Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sea Change

From Lapham's Quarterly:
Conrad says the love of the sea is in fact the love of ships, the thought coming to him in 1905 as an affectionate memory of the New South Dock as it was to be seen in the 1880s, “fifty hulls, at least, molded on lines of beauty and speed,” square-rigged and metal-plated, “moored all in a row, stem to quay, as if assembled there for an exhibition not of a great industry but of a great art,” such a sight as “no man’s eye shall behold again.” So too the sight of the United States Navy in San Francisco Bay between 1942 and 1945, its fleets assembled for war in the sublime and treacherous Pacific. Seventy years have come and gone, but I still can see ships of every then-known tonnage, armament, and design—aircraft carriers, destroyers, oil tankers, submarines, light and heavy cruisers, trawlers, minesweepers, PT boats—lying at anchor or getting underway on the turn of a morning’s tide. I didn’t know how to step a mast, or tell the difference between a sandbar and a reef, but I knew that the Battle of Midway was fought somewhere in the same degree of longitude that had seen the end of Captain Ahab, and I contrived to picture myself as somehow engaged in mankind’s age-old struggle with the mystery and power of the sea. (Read more.)

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