Nighttime. Lights out. Darkened ship. Sitting on a bollard in the catwalk. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Miles below, ships of exploration and discovery, of war and peace, ships of commerce and pleasure, luxury and poverty, abandoned to the deep by the souls that manned them, destroyed by wind and wave and battle. Men and women, just like me, a’rest at sea.
From tools of stone to ships of steel, from struggles to survive, to lives of leisure and boredom. From fear of the night and superstition of the unknown; prayers to gods of every stripe. Birth to death. Men and women, just like me, infinitesimal beings gazing into the night sky. My insignificance humbles me while my mind observes, contemplates, calculates, reasons, imagines, explores, discovers, builds.
Thoughts turn inward at times like this, but my eyes remain skyward, barely blinking. I can’t count the stars though I count the satellites that cross the night.
For a moment in the pitch black night illuminated by the twinkle of stars, I’m terrified by the thought of the thousands of feet of unknown beneath me and the billions of miles of space above me, and I’m dizzy and brace myself as I fall between the two.
But only for a moment. Only for a moment. Only for a moment before my eyes fill with tears and my heart swells with the wonder of God’s glory. God’s glory as witnessed from a gigantic ship of battle, of peace and war. The seabed is littered with the bones of those who went before me. I know in times of ease they viewed the skies with awe like me.
Nothing in my life of travels among Earth’s wonders compares with the breathtaking wonder of the night sky at sea. Nothing.
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) underway in the Atlantic Ocean.