Arriving in Tuvalu!

October 12, 2023

Author: Ruth Metcalf, Pomona College

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Underwater Selfie with Prue, Swim Call in Tuvalu

Ship's Log

Date: Thursday, October 12, 2023Time: 3:57 PMLocation: Funafuti Atoll, TuvaluWeather: Cloudy, humid, hot

Hello!Ruthie here, I'm a junior at Pomona College from Maine and am excited toshare with you a snapshot into what life has been aboard the Robby C. Thismorning we got to Tuvalu, an atoll island that a SEA vessel has never beento before! Lots of first, for SEA, the crew, and me. This is the first timeI've visited an atoll. I wrote out a bit of a narrative this morning when wewere coming in, as follows, with additions of thought as I go.9:17 amWe are currently entering the lagoon of Tuvalu. The clouds are grey andlayered with slate blues and patterns of light. Soleil is at the helm,chatting with Satya who's holding a cup of coffee. There are manygreen-topped islands passing us by in most directions, we're ringing thebell now.  Grace muses with others in conversation about life on thisisland---the fourth smallest nation in the world---"they must have limitedforms of birth control too," she says. Even at sea, my mind is brought backto issues of reproduction and I think about the state of abortion law in theU.S., where a case about Mifepristone is now in the hands of the SupremeCourt. It probably will not get decided until I arrive back on land for awhile. I've found myself, here, in contemplation over what I'm interested inand studying at school. Here, I am drawn to thinking about art-making andadvocacy, of social issues like reproductive freedom and justice, and myinterests in political thought. As Captain affirmed for me as I chattedabout my college and my uncertainties in what to study as we watched theevening CTD deployment---that I will figure it out. Eventually, life goes on.I've been learning, on this trip, to be where I am and trust that I am whereI'm meant to be.That was a tangent---back to the morning narrative.It's been quiet this morning---careful tension as we navigated the smallopening into the circular atoll. Fredi was aloft, looking out for thelighter green water that meant reefs. We had to be careful, navigating ourbig boat through a certain channel.I learned this morning what an atoll really means. It's a piece of land-avolcanic mountain---formed from a hotspot in the ocean floor millions ofyears ago. As the mountain volcano rests in the sea, corals grow along theperimeter. Tectonic plates move the land away from the deeper asthenosphereand so the island no longer hovers above a hotspot. Weathering from rainsbreak down the mountain, and slowly, the inside if the mountain massdescends into the sea. A perimeter of coral remains, which, viasedimentation and the reshaping of the planet over glacial-interglacialcycles, has formed the islands we now motor by. Layer by layer, over cyclesof change, this nation grew. It's reminiscent of our lives, that areweathered by time and experiences that collect, like small sand particles.Instead of course shards of silicon and basalt, we are islands of particles,embodied collections of knowing and memory shaped by the places and peoplewe meet. I've been thinking a lot about what I want to come next for me, andhave found peace in knowing that I never will truly know, but that newwonders are constantly being flooded to me, like the particles that ride inthe flooding of currents from sea to sea. Like corals that transport andgrow where or they land, we transform to where we are. We find, we build,community. Through breakage and love, connection and movement, I grow on.Green-topped, the islands stand stoic and mystical. Sand and dark brownbottomed, the land we pass is alive with moody slate-blue-grey waves andbright-foam-white breaks. Jan, our head scientist, let me borrow hisbinoculars and I could see plumes of birds and ocean spray hovering abovethe interspersed blips of land.In the lagoon, the ocean is more warm-toned than the sky which is a coolerlight blue. Nate, our second mate, told us this morning that sailors used tolook at the clouds and see the reflection of the lagoon's green water inthem, guiding them where an atoll lied. Connecting what causes the ocean'scolor to plankton and to sailors in times pasy is an example of the waysthis program has woven the earth, my senses, science, and history in awondering array. Cap is looking for a white three story building with binoculars. Grace islaughing as I write that in my journal, playing with my hair. Grant eatsoatmeal---Sophie swings her foot---sitting on top of the dog house (aka, thechart room).This trip has been a whirlwind of experience: of beauty and long hours onwatch and new people who join me in conversations soft and easy and true.It's raining slowly; we've had squalls the last few days. My most recentwatches, dawn and evening, were marked by diagonal rain fall andtemperatures that made it comfortable to wear a raincoat only, shorts andsandals letting the rain reach me. Dark blackness obscuring thestars---squall clouds that make their own winds that daunt sailors acrossthe seas. Lightening that lit the entire sky, showing us the movement of theocean for just a second. Or far away, a lighted flash in a faraway cloud,purple or yellow, a far off explosion shrouded in the clothes of the cloudit emanated from.Last night on dawn watch I saw the most beautiful shooting star. It had atrailing white line of energy---drew into the sky like a single pen glide onpaper---fading after a moment of glowing in the sky. I had looked up, alone,in the dark, on the helm. It was the first time I've seen a shooting starlike that, one that shows me its path in the universe beyond. Wishing,thinking, dreaming and trying to remember the dreams: the ones from sleepand those forming in my imagination. One day in Fiji in Levunka we walkedinto the mountains and I came across a waterfall I feel was from on olddream of mine. Kind people have guided us and I can feel the openness theyextend. Fiji is a beautiful place with many kind people. It's where I wasgifted mangos, found garden-buildings and pink flowers padding the ground,was welcomed into someone's backyard beach and welcomed to sit when walkingback. 'Vinaka' is thank you in Fijian. Here in Tuvalu, hello is 'Talofa'. Wewill explore Tuvalu tomorrow, a new place for me. I'm trying to be open andnot worry about plans to make, and let the universe guide me to what isright, as it has been.On this trip I've been both introspective and in community. Looking at myown self and to the people around me. Time reading, breathing, looking atthe pink and purple and blues in the sky. I was expecting time to considermyself and the world on this trip but, as life goes, could never haveimagined the tactile wonders and tires of life here. Sore feet and sweatyface, new friends and music, and concoctions of words and ideas that inspireme for today and tomorrow. If I could only show you how it all feels, to bein this world. But our experiences are only ever our own while we live them,and the lessons pass on like seeds in the wind. With time to root and growwithin the self before sharing soft scents or shaded protection, I amexcited to see what will grow in me.Now we're passing the universal wave of hello, as Nate puts it, to a personin a small red motor boat, zooming by, "checking us out."SHOUTOUTSTo mom and dad and Charlie, I love you all so much and can't wait to sharewith you this adventure. If one of you reads this, send to the others 🙂Charlie, I hope Spain has been awesome and have a feeling it has been.Friends at school, Sarah, Taylor, Isa, Alex, I hope you are all having ablast and have been finding love and satisfaction in your wonderful selves.I am so excited to see you soon, if not in the Spring, after your adventuresabroad. Crazy as it sounds I'm actually really excited to return toClaremont. Porter and Rebecca I miss you both SO much and cannot wait tohear about your adventures. Know you're the best and lights of my life.Rebecca, I'm so excited to see you in the spring.If any of you read this, please share this with the above mentioned peoplebecause I forgot to send the link out.My people, Mae, Fia, Kate, Hattie Rose, I love you all dearly but assume youprobably won't get a chance to read this (yet) because you're caught up inyour lives, naturally.Stand tall and know I love you!Be well,Ruthie

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One Comment

  1. Sara (Satya’s mom) October 24, 2023 at 23:38 - Reply

    Beautiful, Ruthie! Thank you so much for sharing your mind – and that beautiful shooting star, just for you, that night.

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