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 Created: 07/12/04


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– K O R E A ! – 

July 10, 2004 – I am writing this while we are at sea, approximately 180 miles from Shanghai, our next destination. It is 16:00 (4pm) Saturday, here on the ship. At home, in South Carolina, it is 4am eastern standard time, a 12 hour difference. We are scheduled to reach Shanghai at 10am tomorrow.

Summer 2004 Voyage


ALASKA: Sitka & Kodiak

RUSSIA: Petropavlovsk

KOREA: Busan
Part 2: Photo Gallery

CHINA: Shanghai

Last night our ship left South Korea, after a four day visit. South Korea is a very beautiful country, and home to 48.3 million people, approximately 80% of whom live in urban areas. With an economy that is growing at an astounding rate – 7 to 8% per year – South Korea is playing an increasingly important role in the overall economy of Asia, and the world itself.

We were due to arrive in Korea at 08:00 on July 6 after spending five days at sea. At about 04:00 (4am), our vessel hit a heavy wall of fog. I was awakened from a sound sleep by the deep bellow of the ship's fog horn. It seemed especially loud because our cabin is located just below on the seventh deck. I actually liked the sound, but it kept waking me up just as I was drifting back to sleep. I finally solved the problem with the aid of earplugs and a heavy pillow. When I awoke a few hours later, the fog horn was still sounding. I walked out onto our deck and could see nothing past the ship's rail, not even the water directly below us. The Explorer had been forced to anchor five miles from our intended destination, the port city of Busan. All traffic in and out of Busan had been halted due to the thick, white fog. Visibility was zero.

The dense fog held until late afternoon. As visibility improved, we were amazed to discover that we were surrounded by other ships of all shapes and descriptions, all similarly stranded. Their ghostly silhouettes were sprinkled around us in every direction. Some of the vessels were anchored much closer than I would have thought possible. I wondered how many ships were quietly anchored out there, waiting for permission to proceed to port. Visibility was still less than a quarter mile, so there was no telling.

As it turned out, we lost our entire first day in South Korea to that impenetrable fog. We finally reached Busan (also known as Pusan) in the evening. Busan is South Korea' s largest port, second in size only to Seoul. It has the distinction of being the only city to escape capture by the North Korean communists during the Korean War (1950-53). The people we met there were very relaxed and friendly. Few spoke English, but we managed to communicate anyway, especially when negotiating for food at the local restaurants.

A Restaurant Adventure
As soon as we got off the ship, a group of us set off on foot to explore the dockside neighborhood and find some dinner. We settled on a small outdoor restaurant that had tanks of live aquatic animals arranged all along the sidewalk. Through a series of hand signs, we managed to place our order. Everyone (except me) wanted to try the eel. I watched in horror as several long, muscular eels were pulled from the their nice comfortable fish tank. They squirmed in protest. The poor things were hustled to a small kitchen, just a few feet away. Moments later, a heavy metal grill with red hot coals appeared at our table, along with a big platter of eel chopped into bite size pieces. When the waitress placed the chunks of eel over the fire, some of them started twitching. I had to look the other way until the pieces stopped moving. As is the custom in Korea, ours was a communal meal. We each used our chopsticks to grab chunks of eel from the fire. We dipped them in a spicy red sauce and then we wrapped them in lettuce and popped them in our mouths. Nobody could believe how good they were!

Oops, out of time...
July 11, 2004 – Yesterday flew by and I was unable to complete my story on Korea. Among other things, I was distracted by a huge school of jellyfish that surrounded our ship, bobbing along underwater like big green pulsating bowling balls. This went on for over two hours. At times I am completely mesmerized by the ever-changing ocean. I would watch it all day, if I could. I also attended a Global Studies class and later, a pre-port logistics meeting which was immediately followed by a "seas" meeting. (They have a lot of meetings around here.) Afterwards, we enjoyed a late night cocktail in the lounge while we chatted with two Chinese faculty members who told us what it was like to grow up in communist China. There's never a dull moment on this ship because there's always somebody interesting to talk with or something of interesting to see. Sometimes it is hard to find enough time to work on this journal because there are so many other things I want to do.

We arrived this morning in Shanghai and all passengers are waiting for passport clearance from the Chinese officials. They will be seeing 500+ people one by one. This could take awhile. Things are going to be pretty hectic for the next week. We'll have three days in Shanghai followed by two days at sea. We'll then dock in Hong Kong for three days. When we are in port, we stay busy every waking hour so there is little, if any, time to update this web site. I have to find time to do it when we are at sea.

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