Tuesday, October 28, 2014

End of 2014 Bluetreasure Expedition

Well, that's it. The 2014 marine archaeological expedition www.bluetreasure.me is over. We spent 100 days in Salote wharf waiting - waiting for software updates - waiting for email replies - waiting for phone calls - waiting for broken equipment to be repaired - waiting - waiting - waiting.

I spent over $12,000 to join the expedition. I found the ad in Scuba Board - the promise was to look for sunken old ships and to do a lot of scuba diving. I'm a historian as well as a scuba diver. I love history and I love scuba diving. So when the captain asked me to join this year - and I had a "free year this year" - I thought, "Serendipity"!

What I didn't expect was to for the captain to keep the ship in harbor for 100 days. It takes 2 hours to sail to Eua, it takes half a day to sail to our target island in the north. Why did we wait until the very end of the season to go? And even then we only did one wreck dive. 5 months, 1 wreck dive.

I'm a patient man. And I trusted that eventually everything would work out. But all this waiting around.... I don't know about you - but paying equivalent US$12,000 (not counting airfare and sundry expenses) staying in a small ship in harbor for five fucking months is not my idea of a fun adventure.

But in life when you face a Dunkirk you gotta learn how to swim.

In the end, with nothing operational to do, I spent several weeks on the main island and over a month in 'Eua island - chillin' out, making new friends, doing whale swims - paying it out of my own pocket.

Last year I had originally planned a whale swim trip to Pangai, Ha'apai. When I signed up for the bluetreasure expedition I almost cancelled the trip. Its a good thing I didn't. I spent two weeks in Ha'apai swimming with the whales. I got some really nice photos like the one you see on my cover.

On the plus side - this year for the expedition wasn't all wasted  - the magnetometer is finally back and ready for use, the new speedboat was assembled and is being prepped for use. The captain has found a capable first mate and a web designer too.

But I'm really not sure why the 2nd hand magnetometer wasn't checked out before we sailed to Tonga or even when it was purchased. Its 2nd hand - and its not cheap costing over $20,000. I mean if you buy a $20,000 piece of 2nd hand equipment it would be a good idea to test it out first don't you think?

But it wasn't done - and it turns out it may have been broken to begin with.

The time we wasted on that equipment took over three months. One month testing it, trying to upload software for it, finally finding that its broken, then freighting it to Canada and waiting waiting waiting for it to be fixed and returned. That's three months down the drain. Not to mention the repair bill for the mag cost over $10,000.

I shouldn't have joined the expedition. I had a very bad feeling in Jan/February prior to officially signing on - something told me "Don't Go!!!!!" - I dismissed it as just an anxiety attack.

But the premonition was correct- I shouldn't have come.

On the plus side - the waiting around forced me to go outside my comfort zone - meet new people - make new friends - travel on my own. By nature I'm a very shy person and I find it hard to get out - one year 2002 I hardly went out of my home.

But as I encounter new people, make new acquaintances and friends - I discovered whole new ways of living. I met Geologists whose real jobs are as accountants - they study geology after-work - there is a University in London who catered for such people. They were in 'Eua studying a hidden underground cave system - which included a cave that was 100m in length. They took me to the cave but the Tongan guide injured his leg just as we got there.

I also met whale researchers in Tongatapu - really sweet lovely people - their main income is in the oil-gas petroleum industry doing environmental impact studies and in their off-time they work on their passion. I introduced them to the Captain - and their whale boat tour organizer Rob became friends with him and the crew.

In 'Eua I made friends with a Sydney backbacker who spent 2 months traveling it rough - camping - in Indonesia from Sumatra to Sulawesi. She's been to more places in the world than I have fingers. And she's half my age.

I also made friends with local Tongan people - got to know their culture, their language, their food and lifestyle. I think if you go to a foreign land - you are obliged to learn a bit about the people you are staying with. But strangely for the people on my ship they seemed content just to stay on board the boat - in the harbor - I found that most peculiar. Its like going on a long road trip - you finally reach your destination but instead you stay in the car, in the shopping center parking lot. I don't get that.

What I'm trying to say is - meeting new people - is such an eye opening and personal challenging experience. Personally challenging because their lives make me re-think my own of behaving and living life.

Most people want to live comfortable lives - doing things which they are familiar with - but a pig in mud is comfortable to stay there all day - do we want to do that?

They say ignorance is bliss. But if our ancestors had stayed where they were - we'd still be living in some primordial swamp.

But yeah - that's it - end of the 2014 expedition. I chose to leave it not feeling bitter or angry. I chose to go home with fond memories of the friends I made, of the lives I impacted (I saved an Australian diplomat's life after the gas bottle in her bathroom fell down and opened up - if I hadn't been there in the adjoining room in 'Eua - I wouldn't have realized there was a leak and gone to wake her up; she could have possibly have died.)

That's it- gotta go. The TCC security guard is chasing me out.

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