Friday, February 16, 2007

Further thoughts on Andrew McAuley tragedy

On Wednesday the Border Mail of Australia carried an article entitled "What drives adventurers, selfishness or selflessness?" by a columnist Doug Conway. He started with what I thought was a disheartening but plausible supposition:
ANDREW McAuley spent much of his final month looking at a photograph of his son Finlay, 3.
It was pinned up in the cockpit of his kayak on the 1600km Tasman Sea crossing that apparently cost him his life within 80 kilometres of his goal.
That photo doubtless helped drive him on what would have been an unprecedented paddle from Australia to New Zealand.
What I find intensely disargeeable, however, was his following paragraph :
But should it have convinced him to abort his mission, as he had done a month earlier when suffering hypothermia, and settle instead for dry land and a loving family?
I don't think Mr. Conway has any intention of disrespect to Andrew what so ever, somehow even a hint of aborting the mission, to me, it will be tantamount to insulting Andrew's incredible accomplishments last month.

One of the good old American sayings was used to be something like "When thing gets tough, the tough gets going!" But somehow the prevailing culture seems to have totally changed. I did not even fall sleep like Rip Van Winkle, and it seems the politically correct way of thinking nowadays has just become: "When thing gets tough -- cut and run!" In questioning adventurers' drives to accomplish their goals -- some may led to their unfortunate demise, I think Mr. Conway wittingly or unwittingly disclosed that he is probably a disciple of the new culture, even in Australia. Oh well, I digress.

What I really wish to point out here is that no one seems to overly concern about what role the freaque wave really plays in Andrew's tragedy. I can not prove it, but I firmly believe that this is specifically an encounter of freaque wave that caught Andrew in total surprise. For a whole month Andrew can handle with ease any storm, bad weather, rogue waves, and other possible 40th parallel trickeries, and he endured numerous capsizings without any problem. Then it was basically calm when he approached the final 80 km of his long journey. That must be what happened when this completely unexpected freaque wave sneaked its attack and caught Andrew with his guard down -- a little ahead of himself as he was probably preparing to reunite with his family, looking forward to hug his dear wife and young son. It was so close, he's almost there! People on land was preparing his welcome party, it's any minutes now, how could he got lost?

Well! In any oceanic journey, long or short, we just can not let the guard down at any time. Ocean is such a treacherous place, danger is always around the corner even when it's appearing calm. That's why freaque waves are so elusive and evasive, no satellite snapshots or nonlinear dynamics can expect to provide a tangible answer to the plight of freaque waves anytime soon!

I don't think Andrew has any regret about his adventure and accomplishment. He has pretty much proved that it can be done and he had basically done it. He is neither selfish nor selfless. He's simply following his own ideal and aspiration, and his family was with him, cheering him on, every paddles he made. It is unfortunate that his son should growing up with out him. But young Finlay is growing up, and for the rest of his life, he will always be immeasurably proud of his father's aspiration, courage and accomplishments.

Andrew McAuley R.I.P.

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