Thursday, May 12, 2005

Where the Wild Things Are

I came across this article from Ocean Navigator about voyaging in the Red Sea. Technically a Red Sea crossing is the 1,300 mile sojourn from Bab al Mandab to the straits to Suez but according to the article, an east-to-west crossing from Asia to approach the southern end of the Red Sea can be undertaken with favorable winds only during the southeast monsoon, between January and May. There is a surfeit of similar detail on Red Sea passages, prevailing winds and currents, harbors, etc – but I’m also interested in the discussion around security (on the third page). I’ve posted on pirates here and here and, for those who live day-to-day in a relatively prosaic fashion, the thought of lawless bandits attacking sailors in places like the Red Sea is both captivating and alarming. Apparently because of the security risks, an informal SSB net has evolved where sailors check in with one another daily – another example of culture at work in the far flung corners of the earth. I am also entranced by the lead paragraph – the author says, Every ocean or sea has its own mythology, and though some of it is largely fictional, many of these myths have an element of truth: the Roaring Forties really do roar, and the Pacific can be as peaceful as its name implies. He goes on to talk about the myth of the Red Sea and its related characteristics (unmarked reefs, gale-force headwinds, pirates and hostile coastlines). Hoards of bare boaters and pleasure seekers swarm every known charter destination from the BVI to the Dalmatian coast and they leave no mystery in their wake. As risky as the Red Sea may be, at least it’s authentic…beyond the open ocean one of the last places where today sailors can experience a place as intrepid and barbarous as the world in which their forefathers once lived.

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