start contrast to Gaudi's naturalistic mosaics.

Steel, glass, straight lines, and horizontal floating planes exemplify Mies' architectural theme "less is more".

These two Spanish constructions are close in age only. In Barcelona, we find architectural extremes.

Yours in Spain,

Saturday, October 06, 2018

#736 The Dream Ship In Transition

For Semester at Sea, the start of the fall semester involves more than enrolling students, hiring faculty, and choosing an itinerary. It also involves blue paint.

Lots of blue paint.

Semester at Sea uses the same ship for the fall and spring semesters. But each summer, the ship sails with German cruise passengers under the name MV Deutschland. We've blogged about the Deutschland, well-known for its recurring role in a popular television series, Das Traumship, ("The Dream Ship") where she carries a green and white color scheme.

So to make the transition every fall Semester at Sea calls in a specialized painting crew with cranes, lifts, and long-handled paint brushes who set about converting the green and white MV Deutschland to the blue and white MV World Odyssey.

In Hamburg, our embarkation port for Fall 2018, we witnessed the transformation to quickly cover the summer's Deutschland green with SAS blue, stencil on the Semester at Sea logo, and re-brand the MV World Odyssey.

Yours in transition,

Thursday, September 06, 2018

#735 Hamburg Architecture

We're struck again by Hamburg's creative architecture - so many beautiful contrasts.

The city sits on a sheltered natural harbor which has brought us back for a third visit.  With so many rivers and canals, Hamburg has more bridges (~2,500) within its city limits than any other city in the world.

The new concert hall, Elbphilharmonie, is an architectural statement that opened last year, mirroring an ocean wave on the Elbe River.  Tickets were impossible to get during our stay, but we admire the view from all angles.    

And from the observation deck on the 8th floor between the original brick warehouse below and the new glass concert hall above, we appreciate the view of church spires in the background and a mix of the old and new.

The city keeps coming back from disasters such as the 1842 Hamburg fire, World War 2 bombing runs, and coastal flooding.  This 1888 building continues to thrive.   

And the tower of St. Nicholas' church continues to stand despite being a focus of World War 2 bombers.

The Ubersee Quartier subway station near our hotel has an underwater theme with darker blue tiles at the bottom. 

And the fabulous design continues indoors as well.  At the Hamburg arts and crafts museum, we admire and are mesmerized by the Spiegel Canteen designed by Verner Panton.

From the Altona cruise terminal, we will board the MV World Odyssey later today. 

Today, the view from our 25Hours hotel room shows another huge harbor project underway.

Yours in appreciating Hamburg all the way around,
Mary Jo