– H O
N G K O N G –
July 26, 2004 – I am
writing this week's installment of our Semester at Sea travelogue
while on transit to Keelung, Taiwan. We will be docking there in three
days. We spent the last five days in northern Vietnam and it was quite
an adventure. I will tell you more about that next week.
Kong is without a doubt one of the world's most beautiful cities.
I visited Hong Kong back in 1981 and I loved it then, but the city
I saw 23 years ago no longer exists. Hong Kong has since evolved into
a modern visual masterpiece
due to its unique combination of skyscrapers, glass, water, land and
light. I found the quality of the light particularly captivating.
The camera loved it as much as I did.
Our stop in Hong Kong lasted
just two days instead of the scheduled three.
down Hong Kong and its harbor for almost 16 hours on July 16, 2004.
Tropical Storm Kompasu
The day before our scheduled
arrival in HK, we were informed that the
ship was heading directly
into the path of a tropical storm that might intensify into a full-blown
typhoon. We were warned that things could get pretty rough overnight.
The crew busied itself tying down everything on the vessel. I knew
it was serious when a team arrived at our cabin to
lash down all the furniture on our deck. Many of the passengers,
a little nervous because we had never experienced rough seas
and we didn't know what to expect. As it turned out, the night was
calm because we were running ahead of the storm.
reached our berth at Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong at ~8am on Tuesday,
16. The view was spectacular. But trouble was brewing. Soon after
docking, the Explorer was ordered to steam back
out into the harbor to ride out the impending storm. For reasons of
safety, the "leave port immediately" command was applied to all large
vessels in the vicinity. Kompasu was expected to make landfall by
would be a class 8 tropical storm.
Hong Kong itself was
in the process of shutting down. By government order, nothing in Hong
Kong could remain open except public shelters.
vessel was well anchored out in Hong Kong Harbor, along with hundreds
ships. We did not expect much trouble
unless a ship broke loose and hit us, or vice versa.
That was an unlikely scenario, but the Explorer was definitely more
at any other
time during the voyage – except perhaps when we were anchored
near Busan, South Korea, in heavy fog.
The mood on the ship was upbeat,
although everyone was terribly disappointed to lose a full day in
Hong Kong. There would be no way to recover that lost opportunity.
Complicating matters was the fact that a majority of our students
had left the ship back in Shanghai for a series of field travel programs
in mainland China. They were scheduled to fly into Hong Kong
that very day to rejoin the ship – but oops, no ship. Back
in Pittsburgh, the Semester at Sea staff was scrambling to arrange
for the students stranded in HK,
not an easy task when most of Hong Kong's hotels were already fully
booked due to the storm.
around the vessel, the sky was heavy with clouds and rain and the
seas are slowly building.
Fortunately, we were not rolling much because we were anchored
at the bow.
allowed the ship to position itself naturally (into the waves) as
the seas intensified. Our primary form of entertainment was the "Typhoon
Film Festival". The following titles ran off an
on all day long at various locations around the ship: Classical Chinese
Gardens, Fifty First Dates, Italian Job, Scent of Green Papaya, Bruce
of the Caribbean, Mystic River, First Emperor of China, Forbidden
City, Great Tales in Asian Art, and Three Musketeers. Of course, many
other "unsanctioned" titles (some
the student's rooms. Come hell or high water, the students will find
a way to entertain themselves, that's for sure. We opted to view The
Scent of Green Papaya, a lovely Vietnamese film that was airing right
the storm was supposed to be hammering us at full force.
By now you are probably wondering
about the effects of the storm. It was a total dud. The sustained
winds reached only 40 mph, and the ship hardly rocked because the
relatively calm. Most of us were relieved and disappointed at the
same time. We expected more of a show from Kompasu. By the end of
the day, Kompasu was just a memory. Hong Kong's ports were reopened
later that night. By midnight the Explorer was back
its berth at Ocean Terminal and the passengers were given
permission to disembark.
I spent the next two days
exploring Hong Kong and photographing the shimmering urban landscape.
Leaving was painful.
Click here if you'd like to see some
of my favorite shots.
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