Came off the ship this morning at about 8am, saying goodbye to the captain and crew and thanking them for a comfortable trip. Shared a ride into the city with the other passengers who were going to a hotel and I am now on a train to my aunt’s house north of Brisbane. Coming into port last night was a marathon effort. We seemed to sail up and down the coast a few times before coming in. And then it was a delicate exercise in parallel parking the ship into the wharf between two other ships already berthed. Before that, we waited in Brisbane harbour about 18 hours before being allowed to approach and have a pilot come aboard. For that long period of waiting, I’m lifting the endurance rating to a six.
I haven’t finished reading ‘Moby Dick’ yet. Its a bit boring. 300+ pages in and this is what’s happened: the narrator has gone aboard a whaling ship and since setting out has discovered that the captain is obsessed with catching the particular while that bit off his leg. They have caught one whale (but not the right one). That’s it. For 300+ pages. And this is supposed to be the greatest American novel. Anyway I’m determined to finish, having once before started it and given up several years ago. You might say that Moby Dick, the book rather than the whale, is my white whale. I will not give up until the final page is finished. The book probably deserves an endurance rating of seven.
We should be reaching Australia tonight according to the captain. Whether we will berth is uncertain. We may have to wait until the morning. Either way, I will probably spend the night on board the ship since it’s already booked and paid for. I’ve fared fairly well on board the Basel. It’s difficult to get exercise and the meals are sometimes a bit stodgy but overall its been pretty comfortable. The biggest hassle has been not completely recovered from flu which I’m certain is partly due to the air conditioning system here. I’ve got it switched off in my cabin but whenever I go to the dining room which has it switched on, I start coughing and spluttering again (I pity the other diners). I’ve decided to give Endurance Ratings to various parts of my trip, measuring how difficult a part was to get through on a scale of one to ten, where one is a bus trip to your local shops and ten is walking through the Saharan desert. Spending nine days on a freighter ship I’d give an endurance rating of five. Its a bit like being in a hotel, only you’re stuck in the hotel and there’s not much to do. On the other hand, taking walks around the ship and sitting up in the bridge are fun. Around 10 days seems to be about the right length - enough to be a real voyage but any more than that would be too monotonous.
We’re about halfway through the voyage to Brisbane and thankfully its been an uneventful one. No storms, just a slow steady journey to the destination (the Basel travels at about 15 knots which is roughly 30 km/hr). Yesterday we saw the last of New Zealand, the stretch of land between Cape Reinga and North Cape at the top of the North Island. If you look very closely at the photo you can just make it out. The other picture is a typical view from one of the two portholes in my cabin. So far I’ve seen a few whale-spouts in the distance and one whale more closely swimming past us, diving and reemerging every now and then to spout. No dolphins, but my fellow passengers say they saw a school of about twenty. (Some of you may say that ‘school’ is the wrong collective noun since it applies to fish and dolphins are mammals. However, Melville in Moby Dick insists that whales and dolphins are fish, not finding any of the reasons given for classing them otherwise to be convincing. If it’s good enough for Melville then it’s good enough for me.)
Last sight of NZ. If you look really closely you can see some land. It's the stretch of land between Cape Reinga and North Cape at the top of the North Island.