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Lights in the night sky

It is late at night, or you may consider it the early hours of the new day. The Europa lays parked in a windless area between rain clouds. Before the wind died, the crew tried to catch every puff of it, bracing back and forth a couple of times, twitching sails and braces, trying to follow a breeze that didn’t steady in any concrete direction. 

By sunrise, she barely moves, her braces on starboard tack a point to square, almost under full sail and with three studding sails set on the fore mast

A large dark cloud is right at our back, smaller squalls around. As it catches up with us, the situation changes. Wind starts blowing, typical if you find yourself in the track of a squall, where it blows stronger at its leeward side. 

From then until lunchtime, the Europa takes advantage of this and runs just ahead of the showers. Studding sails are changed now to Port Side, Staysails doused. 

Most of the 102nm sailed today were thanks to this good run, as what came afterward later in the afternoon was calm and sunny weather, once the squalls behind us lost strength and deflated.  

Well, by then, making the best of the becalmed conditions, hands are called on deck. Bracing both masts in opposite tacks, we heave-to, bringing the ship to a standstill for a refreshing swim and to let the engineers work on some steering gear maintenance that requires a stop. 

It took two hours before bracing and setting sail again, now downwind taking just a light breeze. Three more Studding sails are set, now sailing again with six of them, afternoon and night too. 

It was a calm night. Seas are easy and it just blows a gentle breeze from the East. It was a night of lights… The rig illuminated by torches. Up in the sky, a starry night. Then, 1, 10, 20, 30 …more shiny dots moving fast in a line. A Starlink satellite launching. Not much later an odd large light with a short trail and seemingly surrounded by a gas cloud crosses part of the night sky from the south, it seems to stop, then continues to the north and slowly fades away. It was there for over an hour. Not sure about what we just saw, night watches resume, and the rest go to their bunks wandering about the sighting. Then an EGC message warning rings in the wheelhouse. News pops up on the screen about SpaceX debris falling along a long narrow band over the Pacific Ocean, in the vicinity from where we sail tonight. Not following the same track we saw, but makes sense that it was some of this debris.  

Now windy, now calm, fast sailing then more of a drift. Difficult to estimate how long it will take to cover the 600nm left to arrive at Easter Island. 1760nm we have already sailed over deep oceanic waters between 3000 and 4000 meters deep. But now we approach an underwater chain of sea mounts extending for 2232 kilometers in an East-West direction, one of them large enough to emerge 30m above sea level, forming the little Salas y Gomez Island. Following this line of shallower waters amongst the abyssal depths, we end up in Easter Island and two more sea mounts further west of it. Sea Mounts, islets, and islands originate as a result of plate tectonics. Here the Nazca plate moves Eastwards over the Easter Hotspot, a plume of deep mantle materials that break through the large tectonic plate. 

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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