A Surprise in Busan:
I awoke in Busan (Pusan), South Korea, and went on deck expecting the now-usual container port desolation and commotion. To my delight, Busan is a very scenic seaport. Islands thick with pine trees dot the harbor and rugged mountains march to the sea. Human presence is shown by graceful harbor gate pylons and a delicate suspension bridge in the distant mist. The breeze is fresh and cool. The immediate business of shuffling containers is accomplished with surprisingly little crashing and siren noises. I wish I could stay and explore Busan.
The Hokkaido/Honshu Strait:
It’s 10:30 on a beautiful Sunday morning. The Amsterdam is traversing Hokkaido/Honshu Straits. The sky is robin’s egg blue, dotted with puffy white clouds, the sea is a deep cold teal. Whitecaps march in formation toward the snow-capped mountains of Hokkaido. They are sharp, like the Sierra Nevadas, and dusted with new spring grass.
Through binoculars I can see a long, sandy beach where the mountains meet the sea. I recall the tales told by my childhood best friend’s father. He had been a submariner in WWII, patrolling these very waters. He would get a faraway eyes whenever he looked out to sea. Lost in this reverie, my binoculars found the nuclear power plant at Fukishima, a jarring reminder of the Pandora’s Box we opened at Hiroshima, not so far away. The Amsterdam is under company orders not to take on sea water for desalinization in Japanese waters. It is radioactive.
The following morning, my breath turns to frost; the sea is deeper blue and frothy. We have just passed the group of small islands off Hokkaido. One, Ostrov Shikotan, has visible patches of snow. These are the islands Japan and Russia have contested since the 19th Century. They may still. I wonder if anyone lives on them and, if so, whether they care which flag flies over the post office.
Aleutian Islands & Bering Sea:
Cold grey sky, cold grey sea – a serious storm is blowing outside. I haven’t sighted land or another vessel in several days. We are so far north that it doesn’t get fully dark until after I’m asleep. Maybe it doesn’t at all.