All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine

Nancy Terrell -- April 2009 Issue


Expedition Around North America: Olivier Pitras and Global Warming


Cruisers from around the globe support Olivier Pitras’ newest adventure “Expedition Around North America,” a 12 month sail of some 18,000 nautical miles that will take place in 21 stages and over nine seas, but with only one goal: to testify on climate change while exploring options available now on our planet to lessen the impact of global warming.


To Pitras, a handsome Frenchman who has been sailing most of his life, global warming and the melting of the icecaps is a real problem with terrifying consequences for human beings.


I chatted with Olivier at Shelter Bay Marina in Panama just after he had gone through the canal with 12,800 miles (23,700 km) behind him in this expedition. He told me,  “Our planet is like a boat and we are all the same crew. In 1999, I made the same passage, circumnavigating North America, and have seen a tremendous change in the melting of the icecaps between 1999 and 2009.  It is the purpose of our expedition to provide necessary information that will educate the world as to our findings. Our aim is to help make the planet healthy through exposure as to what is happening.


“The philosophy of our expedition is to provide the knowledge that will be needed for our planet to act immediately to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to develop new technology about sustainable energy that is cheaper than what we are now using. The youth are very into this - France is leading in environmental education and we would like to set an example, in education, for the world. We are now on the natural global warming cycle that is being accelerated by human industrial activities.


“Instead of denouncing what is happening, we are meeting with knowledgeable people – scientists, writers, business executives, etc., with solutions and are conferring with them. We are all looking into new technology – now that corporations are aware of what is happening on a planetary level and we have every reason to feel that this approach will be most successful.”


Pitras and his crew started on May 17, in Tromsø, Norway,  where his sailing vessel, Southern Star, a 75’ Aluminum Sloop designed by William Tripp and built by Stephens Marine USA, departed with a crew of 12 scientists, educators and journalists aboard.


Stops then included Sitka, Alaska; Vancouver, British Columbia; San Francisco, California;  Acapulco, Mexico;  the Panama Canal; Roatan, Honduras;  Miami, Florida; Newport, Rhode Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia. At each stop the team collects information, making scientific observations concerning the actual affects of global warming.


The team then speaks with local scientists and researchers with whom they will collaborate in an effort to combine their findings at research centers or within individual fields of study thus leading to publication.


Since leaving Vancouver, conferences have been held at each stop that are providing focus on different themes related to climate change and thus emphasize the continuing need for international cooperation in establishing foundations for a sustainable economic development for the well being of our planet and all life living on it, for the future.


After my talk with Olivier I am convinced of the necessity of acting upon positive solutions immediately in this field and wish this expedition great success. For details:


Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 22 years. She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song.


Southern Star Southern Star2

All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine

Nancy Terrell -- February 2009 Issue


Water Tales - The World's Largest Rodent


One of the stories that truly interested me during my trip into the Amazon was that of the Phoberomy Pattersoni, a giant rodent that roamed the waters of Venezuela some eight million years ago.  This engrossing story was related to me by my Pemon Indian guide, Antonio.  


It seems that this rodent, pictured as the size of a modern buffalo, weighed over 1500 pounds or 700 kilograms, had a long tail for balancing his heavy body and had teeth that were constantly growing.  It is speculated that these teeth were used to cut wood, much like those of a beaver, and that they could also have been used in fighting—something I am sure that most animals millions of years ago did—just for survival.  Resembling today’s guinea pigs and 15 times heavier than the largest living rodent today, the Phoberomy’s diet consisted of sea grass and other water plants.


The odd thing about Antonio’s story is that the water necessary for the Phoberony to live in is now an arid region in the northwestern area of Venezuela where his remains, said to belong to the Upper Miocene Period, were found.  The Phoberomy’s remains are not the first oversized creature to have been discovered in this area—the remains of huge hook-beaked birds, as well as giant sloths have been found.  Biologists love to study the forests of Venezuela because most of the flora and fauna found there have developed in isolation from the rest of the planet due to the discovery that South America was cut off from the rest of the world until about 3,000,000 years ago when the isthmus of Panama emerged connecting it to Central & North America.  As such, the island of South America was home to giant mammalian groups; it is believed that some of these specimens actually survived until mankind came on the scene.


One of the facets of this ancient discovery that interested me is that of proportion; obviously, as the animal world evolves their bodies evolve in proportion to what will be needed in relationship to the grazing lands and water surrounding them.  Antonio told me that the Phoberomy had rear legs that were much more powerful than its forelegs, much like our 2 lb. guinea pig of today.


Antonio led our group through the forest, which included waterfalls, tempes and large areas of water grasses.  I could just picture our coming upon one of these rodents—not my most favorite species of animals in the first place—popping up in our path.  Like any cruiser, we have had our own personal battle with mice and rats on board our trawler, Swan Song.  It is specifically because of the tearing teeth of rodents that they do so much damage.  We were hauled out several years ago when a family of growing mice decided that our newly installed hoses were just what their family needed to survive—some $2,000 and several weeks later we had finally sent the last of them to that lovely rodent heaven in the sky but their presence certainly dented our schedule as well as our pocket book.


With each new twist and turn in the river, Antonio paddled his historic canoe around bends and seemed to enlarge the tales of the Phoberomy as he saw our interest increase.  Taking us back to our home station at Jungle Rudy’s Resort, he left us to have lunch in their restaurant, which is filled with wall hangings of the animals and wildlife that roam the Amazon today.  As we ordered our food our group speculated on how large their restaurant walls would have to be to contain a Phoberomy’s hide today.  It was decided that they would most definitely have to hire a construction company to construct a wall on which to contain it.


Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 23 years.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.

Phoberomy Pattersoni