And so as quickly this trip began, it ends. With the ship back in harbor right where we set sail from five weeks ago at a glance it can seem like we never left. Thankfully, we still have the memories, photos and friendships left over to remind us of this amazing experience. The whole “once in a lifetime experience” phrase never held much weight in my opinion, as least until now that is. Visiting the islands and reefs of PIPA, conducting research in a place so very few will ever get the chance to see, spending over a month at sea, and saying that the experience changed me is a gross understatement. While I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted and looking forward to getting home, I can’t think of a better way to spend time than out here in the Pacific.
We spent our final day onboard cleaning the ship with fervor, washing and scrubbing every nook and cranny, and then finding even more to clean. These “Field Days” for cleaning often were busy with everyone chatting as we cleaned and joked whose microfiber cloth changed the most in color. But this day there was more talk of what our plans were back home after this. A simple shift in conversation that made it so very clear that this summer had an end. Talk of things we missed about being back home was abundant, but I noticed a lack of things we would miss about being on the ship. I think part of it is due to how strange it is to think to be anywhere else. To wake up and not be able to see the ocean. However, I feel certain that I will start to miss these things much more in just a few days from now when I’m back home.
When I first saw this ship, I had no idea I could become so familiar with an environment like this that I can still picture it with ease. Part of me feels there should be more to this entry, some grand statement to end this voyage, but what? How could I possibly explain what I’ve seen to those who never have? What could I say to those who have that would change their recollection in any way? I suppose I’ll just end it with a classic: hope. I hope that the memories I’ve made here will never fade. I hope that the bonds I’ve made with everyone on this trip will last forever. I hope that I will not be last to see what I’ve seen here in PIPA, and that there will be more who follow, driven by curiosity and hope. I hope that there will always be a place in the world for summers like this one.
- Elliot Hayne, B watch, Denison University