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The Middle Of Nowhere

(AP Photo/John Raoux)
This is why I came on this cruise: For nothing, and nothing is what I'm getting. Last Thursday found me happily ensconced on board Holland America Lines's ms Zaandam in quite possibly the most remote area on Earth. At noon, we were 1,430 nautical miles away from San Diego, with another 812 miles to go before we reached the Big Island of Hawaii on a 15-day cruise that would circle the islands. We had left San Diego on Tuesday night and wouldn't step on land again until Sunday morning.

When I mean nothing, I mean vistas of nothing but royal-blue water in every direction as far as the eye can see as we motor towards Hilo at about 20 knots per hour. The closest we've come to anything resembling land was two days ago when we sailed within 25 miles of the Jasper Seamount, which is 1500 feet below the surface of the water. Since then we've been sailing in nearly 13,000 feet of water that would be a pleasant 68 degrees if we could stop the ship and swim in it.

As a Dutch ship's officer named Wouter said with a shrug, "There is nothing between San Diego and here." No islands in view since we lost sight of the mainland, no birds, and so far no sea life, which is so rare out here that the ship's officers can remember the few times they've seen porpoises or whale blows on this route. This is the vast, eastern Pacific Ocean, and one of the great cruising experiences on Earth, I think, as the sheer scale of it all sinks in a little as one day turns to the next and we motor along without any visible change to the landscape other than clouds coming and going, and day turning to night.

In between the buffets, the ping-pong games, the books to read and lectures on board to attend, I try to spend a good part of the day watching that water go by, and thinking about the first explorers who braved this vast expanse of nothingness. We are a tiny dot – albeit a dot with really good food and excellent beds – in this enormous landscape of flat blue water. I'll have more on this trip in upcoming blogs.