December 5, 1995
Location: 48 41' South Latitude x 179 45í East Longitude Across the International Dateline. 450 miles to New Zealand.
We officially crossed the International Dateline without ceremony at
7:17 PM local time. The crossing of the 180 degrees longitude was are
final time change on our route to New Zealand. I stood and watched the
computer monitor. The minutes of longit ude slowly slipped away until the
crossing. No bells, no whistles, no balloons released, only the passing
of numbers marked the crossing of the Dateline.
The remainder of the day was much like any other, It was there first
clear night that we have had in ages. I took the opportunity to do some
star gazing. The moon light traced patterns of moving shadows from thin
clouds dotting the night sky on the water. The stars seemed to dance in
the black envelope of the night. They did not twinkle, they dazzled. The
stars seemed to be far brighter than I remembered. It was a magical
experience. There was a strong breez e that blew a fine spray onto the
deck. The air was thick, almost pungent with the darkness. The light
form the pale moon and the stars seemed to form patterns of light far more
complex than constellations alone. They were poetry, with the moon
setting the verse and the stars giving rhyme. It was glorious.
Although I could not identify any constellations, I was struck by the
vast array of images that could be traced from the connect the dot
patterns of stars. It was easy to see nothing and everything at the same
time. I felt a bit obligated to try and apply some of my astrophysics,
but sitting and wondering seemed to be more appropriate.
We are just a few days from New Zealand now, and the frenzied pace has
increased as the scientists work to complete the cruise report. Everyone
has a responsibility for the final product. Care is taken to make what is
written reflect the work and energy put forth during the cruise. Much of
the science equipment brought from the two universities has been packed
ready to ship back to the states. People continue to work with the data,
and use their free time to talk about future projects.
It is hard not to be excited about the coming of land. We know that it
is just over the horizon. The mood of everyone on board has been
heightened by the anticipation of going home. There is still much to do,
and time is becoming shorter.
When we arrive, the support staff will have just three days to unload
all of our equipment, and load the gear for the next science cruise. It
is a hurried time for them as they work to literally take out the old and
bring in the new. It has been six weeks since I left Wisconsin. It has
been a long time on the clock and calender, full of excitement, discovery
and learning. Somehow though, it seems like we just started yesterday.