We’re approaching the home stretch. Fleet: Horizon, the conclusion to my ongoing science fiction serial novel, premiers on December 2. Each installment features a distinctive cover, featuring one of the ships in the Fleet. The ship on each cover is a real vessel, photographed during one of my many field expeditions. In honor of the completion of Fleet, here are the real stories behind the four vessels featured on the covers.
Fleet: The Reach features the ship that inspired (loosely) NC-3502-WM. The actual vessel is an ocean tugboat that I encountered in Antigua, at the conclusion of JC82/83 — my research cruise to the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center and tag-along cruise to the seas around Montserrat. The noticeably aging vessel was living out its latter years as a pilot boat, delivering pilots to cruise ships and other large vessels so that they could navigate into Antigua’s port.
Maritime Pilots are an old and honored profession. Many ports are dangerous, with local hazards that shift, sometimes as often as the tide. Because of this, large vessel require a local mariner, someone who knows their waterways, to guide ships into port.
If you treat yourself to a salmon dinner in Manhattan, that delicious fish most likely came from the Faroe Islands. Should you be scratching your head and trying to remember your geography, you’re not alone. Yet, this tiny country in the North Atlantic is one of the world leaders in salmon aquaculture. While in the Faroes, I had the good fortune of a tour of a site run by the company Hiddenfjord in the town of Vestmanna by Jogvan Egholm. Since aquaculture is still a new and developing field, it’s always nice to see how things are done. Once I learned of the market connections to the US, however, I began to consider the tour the story of our food as well.
Salmon happily jumping for food in their pen. Soon to be on a plate near you. Credit: Andrew Thaler
The salmon we visited were destined for the US and China, countries with the best market price. Recently, we’ve had salmon on the brain after a controversial taste-test by the Washington Post revealed testers preferred frozen, farmed salmon. Bottom line of the controversy: understand where your fish come from and the environmental and health implications of certain production styles. Not all farming is created equal – Europe does a much better job using salmon from their native range than us westerners. So here’s a story of a fish. After fully grown in the Faroes, they’ll be shipped to the UK by boat and flown the rest of the way by plane. Smaller fish stay in the European market. But it starts with an egg…