What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat. The birds were missing because the fish were missing... No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all...The essay goes on to detail seeing evidence of the Japanese tsunami in mid-ocean -
North of the equator, up above New Guinea, the ocean-racers saw a big fishing boat working a reef in the distance.
"All day it was there, trawling back and forth. It was a big ship, like a mother-ship," he said. And all night it worked too, under bright floodlights. And in the morning Macfadyen was awoken by his crewman calling out, urgently, that the ship had launched a speedboat.
"Obviously I was worried. We were unarmed and pirates are a real worry in those waters. I thought, if these guys had weapons then we were in deep trouble." But they weren't pirates, not in the conventional sense, at least. The speedboat came alongside and the Melanesian men aboard offered gifts of fruit and jars of jam and preserves.
"And they gave us five big sugar-bags full of fish," he said. "They were good, big fish, of all kinds. Some were fresh, but others had obviously been in the sun for a while.
"We told them there was no way we could possibly use all those fish. There were just two of us, with no real place to store or keep them. They just shrugged and told us to tip them overboard. That's what they would have done with them anyway, they said.
"They told us that his was just a small fraction of one day's by-catch. That they were only interested in tuna and to them, everything else was rubbish. It was all killed, all dumped. They just trawled that reef day and night and stripped it of every living thing."
Ivan's brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States, marvelled at the "thousands on thousands" of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.All of this is anecdotal, of course, but still unbelieveably tragic. The children of our generation will inherit a world with vastly depleted and damaged oceans, and those living far inland will not be unaffected.
Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing their wires in the middle of the sea...