Longitude 180° E/W

It was my pleasure to be able to cross the 180° W to 180° E line last year (more or less this day), crossing the Pacific Ocean. The feeling of separation, of being thousands of miles from the closest bit of land, was spectacular on its own.

I am not entirely certain what more I can say. For me, this memory is so real I don’t need to use any more words. For anyone reading, these words are mere lines on a screen.

Thinking about it, I can describe a few more things.

One of these would be the sunshine Central Pacific experienced. I never thought it would be like that. I never thought it could be so warm, so calm, so tranquil. But, possibly the name of the ocean is not that wrong even though it can experience horrendous storms. Fernão de Magalhães may have been wrong in the entirety when he named the ocean, but he definitely grasped the occasion of the quiet sea.

The other thing to describe would be the sensation by which the aloneness feels. Sure, I wasn’t actually alone. There were probably about ten to fifteen other people on the vessel I was travelling, but, in general and in the modern world, that is secluded. The closest islands of Alaska and Hawaii were both more than two thousand kilometres away and even so, uninhabited. The closest inhabited place may have been a small town in Alaska.

Added to this distance across the globe I would add the distance above and below. The space above us is forever unlimited, and the space below is normally of no concern to us. Central Pacific in where we were was probably between three and four kilometres deep, and its inhabitants we can only imagine — the last frontier open to us on this globe is the depth of the oceans.

Only water, boundless water, in every direction. What an experience.

David Attenborough’s ‘Africa’

The BBC recently finished broadcasting David Attenborough’s new nature series, ‘Africa’. I had the great chance to watch all of it near-immediately (and I got to the last episode far faster than I did with the ‘Frozen Planet’). Now, I get the chance to tell you all what I think.

Firstly, I think that the technological advancements we see in filming are amazing. The starlight camera we see in use with the rhinos is spectacular! I think one really needs to see the scenes to understand what I mean, but if this now proves that it is possible to film in starlight without a noticeable loss in quality… that is good news all round!

Secondly, my favourite episode must have been ‘The Cape’. To begin with, the Cape is a very interesting place in my mind and to see it come to life between the two oceans as it did here was quite breathtaking. I wanted to go there. I still do. The views of the Drakensberg Mountains were good, and I had nothing bad to say to the scenes of those marine birds feeding either. As lances from the sky…

Now, however, all is not brilliant. For some reason it seems to me that Mr Attenborough wishes to be more dazzling than he thinks he is — how else can we explain that he now decided to improve upon the facts in the last episode regarding climate change. Fortunately, the good army of climate scientists was on it and noted that Attenborough’s suggested numbers were not proven by science, but are in fact a bit lower.

Aside from this episode, I can feel sorry for the poor cameraman whose tree where he was perched got battered by that herd of forest elephants. Although he surely must think back to that now, and go: “I think it amazing!”

Maybe there is a sadness in me that the BBC team decided to bypass the Okavango Delta although we made it into the Sudd swamps which are the second major waterland area. It might be that the prehistoric bird there was the item that caused only one of these areas to be featured, but I would have hoped Okavango to be in there.

I was pleasantly surprised by the footage from the Atlas Mountains — I would genuinely not have believe that it could be that… Nordic… in Africa. Maybe it is a very small area, but even so, I can imagine a brown bear feeling very happy in those forests. And if that can be, well, what can’t?