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a day like no other

Nov 9, 2007

Location: underway
Author: Rachel
Today began like any ordinary day underway, but that soon changed. Everyone was awoken for lunch, after which we had an MTE class. Right as we were about to start, a Minke whale was seen off our port quarter, thus postponing class for a few minutes while a few of us ran up to check it out. Halfway through class a pod of about ten pilot whales came upon us and everyone ran on deck to watch the whales pass us. Some of the whales came within five feet of the boat, surfacing long enough for people to attempt snapping some photos. As we headed back to finish class we marveled at how cool it was that our class had just been interrupted because a pod of whales was passing that’s not something that happens every day. We finished MTE and were starting into our PSCT class when Simon was called on deck because a small motorboat was approaching us waving flags. We soon realized it was a small, fifty foot wooden boat full of refugees from Africa, we presume. We decided to help them out as best we could, and gathered some spare food and water which we attached to a buoy we had found. We dropped the parcel overboard and moved away from it a bit before the boat approached it and picked it up. They seemed grateful but were still waving at us. We realized they were holding up empty fuel tanks and probably needed gas, so we prepared a spare canister of fuel and the shipmates gathered all the water bottles they could find to fill with more water. They also donated an abundance of precious personal snack food. Soon we had a very large and heavy trash bag full of more food and water, which we attached to the fuel container and several lifejackets. We dropped everything overboard and watched as the refugees struggled to get their boat started, but were eventually able to pick up our second package. We continued on our way but contacted the Spanish coast guard in the Canary Islands to alert them of the boat and give them their position. A few hours later we saw a search and rescue plane fly overhead and shortly afterward we were notified that the refugees had been found and a ship had stopped by them and would wait until a tugboat could get to them. We heard that approximately 800 people flee Africa every day, and as we enjoyed a delicious dinner and watched more whales swim past, many of us thought about what a different life the people of Africa must lead to have that many people trying to leave every day. We realized how truly fortunate we are onboard Argo, but also how unique of an opportunity we are having here.