Sailing to the Galápagos Archipelago

Night Watch Redux

Another equatorial sunset.  

I can't help it—a night watch just brings out the philosopher in me. I was standing on the afterdeck hanging on to the boom gallows and feeling the boat slowly roll and pitch under me. Such a large and complex machine, the boat, all to facilitate exploration and adventure and personal discovery.

What does it matter that the oceans have been explored by countless others, and all the islands discovered long ago. Every generation of people, and even every individual, must make their own discoveries, frequently re-making the same discoveries made by countless others. This is how each succeeding generation teaches itself what it means to be human—the essential human qualities that must be learned to ensure our continued success as a species: curiosity, perseverance, the ability to master complexity, investing time and effort to achieve future goals, cooperation and teamwork, friendship and amity, and more than anything else, the constant craving for more—more knowledge, more experiences, more accomplishments, more discoveries. If the human race ever became satisfied with its place in the world and its collective accomplishments, we would quickly stagnate and revert to race of apathetic imbeciles. Mankind is on a quest, one that must never be fulfilled, lest we perish from the earth.

Some time later, I was still standing on the afterdeck, looking around the unbroken horizon of water. In its center was our tiny boat with three people and one cat. The ocean is so vast, yet it's only a small part of our vast planet.

Then I shifted my gaze skyward, looking at the Southern Cross and the swath of millions of stars in the Milky Way, which is but one galaxy out of uncountable billions of galaxies. Are we alone in the universe? Of course not, we are family. There are many more life forms in the universe, including intelligent life. The process that created life from chemical soup, whether divine or random, worked so well here that it must work well elsewhere. There are so many trillions of "elsewheres" that extra-terrestrial life is a certainty. Of course, scientifically proving that sweeping statement is something else entirely. But the lack of proof shouldn't deny the basic concept and result: life was easy to make and it spread to every possible nook and cranny on the planet. What happened here can, and in fact must, happen elsewhere.

The big problem is the immense scale of the universe. There may be countless intelligent life forms in the universe, but the universe is so vast we might never be able to communicate with them or even discover their existence. But given that mankind is on a perpetual quest, I would hold out for the possibility of "Contact"—some time in the distant future when technology has done for intergalactic communication what it has already done for terrestrial communication.

Gee, the Moon and Venus are so brilliant tonight, and so am I!

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