アルカディア翻訳会2008年1月課題                   出題: 仁保真佐子
日時: 1月20日(日) 14:00-17:00
場所: 渋谷区立大向区民会館 会議室1号
Sailing Toward Paradise
THERE are few places on the planet more appropriate to contemplate a sea journey than at the Miraflores Locks, on the western end of the Panama Canal. It is a balmy March evening, and the red tropical sun hangs low over the jungle-covered hills. At eye level a container ship slides silently by, seeming close enough to touch. The size of a lengthwise ChryslerBuilding and stacked high with multicolored metal boxes, it slips into the lock, and great steel gates swing closed as the 65,000-ton ship is lowered in its final stage from Lake Gatún. The lower gates open like the doors of a cathedral, and the enormous vessel is pulled forward by tow lines. It fires up its engines and churns toward the Pacific. 』
I have come to Panama to join a ship. Not a tanker or freighter bound for the Far East, but rather a 48-foot, two-masted sailboat named the Shangri La, owned and captained by my college friend Andrew Whyte and his wife, Francesca. Our primary destination is the Galápagos Islands, a two-week sail to the southwest across a thousand miles of open water.
Andrew and Francesca know what they are doing; they’ve made a life out of it, Now the Shangri La is anchored at the Balboa Yacht Club near the mouth of the canal. The little white ketch bobs like a bath toy in the wakes of the constantly passing freight vessels. I take a launch from the dock and join the other five crew mates aboard. At 32, I am the oldest. Everyone else is in their mid-20s, just as Charles Darwin was when he sailed to the Galápagos aboard the Beagle in 1835.
I’ve long had a fascination with ships and the sea, a passion limited by my disposition to get terribly seasick on almost everything that moves, including cars, roller coasters and swing sets. This is one of the few traits I share with the young Darwin. Serving as the expedition’s naturalist, he was violently seasick for almost the entirety of the Beagle’s five-year circumnavigation. Two weeks I think I can handle, but as a precaution I am carrying enough Dramamine to tranquilize a humpback.
Motoring out of the mouth of the canal, we keep a watchful eye on the dozens of freighters maneuvering into line for the Miraflores Locks. The skyline of Panama City vanishes in the morning haze as we head out to the open sea. Setting the luffing white sails to a steady wind, Andrew puts us on a starboard tack, and the Shangri La plows happily southward. In a few hours, we are alone in the Pacific. 』
Surrounded by watery vastness, I am quickly confronted by the totality of our disconnection from terrestrial habits. As an unrepentant media addict, the severing of the Bluetooth umbilicus is profound. There is no satellite phone aboard, no cell service, no radio traffic and certainly no Internet.
It is a difficult withdrawal, but our little group soon falls into a workable routine to sail the ship. We divide the clock into two-hour watches at the wheel, and I pull the 2-to-4 shift, a.m. and p.m. The rest of the day is filled with reading, and talking, and dozing in the shade. I finish a novel in a day for the first time since college. Andrew and Tucker Thiele, a friend of ours from Vermont, invent a marathon hybrid of cribbage and Risk. Rhys Hayes, an Australian Internet entrepreneur, passes the time by stitching a beautifully monogrammed iPod case out of leather for his girlfriend.
We trawl a fishing line, and hooking a smallish yellowtail is an event akin to a papal visit. Our Down East Maine crew mate Jared Grant expertly hauls the catch on deck, and Andrew makes mercifully short work of it. Tucker conjures four brilliant courses from a single fish: sushi, ceviche, tacos and chowder.
Days blend into one another. We cross the Doldrums, the vast belt of low pressure and light wind that girdles the equator. We don’t see a single other ship, but there is plenty of life: terns rest on the ship’s rail, pods of pilot whales breech beside us, and dolphins surf in our bow wake. We even spot a huge solitary leatherback turtle, paddling its way to the Galápagos for its spring migration. At the wheel in the middle of the night, I steer with one eye to the long axis of the Southern Cross, which points our way, or stare out at the dark water and the eerie green glow of the bioluminescent sea creatures stirred up by our passing. 』
At dawn on the 14th day out from Panama a rosy smudge appears on the horizon, barely discernible from the smoky convergence of sea and sky. Francesca shouts “I see it!” and there, rising 500 feet straight out of the still water, is the volcanic tuff cone León Dormido, “Sleeping Lion.” The rock serves as a sentinel to the Galápagos archipelago. Behind it the low green island of San Cristóbal comes into view.
When Darwin arrived at San Cristóbal (then called Chatham Island) on Sept. 17, 1835, he remarked in his journal: “Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field of black, basaltic lava is everywhere covered by stunted, sun-burnt brushwood, which shows little signs of life.” He had very little inkling that the signs of life he observed there would eventually help lead to one of the most revolutionary theories in the history of science. 』
We anchor in the tiny harbor of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, population 5,000, one of the two main ports of the Galápagos. Several dozen yachts and fishing boats are moored in the deep blue water. The public dock where we tie our dinghy is covered with slick brown sea lions dozing in the equatorial sun. Hundreds are sprawled along the shore like fat sunbathers, barking to one another. Having evolved with no terrestrial predators to fear, they don’t move, or even seem to notice us as we step gingerly over them. It is our first clue that the Galápagos are a place where humans are utterly foreign.
Arriving by private boat is an uncommon way to experience the Galápagos, and has both limitations and benefits. Because nearly all of the archipelago is preserved as national park, there are only two permitted anchorages, here at Baquerizo Moreno and at Puerto Ayora on the nearby island of Santa Cruz. The vast majority of the 70,000 annual tourists to the islands arrive from the mainland by plane, and take multiday boat tours around the islands to observe the wildlife, stopping at each for a few hours. We decide to keep the Shangri La anchored at San Cristóbal for a week, which will allow us to dig deep into San Cristóbal’s natural treasures.
The Galápagos have served as a laboratory for life ever since they bubbled up above the ocean’s surface more than five million years ago. Today there are 13 main islands, and the newest are still being created by volcanic activity. The most recent eruption occurred in 2005. All species on the islands arrived through some extraordinary luck or toughness: seeds blown by the wind or carried in the stomachs of birds; small land tortoises that drifted for months on ocean currents, or on rafts of vegetation that blindly bumped up against the new land. Those that survived the harsh environment gave rise to an astonishing array of endemic species: marine iguanas, tool-using finches, giant tortoises that weigh almost 700 pounds. Life evolved in quiet isolation, unaffected by the outside world.
No longer a lonesome outpost of life untouched by humans, today the Galápagos are a laboratory of conservation, where humans’ fraught relationship with the natural world can be studied and, hopefully, repaired. In 1959, the centenary of the publication of Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” the Ecuadorean government declared the archipelago a national park. Today, 97 percent of the archipelago is preserved, along with 40,000 square miles of the surrounding ocean. Working with the Ecuadorean National Park Service, organizations like the Charles Darwin Foundation finance conservation programs, education and scientific research.