AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

30 August 2020

Knowledge.


His expertise helped him become a history-making mariner, the first recorded person to sail round the world without navigational instruments. His 30,000-mile odyssey, in a 36-foot cutter with a small crew, made headlines worldwide on its completion in 1984.

“I was considered to be crazy or stupid or just out of it,” Professor Creamer said in a 2015 interview with Rowan University. “When I took off there were two people who believed I would come back.”

One was his wife Blanche. The other, despite the welter of naysayers, was Professor Creamer himself.

It is daunting enough to circumnavigate the Earth with the aid of modern global positioning technology, much less with medieval and Renaissance tools like a mariner’s compass and sextant.

But Professor Creamer, in the grip of an obsession that had held him for years, shunned even those newfangled contrivances, as well as a radio, a clock and a wristwatch. He chose instead to rely on his deep knowledge of the planet and its vagaries, and be guided by nothing more than wind, waves, the sun by day, and the moon and stars by night.

Under cloud-massed skies, he could divine his location from the color and temperature of the water, the presence of particular birds and insects and even, on one occasion, the song of a squeaky hatch.

Skills like these, he long maintained, had let the master mariners of antiquity answer the seafarer’s ever-present, life-or-death question — Where am I? — and in so doing sail safely round the world.

“From everything I’ve read, the ancients didn’t feel uncomfortable out there,” Professor Creamer told The New York Times in 1978. “They didn’t have navigational tools, but they didn’t seem afraid to go to sea. I felt they might have known what they were doing, that they might have made predictable landfalls and having once hit a coast could have returned there.”

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