On a quiet Monday morning in July, around the time of day when I would normally brush my teeth before heading to work, three of us set sail from Stavanger, on the western coast of Norway. Our next port of call was Inverness in Scotland – the first stretch of what is planned to be a round-the-world trip that will take me a few years.
The North Sea is supposed to be the most brutal of seas: breaking waves roaring in from behind, winds strong enough to dismast boats and blow sails to pieces. Our conditions were quite different. We were stuck without wind in dense fog, motoring most of the way.
We sailed through three days and two nights, trying to spot other boats through the hopelessly dense fog. We changed course to keep clear of construction work on oil fields, saw tugs in the distance and talked to cargo vessels on the radio. But mostly, we hunkered down to wait.
A school of dolphins swam past us as we first sighted land, and just as they arrived, the fog went away. I have seen many a dolphin before and since, but none so playful as these, so mind-numbingly loud, so full of life.
For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.
–Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy