Monday, August 31, 2009

Not bad for Gumbies ガンビーズのくせに悪くない

Hi! In part, because we have a few more interesting pictures that we didn’t have time to put on the blog in ‘real time’, we’ll give it one more pass, including also some navigational data that might be of interest to people contemplating the trip in the future. So here goes.
An map of the entire trip, also showing the predicted Kuroshio current. The prediction  turned out to be accurate enough to help in strategy planning along the way. The trip was about 475km, done in 14 days including 3 days of waiting for better conditions. Without distractions on the open crossings, we averaged 6.3km/h, paddling and sailing. 

This is a chart of all the open sea traverses. The red numbers show the total distance paddled or sailed that day. Green numbers show the time taken port-to-port for each day. Orange is the time spent actually doing the crossing; purple is the crossing distance along track, whereas turquoise is the straight-line distance. Finally, average speeds for the crossings are in magenta; able to sail on about half the crossings, and having good luck with the currents, we were able to achieve some fairly good results.

Day 1-2 (Amami-Oshima – Takarajima)
A map showing our movement, as well as the direction, speed, and (in color) the tidal phase of the sea currents encountered.  On this section, currents were up to 1 knot in strength - normally not enough to seriously hinder a sea kayak's progress.

These two days were spent adjusting to our new environment. It was extremely hot and humid, and the sea was rolling with 3 meter waves coming from a typhoon far to the southwest. There were also south-west winds at 10-20 knots and the weather forecast was unsteady to boot. We therefore ventured onto the high seas with some trepidation. At least the currents here turned out relatively weak (up to 1 knot) and quite irregular, more or less as expected. On the way to Yokoate we encountered east-setting currents, which slowed us down a bit. We were able to make some of this up later by sailing (at a difficult angle to the wind), but not enough to prevent a nighttime landing. All along we had worries that the landing beach would be exposed to swells coming from yet another typhoon to our east, so we approached the island by starlight and with much anticipation; not relishing the thoughts of waiting in the kayak all night or paddling another 40km of nighttime swell to the next island. Luckily, we were able to land in small waves. The next day, windy and rolling conditions persisted on the sea while we sailed to Takara-jima on a good tailwind. On the way, for the record, we detoured slightly to a 'degree confluence point' - actually the point of exactly 29N latitude and 129E longitude. Strong currents were expected as we neared land, but they did not materialize and we approached in choppy but navigable seas. The incessant wind further intensified that night, a condition the locals said was not typical of the area’s summer weather.

go with the flow

Killing time before boarding the ferry at Kagoshima, we visited a museum dedicated to erosion-control dams (yes, the Japanese have built a museum for just about anything you can think of), where I attempted to demonstrate my superhuman power to the enthusiastic cheering of four very excited schoolgirls on a summer vacation school trip. Sadly, I had generated only about 1/2250th of the force required to stop even a small mudslide.  Crushing defeat or not, this measly impetus, coupled with Leanne's own paddle power, would have to do on our impending crossing of 400km of open sea and one of the world's post powerful ocean currents.

Another bad omen? Most of the islands we were about to visit had volcanoes, three of them active, and as the ferry pulled out of Kagoshima port, we were treated to an impressive eruption of ash from a fourth: the very nearby Sakurajima. But this couldn't have been very portentious: that day the mountain was burping almost continuously. Getting back to our parked car two weeks later, we found it covered by a layer of the fine greyish-brown dust so thick that our vehicle's original color could barely be made out. 丁度フェリーが出港すた時桜島は火山灰の噴火した。

Day 2, morning. Kaminone-jima floats on the sea like a mirage. Overwhelmed by the raw intensity of it all for a good deal of this trip, we stared thoughtlessly at the world around us. 

Bizarre rock formations on the reef shelf of Takarajima.

On Takarajima (Treasure Island) we ran into Makiguchi-san, a friendly resident who offered to take us on a tour in her truck.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Degree Confluence Project 29°N 129°E

During our summer expedition to the Tokara Islands, we managed to make a detour to snatch a 'first visit' to the remote confluence point 29°N 129°E. There is an on-line effort called The Degree Confluence Project with the goal "to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location". Check it out for yourself.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We made it home!  奄美ー九州横断完成

Iojima-Sata Misaki
During this expedition, satelite tracking was made possible by SPOT.

We actually made it to Kyushu's southernmost point, Cape Sata, late at night the day before yesterday. But to get closer to our car, we followed that up the next morning with a crossing of Kagoshima Bay. Car recovery (from the ferry parking lot in Kagoshima City) still took the entire afternoon of walking and riding trains. Loading the nearly 7m long kayak onto our 3.5m minicar (making it look somewhat aircraft-like), we proceeded homeward under cover of darkness, dropping the boat off at the Water Field Kayaks factory in Kumamoto and eventually arriving at our domicile at about 3:30 in the morning. We are recuperating today from what was by far the longest day of the trip!

tidal race2
The Kuroshio races off the northern tip of Kuchino-shima, further roughed up by a persistent east wind. We waited for two days before setting off into marginally better conditions. In all, out of 14 days we only spent 3 days waiting out the weather - a statistic that points to our good luck on this trip. 口之島の最北端の沖合い激潮が発生している。この状態はもうちょっと良くなったまで、二日間待っていた。しかしこの旅の14日間から、3日間しか待なければならなかった。それは僕たちにとって普段より運が良かった。

tidal race

今朝深夜やっと帰宅しました。皆の応援やサポート有難う。九州への横断はもう一昨日の夜中九州最南端の佐多岬に着いた際完成したけど、鹿児島進行で駐車していた車の回収をもうちょっと簡単にする為、昨日の朝鹿児島湾口を横断して指宿の長崎鼻海岸に着いた。それなのに車の回収は昼の残りをかかった。結局借りたカヤックをWater Field Kayaksの熊本での工場で持って行ってやっと深夜三時半うちに着きました。遠征の一番長い一日だったですね。今日寝不足で疲れてゆっくり休みます。

From the clifftop at the Heike Castle viewpoint on Ioujima, Leanne looks at Takeshima and Showa-Ioujima over the indigo waters of the Kuroshio, here and there discolored by volcanic hot springs. The latter island erupted out of the sea only in 1934. 硫黄島の平家城展望台からみた竹島、昭和硫黄島、そして温泉水に色を変われた海。この強い潮流が変わるまで硫黄島を出るまで午後3時ごろまで待っていた。

Ioujima's highest peak Iou-dake, or Sulfur Mountain, is an active volcano. In the words of local official Mr. Tokuda, "It's the hottest volcano in Japan. When it's going to blow, nobody knows. If it does, we'll all run for the fishing boats, head to sea, and wait for rescue there." Many thanks to Tokuda-san for letting us have his truck for the morning so we could poke around the island and take these pictures. 「いつ爆発するのか誰も知らない」の硫黄島の活動の多い硫黄岳。出張所長の徳田さんによると、日本全国での一番温度の高い火山です。噴火すれば、皆島の漁船に乗って沖へ逃げると言いました。徳田さんは自分の軽トラックを島の探検の為僕たちに貸してくれて有難うございます。

ioujima ferry
The ferry comes to Ioujima twice a week, stirring up the mango-colored, volcanic-spring-fed water of the port. In spite of the local officials' honest efforts to increase tourism, hardly anyone comes to visit this beautiful and fascinating place. Why not is a bit beyond our comprehension too. 硫黄島の港の海底温泉によるマンゴ色に染めた海水を掻き回しながら、定期船が入港します。ローカル政治家も取り組んでいるくせにこんな面白くて美しい場所なのに、中々観光客が来ないって。これは私たちも余り理解できない。


OK, bye bye! Leanne is stranded on a buoy in the middle of the mouth of Kagosima Bay. 里杏は、鹿児島湾口の中央付近にある神瀬浮標に登っちゃった。

The goal is in sight during the final hours of the expedition: approaching Nagasaki-bana on the coast of Satsuma Peninsula with the Fuji-like Kaimondake wreathed in rainclouds. 遠征の最後の数時間、鹿児島湾を横断しながら、土砂降りの雲の覆われた開聞岳を望む。

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Kuchierabu-shima 口永良部島

Hello from Kuchierabu. Although we were aiming for Yakushima yesterday, we were rebuffed by strong winds. But we were able to use those in combination with the strong currents to progress north towards Kuchierabu, which actually turns out to be a shortcut for us! So we were lucky again. The traverse took 11 hours which is still quite fast considering that we did not take the direct route at all. Today, we are speculating whether to go to Ioujima or to stay a day. The weather outlook looks okay so either seems good. But vacation time is growing short...


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Waiting at Kuchinoshima  いい天気を待っている

Heavy showers and gusty winds blew in this morning; taking a look at the windward side of the island, the tidal race is in with 2-3m waves. We will wait one more day here because this wind is about 15 knots and exactly opposite of where we want to go, not to mention interacting with the Kuroshio to make waves. So we have one more day to enjoy this beautiful place!


Kuchinoshima's south-west side had the best coastal cliff scenery seen so far on this trip. 口之島の南西側に素晴らしい絶壁の海岸がある。洞窟やトンネルも数か所。

A turtle came to check us out while snorkeling at the island's northernmost point. It's a great snorkeling spot; you can let the Kuroshio Current convey you more than a kilometer from the beach to the cape along the coral reef; then walk back along the scenic coastline road. 島の最北端のセリイ岬で素潜り途中海亀が寄ってきた。海水浴場から岬まで黒潮にサンゴ礁沿いに流される最高の巣潜りスポットを見つかった。

I guess there's no escaping it: we look like giants next to the local people. 口之島のおばあちゃんと一緒にポーズ。

Walking to the Furii-dake viewpoint with the whole island spread out below. 島の北の方にあるフリイ岳展望台まで歩く。後は島の全体が見える。

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kuchinoshima 口之島

To follow our progress throughout the expedition, go to our SHARED page on SPOT. 遠征の間現在位置を知りたいならSPOTスポットSHAREDページに見てください。

Hello from Kuchinoshima, the last of the Tokaras. We are taking a break here for a day, as the winds are not particularly favorable and we have a long, difficult traverse ahead of us. We are at the school briefly checking the Internet. Surprisingly there is a pretty good store here so we were able to stock up on food as our supplies were running a bit low. We'll probably go swimming and snorkeling later, or on a short excursion around this very scenic island.


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nakano-shima 中之島

With a following current and calm seas, we made it to Nakanoshima today in 5 hours port to port (that's about 33km). It was a fun day with great views of the surrounding islands. Today's highlight was four hammerhead sharks seen in close succession off of a cape at Suwanose with a strong tidal race. We tried to take pictures of them but alas, they stayed just out of reach of the lens. Another highlight was a sudden eruption of ash from the volcano of Suwanose-jima just as we were leaving the precints of the island. It was accompanied by a loud explosion and what sounded like breathing of an enormous dragon for several hours, all this seen an heard from a distance of 5-10 kilometers.

Tomorrow we will make the easy traverse to Kuchinoshima, the last of the Tokara islands, under clear skies, and calm winds and sea, according to the weather forecast. It looks like we will be obliged to wait there for two days for favorable winds to return before making the long and difficult crossing to Yakushima. But that's okay, we've got lots of time and we are loath to leave these beautiful islands just yet. We'll try to update you from Kuchinoshima if possible.

To follow our progress throughout the expedition, go to our SHARED page on SPOT. 遠征の間現在位置を知りたいならSPOTスポットSHAREDページに見てください。



In the meanwhile, here is a small selection of photos we took along the way.それで、いくつかの前の数日の間撮った写真をアップします。

Snorkeling at Kodakara. We've never seen so many sea snakes in one place. They are extremely poisonous but bite only in self defense. 小宝島でのスノーケリング。海蛇(エラブウナギ)が非常に多かった

A great discovery: Tokara people are gold. For example, here are the Iwashitas, Kodakara couple extraordinaire. Entomologists, cow farmers, shell divers...possessing encyclopedic knowledge of the islands. Brought us full hot meals right to our campsite.  小宝島の素晴らしい夫婦の岩下さんたち。蝶の専門家。牛を育っている。素潜りで貝などを取るのはとくい。僕たちの島の滞在の二日間夕ご飯を作ってキャンプまで持ってきてくれた。大きな感謝します。

Yet another new friend: Masayuki from Kodakara. Retired from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, though looks about 35. Visited us at least 3 times a day, and gave us a wonderful send-off. 小宝島のもう一人の友達のマサユキさん。自衛隊から停年して、故郷に帰って、今牛を育っている。毎日何回もキャンプまで遊びに来て、カヤックの旅などに興味があったそうです。出た時も見送りにきました。

Approaching Akuseki-jima, with a flock of boobies keeping us company. 悪石島に近づきながら大きなカツオドリの群れが頭上を回った。

Arriving at Akuseki, it was 37 degrees in the shade. Rick tries to ward off heat stroke by becoming torpid. A short while later, a discovery of a freezer full of ice solved our problems. 悪石島に着くと影でも37度で地獄の熱さ。リックが死にそうだった。しかしすぐあとで漁協の製氷室を発見。

Rik dwarfs our new friend Higo, a knowledgeable local fisherman (his tiny boat is in the background). Higo-san took us on a tour of the island in his truck, and shared with us valuable local knowledge of the surrounding sea.トカラの素晴らしい島民シリーズの続き:悪石島の漁師のヒゴさん。トラックで島全体を案内しました、ローカルの海について色々教えてくれました。

Higo-san caught two fish called 'Aodai' that day, at a 200 meter depth in the offing of the island. He cut one up for us to eat as sashimi for dinner. It was the most delicious sashimi we had eaten to date, complemented by Kodakara Salt. その日ヒゴさんが島の沖合で200メートルの水深でアオダイと言う魚を二匹釣った。一匹を綺麗に三枚におろして、「食べてください」って。子宝の温泉塩をかけて食べました。今までこんな美味しい刺身を本当に食べたことがない。身が透明で、ちょっとだけ甘い味をしました。

When the ferry comes to any of the Tokara islands, everyone springs to life. The ferry is Tokara's only link with outside civilization. フェリーが訪れてくると突然島が賑やかになる。

Noteworthy rock formations on the north tip of Akusekijima. We began the 17km traverse to Suwanose from here. 悪石島の最北端の絶壁の海岸。ここから諏訪瀬島への横断が始まる。

Approaching Nakanoshima today under sunny skies and calm conditions. 凪の状態で中之島に近づいた。

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Akuseki-Suwanose 悪石島から諏訪之瀬島

Hello everyone,

Here we are at the school in Suwanose Island for a quick update. We have to get going as quickly as possible for the crossing to Nakano Island, so we will keep this brief. Hopefully later we will have some time to update with pictures. After a warm sendoff by the inhabitants of Akuseki, the 20km crossing to Suwanose went smoothly in three hours. On the way we saw dolphins and beautiful views of the surrounding isolated islands of Suwanose, Taira, Gaja, and Kogaja, rising out of the great blue sea. Large schools of flying fish emerged suddenly in front of us out of the waves. We can feel the Kuroshio current more and more as we move north; approaching Suwanose we had to lean heavily into the paddles to make it through the tidal race near the southern shore. Once landbound, as usual we were welcomed warmly and even participated in the island's traditional Bon Dance which fortuitously took place last night. This morning we were treated to a free breakfast by the feisty Mrs. Mori who runs a local inn for fishermen. Suwanose also has a beautiful campground under whispering pine trees but alas, even now at the height of the summer season, there was not a vacationing soul in sight. Such are the paradoxes of this country.



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Friday, August 14, 2009

Akuseki-jima 悪石島

Well, here we are at Akuseki-jima, after an unusually fast 6.5h traverse of 37km. The wind and current were both behind us, and the sea was relatively calm too! What luck! Well, we already made a new friend who is taking us around the island in his truck, so we can't spend too much time here. Just wanted to let everyone know that we arrived in one piece after this much anticipated traverse.
We`ll be heading out first thing tomorrow.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Little Treasure Island 小宝島

Pirates sailing to Kodakara (Little Treasure) Island.

A view from the high point of Takara island of its coastline. A rock called 'Mootachi' stands alone in the sea, on guard against pirates and treasure hunters.


To follow our progress live, track us via SPOT.現在位置はスポットで見てください。

On Takarajima (Treasure Island) we ran into Makiguchi-san, a friendly resident who offered to take us on a tour in her truck. What luck! We went to the lighthouse in the island's deserted south end where there was a very scenic view of the rocky coast. We went up Mt. Imakira, the island's highest peak at 294m, from where one can reputedly see Yokoate-jima, where we came from, Amami-Oshima, and even distant Kikai-jima to the southeast, but not today: it was so hazy that only Kodakara-jima, about 13km away, could be seen. We went to Kannondo cave, a large limestone cavern where it was damp and cool and altogether more comfortable than the scorching heat and stifling humidity of the outside. Finally, Makiguchi-san showed us the two Takara horses her family was keeping. The pony-sized horses are have been kept on these islands since time immemoriam but on Takarajima there are only these two, for now.

Unwiding after a short but exciting traverse at the Yudomari natural hot springs in Kodakara-jima (free of charge).エキサイティングの横断の後小宝島の快適な湯泊露天風呂で心を癒す(無料)。


Much of the flat area on Kodakara is cow pasture. Like its neighbor Takara-jima, and in contrast most of the other Tokaras which are volcanoes, this island was formed by uplift of an ancient coral reef, and strange-shaped coral rocks protrude from the surface here and there.

Most of the Tokaras are surrounded by a raised band of reef that forms a natural rampart against 10-meter typhoon waves but also makes kayak landings difficult if not impossible. Safe landings are generally limited to the artificial ports. 小宝島を囲む唯一の岩棚で、「タチガ三」と言われるグロテスクな形の岩が点々そびえている。この岩棚は台風の波を防ぐけど、シーカヤックの上陸が非常に難しい。一般的にトカラでは漁港のスロープで。

Leanne chats with locals.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

宝島 Treasure Island


Here is a SPOT record of our trip so far. To follow our progress live, track us via SPOT. 現在位置はスポットで見てください。

According to legend, scores of years ago, the English pirate Captain Kidd came to this island and hid a treasure. The locals say there is not an ounce of truth to this fairy tale, but that that does not stop certain visitors from searching high and low for it. As for us, we have found our own treasure: 3 brand new fancy computers with high speed internet! And now for an update...


Many people have asked, how do you take a pee while crossing 60km of sea between islands? Well, here is one way. Leanne takes a swim many, many miles from shore.

Our traverse from Amami to Yokoate(65km) took 13.5 hours. We battled side winds, cross currents and 3 meter swell on an exciting but rather slow crossing. As the sun set we were still 10km from target, leaving us to tackle potential tidal races and a difficult landing in pitch darkness. Finally around 10:30, we made landfall on a rocky beach on the northside of Yokoate, the island's only available landing point. Landing on Yokoate at night was very creepy as we could feel the utter isolation of this uninhabited volcanic island surrounded by a wild sea.

奄美の名瀬港から出発して、横当島までの65キロの横断は13.5時間かかりました。横風、海流、3メートルのうねりもあった。 日の入りの時まだ横当島から10kmぐらい離れた地点で、残りは暗闇の中でのアプローチ。港もない火山でできた無人島の北側のごろった石のビーチで10:30頃上陸。うねりと黒闇でちょっと怖かった感じ。その夜ぐっすりと寝ました。

The next morning after sleeping the sleep of the dead, we finally pushed off around 10am into the same swell and unpredicable currents. This time we had the wind in our back, and Leanne enjoyed hanging on to the sail for most of the day, pulling us ever onward. Along the way we managed to navigate toward the intersection point of 29.0N latitude and 129.0E longitude. (It is such points that people like Rick actually collect and publish pictures about on the internet). We arrived at Treasure Island around 5 o`clock on a sunny afternoon, adjusting to our new surroundings: our first inhabited Tokara island. After 2 days of rough seas and barren volcanic rocks, it was, as usual, somewhat startling to readjust to civilization.

次の朝9時頃やっと目が覚めて、準備してから出発した。 南西風を利用、リアンはセールを使って、僕だけ漕いだ。行く途中緯度経度の交差点を訪れて、ゲットしました。『リックはそのことを集まっている、特別なサイトに出版する。』 宝島に午後5時ごろ到着しました。

Already bathed in sweat, this morning the walked up the steep hill to the village branch office for the internet. Here in mid-summer, even arly mornings can be hellishly hot and it's usually best to be at sea or in the shade. Rick is here topless in front of the computer checking out various forecasts and scheming about the best way to move north up this chain of islands. There is a pool of dirty sweat slowly spreading onto the computer desk from under his arm, all the more reason to sign out and get the show on the road. We will be leaving in the afternoon for the nearby Kodakara Island ('Little Treaure Island'). The wind is howling and the sea will be rough - wish us luck.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

トカラ列島2日目 Tokara Island Expedition Day 2

Looks like the tandem made it safely to Yokotate island at 10:35pm last night. This island is an uninhabited island and would be a heaven for fishermen like me.

They are scheduled to head to Takara island next. This is the most scenic island of the lot with crystal clear water and white sand. From looking at their track with SPOT, they seemed to have had a slow start to the day.

The weather looks good as they have a tail-wind to help them utilize the WindPaddle.



風も彼らに手助けする方角から吹いているので、WindPaddle を活用したら直ぐにでも付くでしょう!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

トカラ列島へ 1 日目 Tokara Island Expedition Day 1

Leanne and Rik boarded the ferry today for Amami Ooshima, Kagoshima Prefecture. The ferry left at 6 and arrived in Naze at 5 am. Hopefully they will manage to drag their heavy tandem boat down the tetrapods (there is no slope) and will head north toward the uninhabited Yokoate Island and then on to Takara Island. Currently, according to the Japanese Coast Guard wind meter, the wind is blowing 3m/s. To follow their route during the next 2 weeks, check out their track at SPOT.


More information about the Tokara Islands.

Happy Sailing and a safe journey!
Expedition Support Team

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Next Expedition 次の遠征

Leanne and I will be leaving Amakusa this weekend for this somewhat ambitious expedition. It's one that has been on the backburner for a while, but now we finally feel we've gathered enough experience to tackle it. Besides distance to be covered in two weeks (370+km), traversing from Amami to Kyushu requires numerous open crossings, some of them quite long and exposed. But the main problem comes in the form of the powerful Kuroshio Current, which flows across the route at about the same speed as one can normally paddle a kayak. Besides the obvious navigational problems, the current can also combine with ocean swell to create unpredictable areas of tall haystack waves near land or over shallow areas (marked with blue lines). Besides these challenges, the main attraction of this trip will be the beautiful volcanic Tokara Islands, one of the most isolated and inaccessible, yet inhabited island groups in Japan. Once again we will be paddling Waterfield Kayak's Whalewatcher, a very stable tandem kayak. Thanks again to Mr.Mizuno for supplying the kayak and spray skirts. We will also be using both the large size Windpaddle sail "Cruiser", as well as the smaller sized "Adventure" sail. Thanks again to all those people helping us out and sending us good vibes.


A typhoon is crossing the area as I write this, but things will have calmed down by the time we arrive in Amami by ferry. We hope no more typhoons will brew up in the Philippine Sea, at least during the first week of the trip! The expedition will be tracked by means of the SPOT Satellite Messenger, which will also serve as an emergency locator should the need arise. Jerremy, our one-person support team in Amakusa, will be updating this blog with our progress, so keep your eyes peeled. Internet access is virtually nonexistent along our route but should we get the chance, we'll also try to upload a picture or two.


This is a movie of a computer model prediction of the Kuroshio for August 2009. In the Tokaras, where the Kuroshio usually makes a sharp turn to enter the Pacific Ocean from the East China Sea, the current is predicted to be weaker than usual mid-month as well as generally easterly (rather than the typically south-easterly) setting. These two factors ought to work in our favor. The prediction for August 17 is also depicted on the main expedition map.

The current speeds are difficult to read off the previous map, so I enhanced the colors of the prediction for mid-August to more clearly show the slight but significant break in the current flow that we may be able to use to our advantage. The area we will be traversing is outlined in red. 先のイメージは、流速が読みにくいなので、8月17日の予想のイメージには、もうちょっと明るい色をつけました。横断の海域が、赤の直角形に囲まれました。これで、有利にしたい黒潮の弱めがはっきり見えます。

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Expedition Postprocessing 遠征処理

Finally, an overview map showing the whole expedition! The directions and speeds of the currents encountered constituted the expedition's main data; they are shown on the map coded with a color that corresponds to the phase of the local tide (see scale on left under the spider). Current speeds are coded at the same scale (in km/h) as the kilometer scale at the bottom of the map. As you can see, the fastest currents tended to be in the 6-7km/h range - fast enough to seriously interfere with the progress of a kayak. Flow directions are measured from the black dot located at each measurement site. You can see at a glance the tactics we used to deal with the strong cross-currents encountered during every long crossing on this trip. 遠征全体を現す地図。途中観測した流れのデータは、この遠征で得られた一番大切な情報でしょう。流れの印の色は、潮汐の位相を表す(参照キーは左側)。印の長さは、km尺と比べると流速を表す。早い時6-7kmの流れが有った。流れる方向は観察地点を表す黒い点から印の方向で表します。僕たちは流れに対してどのような作戦をやったのは、この地図の一覧ですぐ分かります。

The neighborhood of the Mishima Islands where we already visited twice before, warrants a closer look. A pattern emerges from the combined current measurements. In general, during ebb flow the currents tend to be strong and east-south-east-setting, while during flood conditions they are generally weaker and variable. This can be understood simply as a combination of a generally east-setting Kuroshio Current superimposed on a tidal current which in this area is known to set north-west on the flood, and south-east on the ebb. Looking at the data more closely, one may notice that the tidal pattern is delayed an hour or two compared to the tide itself. For example, at low tide the combined current is still east-setting and quite strong. 以前もう二回訪れた三島村の島々の付近での流れは、もうちょっと詳しく見よう。今まで集まったデータの全部を見ると、あるパターンがはっきり見えます。と言うのは、下げ潮の時、流れは東方向でかなり強くて、上げ潮の時、比較的に弱くて方向が変わりやすい。この現象は、黒潮の海流と潮流が重なっているからでしょう。この辺の黒潮は、普段に東へ流れます。潮流は満ち潮が北西へ、引き潮は南東へ流れます。その組み合わせの結果、観察した流れでしょう。もうちょっと細かく見たら、潮流が潮汐と比べて、数時間遅れているでしょう。なぜなら、例えば干潮の時、流れはまだまだ東へ、かなり強いで、余り引き潮の間と変わらない。

Looking at the Osumi Strait is also informative. Here, tidal currents seem to play a relatively minor role, and most of the observed flow seems to be due to the Kuroshio. Of interest is the sharp boundary of warm (Kuroshio) and cool (coastal Kyushu) waters, running down the center of Osumi Strait in this infra-red satellite image taken on July 22nd (probably the night before the eclipse, as it was still clear then). Temperature scale is on top; evidently the water near the Osumi coast is cooler than 25C and off the color scale. Circled in magenta is our own traverse of this boundary three days later. The drastic change in the measured current corresponds, not surprisingly, to the edge of the Kuroshio. The temperature difference was also felt on the skin of our hands. この大隈海峡の図も、ちょっと面白いでしょう。ここは、潮流は比較的に弱くて、主に観察する流れは黒潮の分でしょう。赤外線の衛星画像で得に目立ったのは、海峡の真ん中を走る暖かいと冷たい海水の境でした。(水温のキーは画像の上で、大隈側の水は25度以下だから黒になってしまいます。)マジェンタで表したのは、僕らがこの境を越えた地点。やはり、この辺で流れが突然弱めて、感覚でも海水が冷たくなったとその時気づいた。これで黒潮の端を乗り越えた。

In this closeup of Cape Sata(from the Japanese Yahoo Maps) you can clearly see the interaction of warm Kuroshio water (red arrow) and cold coastal water (blue arrow). If you are brave enough to go for a snorkel in these strong mixing current (the scenery is well worth it for those with sufficient ) you can feel this often drastic temperature difference on your own skin.

Next, we diverge into philosophy. Read at your own peril! 次はちょこっと哲学的な話。恥ずかしくて日本語に訳しない。

“I will choose a path that’s clear: I will choose free will.”
-Neil Peart, Rush, Permanent Waves

“The Earth is the only place in the universe that practices the myth of free will”
-Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

There was ample time to contemplate this, one of humankind’s most basic philosophical conundrums, during the long open-sea crossings of this kayak expedition. And a good reason too, since the chances of being able to successfully observe the total solar eclipse of July 22nd, the expedition’s ostensible goal, seemed vanishingly small even before Jogo and I began our paddle southward. The jet stream forecast for the day in question showed the most unfavorable situation imaginable. The weather forecasts most of us are used to concern themselves with conditions relatively close to the earth’s surface and quickly become completely meaningless if extrapolated more than a couple days into the future. Yet the jet stream, a powerful air current 10-15km above the earth, is ruled by physical laws at relatively longer time scales; its slow, serpentine movement can be predicted quite reliably for weeks in advance. Thus, by the 12th or so I already knew that on the day of the eclipse the jet stream would make a rather unseasonable meander to the south, positioning itself directly above the Tokara Islands where we planned to be watching. This would certainly bring bad weather to the area, including cloud that would obscure the eclipse and strong winds that we would have to fight in addition to the Kuroshio Current on the way down south. But by then the plan had been set, all arrangements had been made, and Jogo already bought his plane tickets. We seemed to be have no choice but to throw ouselves to the mercy of the elements, all for a sliver of a chance of success. The lyrics of Neil Peart, part of a loose philosophical foundation of my younger years (until ridiculed by an artist friend), were again being rebuked by the irrevocable subtleties of reality, even as Kurt Vonnegut’s seemingly whimsical vision of things rang true. Most of us think we regularly exercise our ‘free will’, feeling particularly satisfied if the choices we make are clear and easy, although in such cases little actual will seems to be required; in fact, in choosing obvious benefits, our actions seem all but predetermined. For example, if the weather been clear on our journey, I would not be writing about any dilemmas now. If, however, the choices to be made are subtle, when we feel the heavy presence of reality closing in, the scope of free will again diminishes: we can still make all kinds of choices, but since we have no idea which ones will turn out profitable, what good is our freedom? As for this expedition, there seemed to be no choice but to give in to the circumstances, to go and try to enjoy the experience. To echo the words of kayak guru Paul Caffyn, an expedition is, in miniature, a metaphor for life itself. Each trip brings a unique bouquet of trials, triumphs, and disappointments, and that is, after all, what it's all about. This one was no exception.

Perhaps because this was my first kayak expedition with a partner other than Leanne, everything was organized with even more diligence and attention to detail than usual. Also, more people than usual were involved, including Mr. Mori who gave us a lift to the starting point, and Mr. Mizuno of Water Field Kayaks who picked us up. Leanne was busy pretty well around the clock at home base in Amakusa, updating the blog daily and preparing and sending us weather information. Consequently, the trip ran with an almost professional level of smoothness. Jogo and I, though we barely knew each other, got along splendidly with not a single disagreement between us, even as we shared our opinions on a wide variety of subjects besides kayaking and navigation. When, after paddling for several hours into a fierce headwind at Yakushima, I suggested that we turn around and head for calmer conditions in the lee of the island, Jogo consented as if he had already made that decision an hour ago, though minutes before we were both struggling into the wind with iron determination and nary a thought of giving up. Days later, when making the difficult decision to make the final crossing with dodgy weather forecasted for each of the three days remaining to us, Jogo simply said he wanted to do it in the safest possible way, leaving the details to my expertise with weather analysis and forecasting on the Internet. This kind of conduct is only possible among people with considerable traveling experience, and a balanced outlook on the environment around them. I had found a great traveling partner and benefited considerably from his presence, learning about the value of virtues such as patience and the ability of being able to take things calmly and in stride.

As for the eclipse itself, when its time came and the heavily overcast sky grew quite dark for three inauspicious minutes, in spite of myself I could not prevent a bitter feeling of disappointment from filling my heart. This feeling persisted for much of the afternoon even as I heard on the radio that the eclipse was a complete writeoff on all the islands in the area; it wouldn't have helped had we gone wherever it was humanly possible to go in a kayak. But later that day on the bucolic Anbo River, watching a troupe of monkeys on the riverbank doing what monkeys do, the ill feeling gradually disippated, replaced again by the joy of moving upon the earth under one’s own power and for no particular reason. A tiny but authentic hot spring that evening, though seemingly redundant during the hot, humid summer, was crowded to capacity. And lo the hot water, though painful against my sunburned skin, imbued my psyche with healing and peace. As we embarked on the return leg of our journey the following day, the south sea with its strong currents and winds and the rocky shoals and shallows of its coasts, continued to fascinate as ever.


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