We were enjoying a beautiful day on the water on our way from the Banda Islands to Namrole on Buru Island, when Jonathan turned to me waving his arms in the air and saying “there’s a ….there’s a…there’s a…. ” before blurting out “There’s a whale!”
“Oh wow!” says I “Where is it? What direction ? On the horizon or nearer?”
“No, right there – next to the boat!” was his response.
Sure enough, at that moment I saw a huge flume of whale exhalation just to one side of the bow.
Not knowing what to do for the best we hurriedly turned in behind where we saw the flume, hoping against hope that we wouldn’t bump into or run over the whale.
A moment later, on the other side of the boat, we saw the majestic arch of a hump back whale – a big one, at least the size of Bali Hai and probably much longer.
The whale swam lazily along, long enough to have a good look at us and long enough for us to have a good look at him! Then it dived down and that was the last we saw of him.
Something else very special happened to us that night after the sun set . There was absolutely no moon so we were expecting the night sail to be extremely dark. However, we could not have been more wrong!
As night fell a curious phenomenon occurred. The sea – quite literally -began to glow! The water became a ghostly milky white, brighter than the dark, dark sky. It was disorientating, astonishing and very, very strange.
It looked as if there were lights deep down below at the bottom of the ocean that were backlighting the water. The horizon seemed to have done a flip – with the sky below and the sea above. Was it those mushrooms we ate for dinner?!
It felt strange and definitely quite creepy. It reminded me of a movie sequence set in space or in Never Never Land. I half expected to see the shadow of a twin masted schooner with Captain Jack swinging from the mast to come into view….
We later learnt that this amazing occurrence only happens in that part of the Banda Sea and one other place in the world. It seems it just happens at certain times of the year so we were tremendously fortunate to witness it.
I had my doubts as to whether it was a natural occurrence or not as I noticed on the chart that we were sailing over a munitions dump that night! Maybe some of the dumped weapons were radio active?!
However, we had the glow again for part of a night on the way from Namrole to Wakatobi – many miles from the dump and several people have assured us it’s nothing to do with leaking isotopes!
When we have Internet again I must find out more about it! I’m sure there will be someone out there who has done the research and can explain the ghostly sea!
We had left Banda Neira feeling that we could have stayed for much longer but we were nevertheless excited about the next destination Namrole.
This was the first time that yachts had visited the island – previously arriving by sail boat had been prohibited. We were told this was because it had been home to many hundreds of communist exiles from Java in the 1970’s. Maybe the authorities were concerned that the exiles might cadge a lift from passing yachts and stir up trouble again in Jakarta?
The anchorage, near the jetty at one end of a large bay, was very pretty despite being skirted on one side by a ferry dock. On the other side was a coral reef sheltered by a land mass with a small gap from which you caught glimpses of the sparking open sea.
Around 25 of our fleet turned up which was a comfortable number to fit into the anchorage.
The day after our arrival a wonderful welcome was laid on for us. The chiefs of the traditional local tribes were the first to welcome us and then the children made a pathway leading to the pavilion where we were to be seated, with lengths of white satin either side.
As before at other welcome festivities, there was cake and water in a lovely little box for each of us, beautiful dancing and singing and of course the obligatory speeches. The morning was topped off with an unexpected “pleasure’ – the Vice Regent singing Karaoke!
Not sure quite what the relevance of “Baby Blue” was but he enjoyed himself and fortunately sang quite tunefully and very sincerely with all the appropriate gestures any self respecting performer should make. I think the idea was that everyone should have a go but strangely none of the yachties stepped up to the mark!
A beautiful lunch was laid out on groaning tables but before we got to eat anything we had to walk about 15 metres and in that time, each of us had to have photos taken with literally scores of people. We could not take a step before being cajoled into putting our arms round men/women and children and smiling cheesily for the camera!
After lunch, Jonathan and I slipped away to do a quick recce of the town. After Banda, it seemed at first glance dry, dusty and hot, with little interesting architecture or places of note. However, the local people were absolutely delightful and without exception, smiled and waved and shouted a greeting from their motorbikes, shops or just as they were walking along. They were so friendly and seemed genuinely pleased to see us.