Pacific Ocean

Torres Strait? Adieu to the Pacific, and onwards to the maze of islands in the strait…

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For the moment, more prosaically, we are in what I call elegantly the exit of the Pacific.  This region, all the way to the west of that great ocean, forming a funnel between the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea in the north, and Queensland in Australia to the south, has repeatedly shown us in recent weeks that clouds are concentrated here, with winds, thunderstorms and rains.  To continue the metaphor, let's say that our sailboat could be temporarily compared to a small pearl in the Pacific which had been inadvertently swallowed by the huge ocean and which then gets spat out again on the way out... at the Torres Strait, and into the Indian Ocean!

Back to the light, the blue sky, the sun of the tropics, on the sea side of Arafura. Our plan now is to move from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean.  To do this, you have to cross a complex marine region in terms of cartography, a region that so preoccupied the great navigators of history that they sometimes had trouble sleeping weeks before they reached the area.  We know that one of the reasons that contributed to the mutiny on board the Bounty in Tonga was Captain Bligh's growing nervousness at the approach of the Torres Strait, in the face of what he saw as increasing complacency among the crew on board the ship during the months when they were stopped over in Tahiti. A situation he had difficulty in managing as the crossing of the strait approached, and was the last but also the most serious obstacle to the success of the mission entrusted to him by the British Admiralty. 

Le jeu complexe des courants dans le dédale du détroit…

I, a modest 21st century sailor, using electronic charts, satellite navigation, and sailing aboard an excellent sailboat, can tell you that trying to cross the Torres Strait and its many dangers, at the end of the 18th century, in the state of known cartography and navigational instruments available at the time, with heavy, un-maneuverable sailboats, would have been a high-risk adventure. To succeed in crossing it was a feat. Getting shipwrecked was the norm.

Waiting out a gale in Port Moresby, I spent time studying the area of the Strait. I plotted for this exceptional event on our two GPS, a set of at least twenty waypoints, which mark out the sections of the route we would have to follow in the Strait to reach the Arafura Sea.  

Pause salvatrice à bord pour un noddi noir perdu au large…

81 nautical miles separate the north-south axis of Cape York, the northernmost point of the Australian mainland, from the southern tip of Papua New Guinea. This complex passage is riddled with shallow shoals, coral reefs, islands and islets set here and there at the whim of the Great Barrier Reef, whose fabulous underwater life extends as far as this.  So, along an east / west axis this time, the coral formations occupy an area not less than 180 miles wide, forming an impenetrable barrier to navigation, with the exception, from the east, of two passages close together, a few miles north of Cape York on the Australian side. The waters are shallow, the depths being between 10 ...

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