At Sea, off the Coast of Western Sahara, North Africa

Oct 10, 2017 - National Geographic Orion


A centimeter on the map, a few short hyphens across the radar, a vague memory of the immeasurable ocean—that was our fourth day of ocean, lived out across a hundred miles of blue.

Already, time has turned hazy. Hours hold less and less meaning, the changing clocks are only a formality. The day is broken up by whale sightings and the occasional moment when gangs of silvery spotted dolphins surf along our bow, zooming, leaping and weaving in the water. Every animal we see—pilot whales, a mother sperm whale with her calf, the rush of dolphins—all of them remind us that the ocean is moving beneath us, heaving with life.

There are no waves and no clouds—only clear skies and sapphire seas that dance with squiggles of reflected sunlight. The weather is a gift as we glide southward, due west of the vast Sahara, surrounded by blue.

There were some lectures in the lounge—a fascinating talk by naturalist Conor Ryan regarding the plight of overfishing in these West African waters, as well as our resident National Geographic expert who detailed his life On Assignment. Yet in between the sumptuous meals and talks and diversions aboard, each one of us breaks away for a spell, to peer out our cabin windows, to stand still on deck, to gaze out at the beautiful emptiness that is the monumental Atlantic. We are all becoming reacquainted with the sea. It is no longer the space between places—it has become a place of its own—our very own ocean on what already seems like our very own planet.

This is the gift of slow travel across the ocean—to separate oneself from the world’s scheduled chaos and to move deliberately across every meter of water, to feel the soft lullaby of the sea, rocking us gently by night, and to meet the sun each new morning, and watch the waves change from black to sliver to white and then blue.

My own day ended well after dark, far up in the Observation Lounge, surrounded by books, chatting with a guest while our hands fluttered over a navigator’s map of the Atlantic Ocean. We guessed at our location, knowing that in fact, my own small thumbprint represented hundreds of square miles of open water.

“I love being at sea,” said my new friend, as we matched the manmade chart to the greatness outside.

“Me too,” I agreed, and sighed, and then we stood in silence, feeling the low hum of the engine as National Geographic Orion plowed onward, into tomorrow, when no doubt, we shall encounter even more blue than today.

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About the Author

Andrew Evans

Guest Speaker

Andrew Evans is an author, travel writer, and TV host. Embracing all media, he shares his stories from around the globe on pixel and paper. 

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