A wobbly weekend in expedition planning
The countdown has begun and it’s now 5 months before the Moving Sushi team officially plans to embark on the African Marine MegaTransect. But, like the past weekend’s storms that lashed the Cape coastline, thing have not been going as smoothly as we had hoped. Here’s the thing with expeditions, the images we see coming back to us show incredible scenes. Feats of endurance, epic discoveries and traversing massive personal and mental obstacles to achieve something beyond the mundane. But the blood sweat and tears it takes to get there, the toil behind the scenes is either very well curated or often overlooked completely.
So, in an effort to be transparent with our process and also to acknowledge the sometimes unseen, I sit back now and consider our situation. Currently we are made up of an expedition team of 6; Justin, Myself, Linda, Agg, Rhett and Roxy. Small, simple but highly effective at this point this is a team of all the essentials to get the job done up until we need to populate the crew of our boats. Each of us have our defined roles and are working flat out to literally launch these boats into the waters, so to speak. Planning an expedition and balancing the daily rigor of life, earning an income and with having limited operational budget things have quickly become challenging. Add into the mix the fact that Agg is in Poland, Justin is relocating to Kenya, Rhett may be in Tanzania or the UK in the next month and Linda, Roxy and myself, well, we are still boring and are at home in Cape Town. Everyone is working far beyond what is required and doing so with no financial compensation. It’s a tough ask from anyone, especially in the economic times we are experiencing in South Africa. So, let’s just say our backs are against the wall, and well, the wall is looking pretty high from this side.
Every so often the problems you face and the requirements needed to pull off such an expedition seem so immense that one has to start wondering what the point is in continuing. And as fierce winds battered down against the shores of my home town, I found myself sitting looking out over the rocks that form the home of the Stony Point penguin colony and all that immensity crashed into me, stopping me cold. No financial security of my own, knowing that we will need to cover costs for fiscal sponsorship from the US and like a pressure cooker, creeping up slowly, all these issues started to eat away at my logic. A voice of doubt emerges, we all know that one right? It sits there, leans in close and whispers into your ear, “surely this is all a crazy idea, surely the best possible plan would be to throw in the towel, life would be so much easier if this just got benched don’t you think?”
It is a hard voice to silence.
My only solace is that I have been here before. In fact I’ve been here, listening to that voice, many times over the years. It whispered to me not to go to Gabon, it definitely told me I was crazy to get in a car and drive to Japan and it practically screamed me down when I was in the middle of the last East African expedition and we had to abandon our first boat after a month of going nowhere. Fortunately, time and experience have taught me a remedy, a mental salve to fend off the spreading infectious fear. I know that there are a few things that make it all worthwhile. Firstly, it is why you have a team and more specifically a team like the one I have. They have your back, not only so that you can succeed together but to also have people on your side when you are deep in the trenches who you know are fully capable when things start to hit murky waters. Then comes the fact that the meaning and value of the expedition warrants the effort. It’s not a holiday adventure we are planning, it has very little to do with our egos or being known as people who create pseudo adventurer science for popularity.
For me, and the others, it is a sense of duty, and requirement that up to this point, is not being met. The data we plan to capture will provide critical insights into coral reef health and fish stocks in East Africa. We need this data, and if we have the means and passion to go and get it, then we should throw everything at the opportunity.
So, we go on. Even though I still have to sit with a whirlwind of anxiousness and self-doubt I hold fast on to ‘the why’, the reason that you choose to step out of the front door in the first place and turn on the key in the ignition. The path is there and I know the way, even if right now it does seem like a mountain to climb.