EVERY TIME I’ve been to sea in my own boat, the same thought has occurred to me: I’m the only human being who has been present in this space since the world began. The farther I am from land, the greater the truth of that statement, of course.
I don’t know why it seems so significant to me but it is certainly a fact. On land, we humans follow each other’s tracks. When the first person beats down a path through the wilderness, there’s no reason to battle a new way through on your own. But at sea every vessel on every voyage finds its own path over the wild waters, a new path, a path where no boat has ever been before. Sometimes it’s not far from the paths others have made, but it is always separate in places. No two wakes ever trace the exact same path.
Perhaps it seems more significant to people like me who have grown up in crowded cities, where following other people’s tracks is the normal everyday procedure. Nobody gives it a thought, because there can hardly be any place in a city where someone hasn’t stood or walked before you.
So when I’m at sea, even on a coastal trip, I have often thought “I am the first person in the world to occupy this particular spot on our planet.” The chances are millions to one that I will never occupy it again, of course, and it’s highly probable that no one one else will, even if human beings are able to inhabit the earth for another 4 1/2 billion years, which seems doubtful.
So next time you need something to think about on a night watch, bend your mind toward the fact that you are experiencing something unique that no other person in the world will experience. You are visiting a portion of the planet that no one has floated over before. It isn’t going to bring you fame or wealth or happiness, but if you have a simple mind like mine it is a fascinating thing to ponder.
That shuts still as it opes, and leaves no tracts
Nor prints of precedent for poor men’s facts.
— George Chapman, Bussy d’Ambois
“I’m looking for a guard dog going cheap.”
“Sorry, sir, all our guard dogs go ‘Woof!’”