We had departed LAX about seven hours earlier but as I looked down – miles down – the moonlight reflected on the scene below showed nothing other than an expanse that went on seemingly forever. It was the Pacific Ocean.
Prior to this eight hour journey to the Cook Islands I truly had little idea of the magnitude of the Pacific Ocean. After we landed – an event that was heralded by the view of about seven (or so it seemed) bright lights on the horizon that indicated Rarotonga had been attained. It was about two a.m. when that event transpired.
Where I live, on British Columbia’s west coast the Pacific laps on our shores. A few months ago we went to Alaska. Also many miles to the north but still on the Pacific. And a couple of years earlier we went down the coast: Canada, US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and all them other dinky little Central American places, but all still Pacific. Earlier than that we cruised to Hawaii. It took four full days on that old Big Blue. And there we were on Rarotonga after eight hours flying time and still on the Pacific.
What was daunting is that we hadn’t even completely traversed this massive ocean. Thousands of miles to Australia, New Guinea and all the Asian spots. Damn. It’s big. It covers 30.5% of the planet’s surface. I have traversed (by air) the Atlantic many times and it just seems like a very wide ditch in comparison with the Pacific. I find it difficult to imagine the early explorers traversing it. They truly must have thought that time that they would sail off the planet.
I don’t think it was until we had actually arrived at Rarotonga that we fully appreciated the hugeness of the Pacific. The roar of the surf, which has built up over so many thousands of miles, is deafening if you are close and it can actually keep one awake at night: “Shut the fuck up, ocean, maybe for a few minutes.”
And the ‘big blue’ can be frightening. I am not normally afraid of water. I swim moderately well, so what can it do to me. A lot, in fact. We were once snorkeling in lovely Muri Lagoon and I traversed across to the outer wall of the lagoon and at one point I felt a strong rush of current. I realized there was an egress to the ocean beyond and I stood in jeopardy of being sucked out – to my doom. It was a good thing I was in the water since I promptly peed myself with that realization.
There was an other disquieting element, however. As big as the sucker is, the viler aspects of mankind are ever apparent. One day we decided to walk entirely around one of the lovely little motus (little paradisical islets) on the far side of Muri. As we got to the outer open Pacific side there it was. Garbage; plastic garbage. Masses of it from all the corners of the planet, judging by the labels, with disposable cigarette lighters in colorful array all along the beach.
It only left me with the thought that if we are that vile, we deserve to lose it all.
But, the other thought I have always been left with is that the Pacific is really, really, really, really big. And amazingly, with so much magnitude we are still able to defile it.