I once heard a story about a former captain of Argo sailing through a massive patch of sliced bread whilst underway. They couldn’t be sure, but they guessed that a cruise ship or something along those lines had just dumped it overboard in the same way as a bakery might throw out what it doesn’t sell come to the end of the day. Similarly, I worked with another guy who said that he once got too close to an aircraft carrier and was gently reminded of the need to keep his distance by a couple of fighter jets passing just above the mast. On the other hand, my list of weird and wonderful things seen underway I sometimes feel leaves a bit to be desired. I saw a turtle with a shark bite out of it once and have certainly been lucky with wildlife encounters (or at least luckier than the aforementioned turtle), but I think today marks the culmination of probably the most novel encounter I’ve had underway.
A couple of weeks ago, along with the usual forecasts, position updates, and miscellaneous boat-related stuff, the Argo satellite email inbox contained a message to the tune of “hey, how would you feel about a visit from the President of Palau?” This was pretty diverting for a few reasons. Firstly, because I don’t think we’ve ever hosted a head of state on board, I had certainly not met one before. Secondly, because I think the last time we had ANYONE visit us (other than a wonderfully helpful list of contractors from various corners of the globe helping us with everything from unit injectors to upholstery, for whom we are continually grateful) was in French Polynesia – an entire lap of the globe ago. And thirdly, after our Kava ceremony in Fiji, a visit from the President of Palau would elevate everyone’s “Two Truths and a Lie” potential to thus far unimagined heights.
So you can perhaps imagine the excitement today as we watched President Surangel Whipps Jr., accompanied by US Ambassador John Hennessey-Niland, crossing over from Sam’s Tours to come and say hello. They were eager to hear about the experiences of all on board over the course of the trip and were each given tours around Argo by Eleanor, Megan, Morgan, Ian, and Mia, and chatted about everything from basketball to the case study that Palau is for environmental stewardship. All of our visitors were divers, so we had plenty to share in that regard given our awesome manta encounters in Fiji, and similarly, the president told us that he had recently seen a herd cruising past the spot that Argo is currently anchored in. I risk going on a bit of a tangent here, but it links back to today’s conversations in that we did cover this: did you know that Palau was home to the world’s first shark sanctuary? Also, 98% of the country’s EEZ is a Marine Protected Area (and if you are after a cracking read on how this pertains to local law enforcement, there is a piece by Ian Urbina in the New York Times that I would hugely recommend, which is also reprinted in his book “Outlaw Oceans”).
The visit concluded with a few photos, which we have attached above. And now we prepare ourselves for the next few days of excitement, with world-class diving, a jellyfish lake, and a waterfall on the agenda. We may not have been here for long, but Palau is well on its way to being an absolute all-time favorite destination.
The Argo crew and guests
Argo (we were sorting out the wonky fender as the photo was being taken)
The President, Ambassador, Dermot, our local agent, Amanda, and Tim
Eleanor and Morgan showing the President around
Everyone waving goodbye
The US Ambassador surveying our menu
The Ambassador speaking with us about diving and Palau