The Immense Pacific

ABOVE THE PACIFIC OCEAN -- As the sun rose, I could only see clouds and water. . .


From my field notebook

Tuesday, March 12, 1996:

Pacific Ocean: 10,700 m altitude: approximately 460 km NE of Kolonia: I left Newark International on 10 March at noon EST on a flight to Atlanta, then picked up another to Honolulu. Both flights on Delta were uneventful. Saw my Uncle [Cecil Lawrence] and cousin Andrea in Atlanta. It's been 10 years since I saw them last. Much too long. Andrea's now 15 years old and nearly as tall as me.

I've been traveling for 27 hours straight, with about six hours to go before arriving in Jakarta. This marathon travel is brutal.

Honolulu International Airport sucks, at least it did last night. We stretched a two-hour layover into six because of some flight crew rotation problems with the Garuda flight to Indonesia. I was in a wonderful mood, battling fatigue, hunger, and homesickness. . .

I am surrounded by a mixed bag of Indonesians and (seemingly) ugly Americans. Beer for breakfast and shopping in Bali! And all is right with the world. . .

Pacific Ocean: 10,700 m altitude: approximately 200 km NE of Kolonia: . . . My mood has improved with rest and with sunrise over the Pacific. The sunrise was beautiful! So is the ocean. I saw some atoll about 900 km W or SW of Majuro. I hope I can spot it on a map later.

Kolonia appears to be obscured by clouds right now. . .

The captain identified the atoll I saw earlier as Johnston's Island. I'll confirm that when I can look at a map. [If this is Johnston's Atoll, I have it in the wrong direction from Majuro. Johnston's Atoll is northeast of Majuro, not west or southwest as I wrote earlier. Considering that the atoll was well lit up at night -- indicating extensive development -- and assuming that my initial directions were somewhat correct, I am guessing that what I was was Kwajalein, site of extensive U.S. military activity.]

We've been socked in as we approach the [Pacific Ocean, 10,700 m altitude: approximately 1,000 km N of Duke of York Island] equator. I hope it clears up before we pass over New Guinea. I'd like to see it even if I probably won't be able to go to it. Five hours to go.

Even when it's clear there seems to be no horizon over the ocean because of the haze. Right now we're out of the clouds, but they still obscure the ground.

We're socked in again. Must be the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone). We crossed the Equator at 0833 hrs. local time (0633 hrs. Jakarta time and 1833 hrs EST -- on 11 March). I'm in the Southern Hemisphere and can't see a damn thing. Two new hemispheres in one day (Eastern and Southern)! . . .

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