Tuesday, December 31, 2013
The above is a compilation of ship’s positions from 1785 to 1860. Of particular interest are the horizontal lines near the Equator in the Pacific which were probably ships caught in the doldrums; and the considerable traffic around Cape Horn.
I thank Kim for the link to the source, The Old Salt Blog, where you can read more and find a short video showing some of the world’s shipping traffic during one week in September of 2012.
I have on my iPad mini, which has become my E-reader of choice, collections of works of eighteen writers, ranging from Shakespeare to Yeats. Not all of these are complete collections, but enough, and included is Joseph Conrad. For $1.99 I got 17 novels, 5 collections of short stories, several novellas, and 5 non-fiction books. This averages about 7 cents a volume.
I was slightly surprised to discover that over the years I have already read all of them except for four of the non-fiction works. Many I’ve read more than once.
I found ‘The Tale’, included in THE PENGUIN BOOK OF FIRST WORLD WAR STORIES, in STORIES OF HEARSAY, along with “The Warrior’s Soul,” “Prince Roman,” and “The Black Mate.” And with pleasure read them all again.
My recent virus caused me to miss five workouts and my goal of one hundred a year. I was on track for one hundred and one, but although I resumed working out a week ago, will have to settle for ninety-six. This comes to 14992 push-ups and crunches this year; so even though this isn’t a work-out day, I just stopped writing and did eight more of each to bring the total to 15,000.
Sailing across the Pacific next year, I won’t even come close.
I am writing this mid-morning in our sunny second bedroom.
The sun is shining brightly from a cold clear sky on a thin veil of fresh snow that fell overnight. The temperature is 7°F/-14°C. Five more inches/12.5 centimeters of snow is due tonight.
I have enjoyed this year, being back in San Diego, solving the problems of how to live on GANNET and preparing her for sea, being with Carol.
If you ever venture to other pages on this site, you may have read on the list of quotes used at the front of my books these:
Curtis probably never found out either [why Two Whistles, a Crow chief, had a crow on his head when Curtis photographed him], because after thirty-three years in the field taking photos of the Indians he went crazy and was placed in an asylum. When they let him go he went down to Old Mexico and looked for gold, with a diffidence in recovery that characterized the behavior of many great men--let’s go to the edge and jump off again.
from DAHLVA by Jim Harrison
(I) am, I believe, following the clear path of my fate. Always to be pushing out like this, beyond what I know cannot be the limits--what else should a man’s life be? Especially an old man who has, by a clear stroke of fortune, been violently freed of the comfortable securities that make old men happy to sink into blindness, deafness, the paralysis of all desire, feeling, will.
What else should our lives be but a continual series of beginnings, of painful settings out into the unknown, pushing off from the edges of consciousness into the mystery of what we have not yet become, except in dreams that blow in from out there bearing the fragrance of islands we have not sighted.
--from AN IMAGINARY LIFE by David Malouf
Though I am half-blind and Carol tells me that I do not hear as well as I used to--I suspect that most wives tell their husbands that--I have not been violently freed from comfortable securities, so I'llI free myself.
I am looking forward to the new year with joy.
I hope you are, too.
Friday, December 27, 2013
I have been fortunate recently in enjoying a number of exceptional works:
The opera MOBY DICK which I admire so much I ordered CD’s of Heggie’s earlier opera, DEAD MAN WALKING. They arrived late yesterday and I’ll listen to them this afternoon.
Mary Parker’s THE FORBIDDEN ZONE.
The documentary, BLACKFISH; and films, THE TREE OF MAN, which I don’t think quite works but is visually stunning and includes a fine performance by Brad Pitt; and HEAVENLY CREATURES, directed in 1994 by Peter Jackson, of LORD OF THE RINGS fame, based on an actual murder by two teen age New Zealand girls of the mother of one of them. The opening credits show, “And introducing, Kate Winslet”, who plays one of the girls in her first film performance. HEAVENLY CREATURES opened the way for both Peter Jackson and Kate Winslet to bigger, if not necessarily better things, and is well worth watching. We did on Netflix streaming.
I just finished John Williams’s novel, STONER, about the unassuming life of an English professor at the University of Missouri in the first half of last century.
I’ve had STONER on my Kindle for a while and got around to reading it now because of the heading of an article I saw a few weeks ago in the GUARDIAN naming it the Book of the Year. Odd because as I knew it was published fifty years ago and its author has been dead for twenty.
I like to read books unfiltered by the perceptions of others, so did not read the article until after I finished STONER. I found it pompous and pretentious; but then that is the nature of criticism, which is more often about trying to impress us with the reviewer’s cleverness than the work ostensibly under discussion. The most useful information in the article is that STONER has become a bestseller in Europe, largely through word of mouth, though not in America.
The reviewer offers generalizations about why this might be so, and like all such generalizations, they are shallow. He admits to not previously having heard of John Williams. I, who am in some ways an un-American American, but an American nevertheless, have known of John Williams as a fine writer for decades. I’ve read his novel, AUGUSTUS, a couple of times; and BUTCHER’S CROSSING once. Both are on my Kindle to reread again.
I started to write that nothing exceptional happens in the life of William Stoner in the novel, but instantly realized that is not true. Stoner had an exceptional love for his work. He was not fortunate in other ways, not his marriage, his child, a love affair, even his academic career, though he cared little for the career and everything for the work. Such a man is most exceptional and fortunate, as despite disappointments, William Stoner knew himself to be.
What is also exceptional is John Williams’s ability as a writer to make a superficially uneventful life so interesting and so moving. I finished the book with great sympathy and admiration for William Stoner and wished he could have found more happiness in his life.
Most of you reading this are Americans, so, according to the man in the GUARDIAN, the book is not for you. But reportedly Tom Hanks likes it, and he’s American, and so very much do I. If you like fine writing, be daring, give STONER a try.
Carol and I spent a pleasant Christmas at home in the frozen flatlands.
We cooked what is becoming our traditional Christmas or New Year’s dinner of pork chops, apples and calvados, from a recipe sent to me several years ago by Adrian in England, for which I again thank him. And yes, the plural pronoun is correct. I really can do more than boil water. Well, not much more.
One stage of the preparation requires pouring flaming calvados over the still cooking pork chops and apples. Assigning this to a half blind man with poor depth perception might seem curious, particularly when as we have learned the necessary first step is to turn off the smoke alarms, but mine were the only other hands at hand, so pour I did.
Our building still stands; and the results were wonderful.
Boil water. Eat nuts. Uncooked oatmeal. Pour flaming calvados.
My future cook book is coming right along.
Monday, December 23, 2013
Friday evening Carol and I shared a bottle of white wine with takeaway Chinese food she bought on her way home from work. While we watched the early Hitchcock classic, 39 STEPS, I poured myself a glass of Laphroaig.
Carol needs more sleep than I, so after she went to bed I poured myself more Laphroaig and returned to reading IMMORTAL POETS where I found of Robert Frost “at age sixty-six…his writing had all but stopped.”
That gave me pause. I am on the record as stating that life is only forty years long, that what matters is what you do between roughly twenty and sixty or sixty-five. But even with a lingering virus, only pause. The sea lion of the flatlands no longer barks so often or so loud and ended his self-imposed exile to the living room several days ago.
Deny doubt. Press on.
The four above photos were taken from the same location, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA at anchor in Whangamumu, just south of Cape Brett, New Zealand, within a span of twenty-four hours on October 23, 2010.
I’ve run them before, but not for a while, and used a cropped version of one for the cover of THE FIFTH CIRCLE.
Next year is almost upon us, and I found myself thinking that a year from today I expect to be sitting exactly where I presently am on our living room sofa. Look in the window and nothing will seem to have changed. But GANNET instead of floating in a slip in San Diego will be six thousand miles southwest on the hard at Ashby’s Boat Yard in Opua.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Thanks to the BBC, and to James for the link, I unconditionally guarantee that you will be delighted for two minutes by clicking here. Have your sound on.
My copy of THE FORBIDDEN ZONE arrived late Wednesday.
It is a slim book and could easily be read at one sitting. I did it in two, reading The North yesterday, and The Somme this morning.
Mary Borden stands with the very best writers of WWI. I agree with Malcolm Brown who says in the forward that coming across the book is “the literary equivalent of finding a gold mine while rooting for gold dust.”
There are sketches and five stories, one of which is “The Blind.”
Malcolm Brown uses a word I avoid, ‘genius.’ The book is, I think, unforgettable.
In one sketch, ‘The Beach,’ a man is sitting with his wife on the beach just outside the hospital where he is being treated. We know he has lost at least his foot and may be further mutilated. His wife is young and beautiful and he is thinking that he should set her free, but knows he can’t. She glances at him, seeking the man she knew and fell in love with but can’t find. She tells herself she must keep on loving him, but doesn’t know if she can.
This is not a wonderful world. The variable is obvious.
I’ve written that war is a failure of the imagination. Reading THE FORBIDDEN ZONE is a cure.
I’ve spent about $2000 in England this week.
I’m sure that those of you there are appreciative of my boost to your economy. The least I can do for the pleasure of watching the EPL.
A little more than half went to Oceanbrake for the Jordan drogue, bridle, attachment plates, shipping. I don’t recall ever before spending a thousand dollars on something I hope never to use. (If you are wondering, I only had a life raft when Carol sailed with me.)
Slightly less than half was for a Yellowbrick 3 tracking device.
This is a reversal of what I wrote on August 31.
I’m not entirely sure why I changed my mind. Part is my responsibility to Carol. Part a desire to play fair and let others follow me at sea, as I have enjoyed following them underway. Part is the ability to provide prior notice of arrival to officials in other countries as is increasingly being required. And part is that the Yellowbrick should be a non-intrusive, set it up, turn it on as I go to sea and forget about it device.
The main reason I chose the Yellowbrick over the Delorme inReach is battery life. The secondary reason is lower cost of service plans.
I will not use the Yellowbrick to communicate with anyone other than Carol and governments. I will not be sending or receiving email. I will not be updating any accounts, not that I have one with Twitter or Facebook anyway.
I still think that those of us who venture offshore have no right to expect society to save us from trouble of our own making, and do not expect to activate an alert, although I suppose if I were in intolerable pain, I might. That I will have that capability causes me some unease, as though I’m violating an important personal principle. Perhaps you understand.
If anyone else observes irregularity in GANNET’s track and initiates a search that I have not requested, I will haunt you for the rest of your days. And beyond.
I bought the Yellowbrick now so I can test it on GANNET in February.
Sewing is a sailing skill.
I stitched many sails until a sailmaker advised me that for passage repairs contact cement is better. I’ve done a good many other repairs to dodgers and lee cloths and clothes. That was when I could see with both eyes.
Yesterday when a button fell off my shirt, I got the sewing kit and discovered that threading a needle one-eyed is a comedy routine.
It went on too long and I ceased to be amused, but the button is back on the shirt.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
GANNET floats about a half mile from the original Sea World in San Diego which opened in 1964. I know I went there once in its early years, but don’t recall the experience. Probably I was entertained. I hope I was uneasy. At least I never went back. After watching the documentary, BLACKFISH, last evening, available in the U.S. on Netflix streaming, and which I highly recommend, I strongly believe that the place should be shut down. I’m sorry for those who have jobs there taking tickets and selling souvenirs, but this is a despicable business.
BLACKFISH focuses on the life of one orca, who was stolen from his mother and named by some of our species, Tilikum. Tilikum has killed three humans. Unfortunately the wrong three; but I doubt that chief executives of Sea World often venture into the tanks. That Tilikum goes berserk every once in a while is not surprising when you learn what we have done to him. A human treated the same way would become a psychopath, too.
Orcas are too big, too intelligent, too social to be kept captive in tanks when in the open ocean they often swim a hundred miles/one hundred and sixty kilometers a day. And all for our entertainment and to make a few people rich.
I expect that if it were legal, some investors would build a replica of Rome’s Colosseum, though naturally bigger, and stage gladiatorial combats to the death and the feeding of people to lions.
Sea World is not much better. If any.
The photo is of another creature we have taken from the wild and named. Fortunately we only detain him briefly. He is E7, a bar-tailed godwit who has been called the greatest athlete in the world, a claim that presumably he does make himself but is not all that outlandish. He, along with other godwits, is also a superior weather forecaster.
Every northern autumn, bar-tailed godwits make the longest non-stop migration flight of any birds, 11,000 kilometers/6,800 miles/6,000 nautical miles, from Alaska to New Zealand. I repeat the non-stop in case you missed it. Wind from astern is obviously critical, and researchers have determined that bar-tailed godwits are very adept at picking the best time for departure.
In 2007 E7, GPS tagged and tracked by satellite, left Alaska on August 30 and was in New Zealand on September 7, eight days and 11,700 kilometers as the godwit flies later. This averages to about 790 nautical miles a day with an average speed of 33 knots. Clearly the bird flies spinnakers.
If interested you can read more here.
I thank Larry for the link.
Yesterday morning I came across mention of a visualization of the world’s wind updated every three hours. Since then Alan and Zane have both emailed me about it, for which I thank them. They were correct that it is something in which I would be interested.
The visualization is beautiful and instructive. There has been something similar for the continental U.S. for a while, but nothing of which I am aware like this. The globe can be rotated and zoomed in and out.
You can see the trade winds, the varying width of the doldrums, storms. I was struck by the depiction of wind funneling and accelerating between the mountains of Central America to emerge in the notoriously windy Gulf of Tehuantepec.
I think this is wonderful and will write the creator, who is listed as Cameron Beccario, and tell him so.
Of wind, I am now using an app called Windfinder Pro, which I find much more user friendly than WindAlert. There is a free version. I paid a few dollars to get rid of ads.
I have thirteen locations as favorites, ranging from Evanston to San Diego to Cape Brett and Opua, New Zealand, Cape Town, Lord Howe Island in the Tasman, Hilo and Ala Wai in Hawaii, Mt. Pleasant Airport in the Falklands, and Tarifa, Spain. Tarifa was pre-included. I was once almost killed there when a 50+ knot Levanter developed while I was sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar—you can find details in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II—so have kept it for the fond memories.
Interesting to me is that generally the windiest of these is not Cape Horn, but Mt. Pleasant Airport, which can’t be accurately named, in the Falklands. At the moment it is blowing 22 knots at Mt. Pleasant and 20 at Cape Horn. However, it is warmer, 55°F/13°C, at Mt. Pleasant than the 43°F/6° at the Horn.
Perhaps needless to say, both are far warmer than Evanston.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Between bouts of coughing and IMMORTAL POETS, I just finished THE PENGUIN BOOK OF FIRST WORLD WAR STORIES, a very good selection, all but one of which were new to me.
Trying to show the effect of the war on more than just combatants, the book is divided into four sections: Front; Spies and Intelligence; At Home; In Retrospect. Some of the stories are by famous authors, others not.
Of the three that I most appreciate, one, “The Tale” by Joseph Conrad was the one I had read before, but not recently. A British Naval officer on leave relates an ambiguous incident to his wife. You can read it online at several places, including here.
The second I favor is Muriel Spark’s “The First Year of My Life,” in which a child born in February 1918, as was Muriel Sparks herself, does not smile for her first year. What finally makes her do so, still brings a smile to my face.
The story can be found online by googling, Muriel Sparks the first year of my life, which will bring up near the top of the list an item beginning [DOC]. Clicking on that immediately downloads a Word .docx to your computer. Opening such a thing is often not advisable. I use Apple laptops and did, apparently without evil result. The story is there.
The third is “Blind” by Mary Borden, told from the point of view of a nurse at a field hospital just behind the French trenches. It is so startlingly well written that I immediately sought more information about the author and discovered that Mary Borden was born here in Chicago into a wealthy family, graduated from Vassar in 1907, married the following year, had three daughters, and was living in England when the war started.
At her own expense she outfitted a field hospital and worked as a nurse from 1915 to the end of the war, for which she received the Croix de Guerre from the French government.
In 1917 she wrote THE FORBIDDEN ZONE, which includes “Blind.” Military censors blocked its publication because they believed, probably correctly, that the harsh truths it conveys would be detrimental to morale. It was not published until 1929. A new edition is in print, though inexplicably excludes poems found in the first. I’ve ordered a copy anyway.
As mentioned here before LISTEN magazine always costs me money, the most recent issue in the form of the DVDs of the San Francisco Opera production of a new opera, MOBY DICK, composed by Jake Heggle, libretto by Gene Scheer.
I have read Melville’s novel three or four times over the decades and have always thought that at least half and maybe two-thirds of it should be cut. Somehow that is what Gene Scheer has done, leaving the violent fiery heart of the story.
All of the two act opera takes place aboard THE PEQUOD and I’m not giving anything important away when I tell you that Melville’s first words cleverly become the opera’s last.
The singers are exceptional. The staging imaginative. The music passionate, mad, gentle, searching.
This might just be the best version of the epic tale I have ever experienced, far better than any of the film or theatrical versions, which, like Herman Melville himself, try to include too much.
I know this because you can view the production online, though it took me three or four attempts before the video loaded.
As soon as it ended, I ordered the DVD’s.
A few desultory snow flakes drift past the windows. The sky is solid dull gray. The temperature is 23°F/-5°C. I bundled up and walked a short block to the mailbox, the first time in more than a week I have ventured farther than the fifteen yards/meters to take out the trash. I am sleeping in the living room so that my sporadic bursts of coughing do not keep Carol awake, too. My idea, not hers.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Two months ago I chased sea lions from the end of ‘A’ Dock. Now they have their revenge. I sound like them. I have bronchitis and my cough is a sea lion bark. If I were in San Diego I would chase myself off the dock.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I continue to read a few pages, err, screens, of IMMORTAL POETS each day and am now up to Thomas Hardy.
Each poet is introduced with a brief biography and I just came across this:
Two themes interested him all his life, romanticism and fatalism, and in his death he made a final demonstration of both. It was Hardy’s wish to have his ashes interred in Westminster Abbey and his heart buried with his first wife. But at the last minute, during the preparations for burial, a cat snatched the heart off the shelf and disappeared with it into the woods.
This appears not quite to be true.
Hardy did not want to be buried at Westminster Abbey. After his death his second wife and various officials decided to bury him there, and his heart with his first wife.
An even more macabre version of the story is found at a site called Poet’s Graves:
When the local doctor was removing Hardy's heart he left the room momentarily and re-entered to find his cat eating it. As a result, the cat was killed and its body was placed into the grave too.
Other sources denounce the cat as rumor.
Thomas Hardy is one of my favorite writers, both as novelist and poet. It is the kind of thing he might have written: an old man’s wishes ignored by a jealous second wife and his heart eaten by a cat. It ought to be true.
The flatlands are frozen, as is much of this country. Migration to the south and west is one of the few clear signs of human intelligence in our times.
The figures in the photo are on the top of Carol’s desk in our sunny second bedroom where I often spend my days. I glanced up yesterday just as the sun’s rays reached them.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Several days ago Kevin—not my friend in San Diego, but Kevin from across the local lake—emailed, asking if he could interview me for his website, SailFarLiveFree. I agreed and the result has just been posted.
I find it interesting, and sometimes surprising, to see what interviewers choose to emphasize. Kevin has done a better job than most, if not all, of the professional journalists who have interviewed me over the years, and I thank him for giving me the opportunity to rethink some things.
While regular readers of this journal can predict many of my responses to Kevin’s questions, they may be expressed in new ways, and some of what I said is new, including the three questions I expect the GANNET voyage to answer.
I do, by the way, agree entirely with Kevin’s selection of five budget cruisers linked to one of the questions.
Yesterday afternoon I prepared for the upcoming voyage by opening a good bottle of red wine earlier than usual, which Carol and I sipped while watching snow flakes cover the city with a thin white veil, and reading. Later in the afternoon I turned on the television and watched a football game.
I had planned today to write about this as preparation for the voyage, because it was. Too little thought is given simply to being quiet, not lying fallow exactly, but not actively trying to do anything in particular or solve problems.
Then this morning I came across reference to an interview in which Peter Higgs, who has just won the Nobel Prize for Physics, said of current academic culture, “It’s difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964.”
I saw a feature on the Canadian balladeer, Gordon Lightfoot, who is a few years older than I.
I like his music. One of his songs, “If You Could Read My Mind,” which he wrote about the breakup of his first marriage, came out as one of my relationships was ending long ago.
Many of his songs are lasting.
It has been said that he has made the EDMUND FITZGERALD the second most famous shipwreck after the TITANIC. And his “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” is often called the unofficial Canadian National Anthem.
He is still performing. Surely not for the money. Perhaps because of the enjoyment of being before live audiences. Perhaps just because he can.
But as I wrote elsewhere, I wouldn’t want to be an old rock star endlessly singing the hits of his youth.
GANNET, for me, is something new.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
I walked down to the lake this morning determined to find something to photograph.
I do not take photographs as often as I used to in part because of my vision. I, of course, cannot speak for others, but for myself I have discovered that when I could see with two eyes I unknowingly had a surplus of resources and in addition to my primary activity could look around and take in other details of my surroundings. With only one eye, I lack that luxury of abundance and need to concentrate all available vision on what I’m doing. I walk with my eye mostly cast down on the sidewalk ahead of me, frequently glancing up briefly, which is the reverse of my former two-eyed practice.
Always I have known that to take good photographs, doing so must be your first priority, and I am a writer before I’m a photographer, turning experience into words before images.
After a heat wave with temperature around 50°F/10°C the past two days, today is a few degrees below freezing with a hard, cold winter sun. I know the sun is neither hard nor cold; but at a distance of 93,000,000 miles/150,000,000 kilometers, it can seem so in these latitudes. Still it is welcome and much better than solid low overcast that presses down like a leaden cloak.
This photo is more ominous than it seems.
In a small park a few blocks from our condo, workmen are preparing what will soon be an ice rink.
Perhaps not coincidentally, I just made my reservations to fly back to San Diego two months from today. I’ll stay four weeks with the main task being to haul out, anti-foul and, probably, lower the rudder to inspect the shaft and bearings. The ‘probably’ is dependent on the boat yard. If it is not convenient, I’ll wait until Opua.
Of photographs, I added ‘self-portrait in darkness’ to the others on the webb chiles page.
I read that Oxford Dictionary has named ‘selfie’ the word of the year.
Lack of grace is endless.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
In musing about my route across the Pacific next year, I’ve tried to think of places I haven’t been that I’d like to visit, and have come up only with Hawaii and the Minerva Reefs. I’ve sailed close to Minerva Reefs a couple of times; but once at sea I have a strong tendency to stay there.
During my CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE voyage I met a Dutch sailor who ran onto one of the reefs. He confessed that he and his American wife were making love at the time. The earth truly did move for them.
She was a very attractive woman and I have long been an advocate of passion, both of spirit and flesh, and as an old man still am; but I think that I would waited until we were inside the lagoon and the anchor was down.
His boat was 35’ long and made of steel.
Unable to get off to windward and helped by crews of the few yachts who were anchored there, they moved everything possible off the boat, ran out lines, and over several days bounced her inch by inch over the reef. He was a credible man and I would have believed him anyway, but he had photos.
Only a steel hull would have survived; and despite a bent rudder, they were able to sail on to New Zealand.
Some might take this as a lesson that you should have a steel hull. I disagree. Steel boats are too heavy to sail well. The lesson is don’t put your boat on a reef.
I went looking for the Minerva Reefs on my electronic charts. Even with the exact coordinates, it took a while to find them, particularly on the Navionics in the iPads. One problem with electronic charts is that small features, such as isolated atolls, don’t appear until you zoom in. How far you have to zoom varies, and you can’t possibly zoom in to inspect every mile of a thousand mile or more passage.
With a chartplotter set to a scale normally used at sea, there would not be the least indication that anything was in your way. Until the earth moved.
In viewing images of Apia, a possible stop on GANNET’s way from San Diego to Opua, I came across several of the hurricane of 1889, including the one above of “The USS TRENTON Dragging Along the Reefs,” which led me to an interesting page at the Naval Historical Center.
Briefly, German and American warships were anchored at Apia on the verge of hostilities over control of the islands that now comprise Samoa and American Samoa when a hurricane blew the fleets to pieces. I had read of this before.
You can find more images and details at the link above.
You can find more images and details at the link above.
Everyone knows “the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley,” but I read the poem, “To a Mouse: on turning up her nest with the plow” again a few days ago, and the ending is something more.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Many American readers will have seen two remarkable endings to football games this past week—the New England Patriots coming back from a 24-0 half time deficit to beat the Denver Broncos in overtime; and the Auburn return of a missed field goal for a touchdown against Alabama on the last play of the game; but perhaps the most heart-breaking reversal of the week was in American football’s ancestor, rugby, when New Zealand met Ireland in Dublin a week ago today.
This needs to be placed in context.
Starting in 1905 Ireland and New Zealand have played one another twenty-eight times. New Zealand has won twenty-seven of those contests. There was a tie in 1973. The last time the two countries met prior to last week, New Zealand won 60-0.
I watched a delayed broadcast two days ago of the game on an obscure cable channel, BeIN Sport, where I usually watch European soccer games.
For my fellow Americans, rugby consists of two forty minute halves and is more of a flow game with near continuous play than American football which is a burst sport: ten seconds of action followed by a huddled regrouping.
Ireland dominated the first half of play and was ahead 14-0 within the first ten minutes, a margin they extended to 19-0, before ending the first half ahead 22-7, after New Zealand finally scored a try.
In the second half the play was more even and New Zealand edged back in. But with less than one minute to play, the noise from the Dublin crowd began to rise toward a crescendo as Ireland held a 22-17 lead and possession of the ball in the New Zealand half of the field with less than a minute to go. Watching I knew the result, but even then I couldn't see how it could happen. Suddenly a mistake by an Ireland player gave New Zealand the ball; and the All Blacks drove the length of the field to score a try in what amounted to overtime.
In rugby (and for those of you in rugby countries I know the difference between League and Union but don’t want to add unnecessary confusion) a try scores five points and a conversion/extra point two.
The conversion attempt is not made from directly in front of the goal posts as in American football, but from a point in line where the ball was grounded for the try (literally touched down). This often results in long kicks from extreme angles, which was the case here. With time having run out and the score tied, the New Zealand kicker lined up. And missed. So that was it: a draw. But it wasn't. Some Irish players charged off their line early, in what was at best a futile gesture, and the Kiwi kicker was given a second chance. Which he made.
New Zealand 24--Ireland 22.
The crowd was stunned. Silent. A victory more than a hundred years coming, that had seemed so certain only seconds earlier, had vanished. Many were crying.
The announcers of the rebroadcast I watched were Irish. They praised the New Zealanders, who had just completed the first undefeated year in rugby’s professional era, for their belief in themselves, that even in those last few seconds they could win, their unrelenting perseverance and determination; but they said that it was a cruel day.
And it was.