Photo: Samantha Whitcraft
Day 3, Pangaea Explorations’ Line Islands Expedition, Aboard S/V Sea Dragon, approximately 416 miles south-southwest of Oahu, Hawaii headed to Palmyra Atoll.
While steering our boat towards an ever-distant horizon, the seas roll under the bow hour after hour. I can’t help but marvel at the azure blue, almost purple of the ocean around us, remembering that we are sailing across waters more than 2500 fathoms deep. I soon realize the sea appears as different shades of blue off the port and starboard sides of Sea Dragon; the full sails shading the leeward side, make the same waters look a darker, truer blue. And looking straight down into the depths, the sun reflects back in the water column as golden-blue, while the churned waters in our wake are a frothy blue-white mixture. The sky, too, has its many shades from the zenith’s definitive sky-blue directly above the mast fading down to the horizon-line’s pale, almost white-blue finish.
We are surrounded by so many shades of blue — all the hues that comprise the biggest blue, the Pacific. And I begin to notice them all…
The flying fish that dart and glide from wave to wave are a metallic blue, their aerodynamic fins glinting silver in the sun.
The shearwaters fly just over the waves, dipping a single wing-tip on the crests so that the water reflects blue on their white flight feathers.
Crew resting on deck are wearing denim-blue shorts and the navy blue sail number stands-out against the crisp, white canvas. Some of the halyards and sheets are distinguished by lines of blue or spliced with blue; the life rafts are lashed to deck with sturdy blue straps. Our military-blue foul-weather gear drying on the railings is flecked with sea salt, and the blue seat cushions, exposed to constant tropical sun have all faded to varying degrees, from brand new to well used. And all these shades of blue are reflected in the polarized sunglasses of the crew, changing each slightly.
At night, on watch, I imagine the shallower waters to come. Four days’ sail away is the blue-green lagoon of Palmyra Atoll and the surrounding turquoise blue reefs covered in fishes…old friends, like blue tangs, blue runners, and patrolled by blue-gray sharks.
As sleep comes, I realized I am trying to count all the shades of blue I’m experiencing. Happily, out here, you soon realize that you can’t quantify the infinite; you can only sail through it.