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May 23, 2008

Like a rock

BY: maureen



After two and a half days at sea, a familiar image appeared in the distance. At first I was confused as to why the Rock of Gibraltar seemed so familiar. I had certainly never been there before nor could I recall a time ever studying the landscape. Then I remembered that shortly before leaving for the Ranger, Oceana´s Chief Scientist Dr. Michael Hirshfield remarked, “Oh, you´re stopping in Gibraltar? You know that rock inspired the Prudential logo.” What a testament to modern day marketing that the logo of a company I had never used could be so ingrained in my subconscious.

Gibraltar is a strange city. Nestled near the southernmost tip of Spain, it is actually part of the British empire. According to our trusty Lonely Planet guidebook, “Spain ceded the Rock to Britain in 1713, but didn´t end military attempts to regain it until the failure of the Great Seige of 1779-1783…In 1969, Gibraltarians voted by 12,138 to 44 in favour of British rather than Spanish sovereignty.”

Suzannah and I were anxious to set foot on English soil, if only to prove to the crew that we were capable of expressing complete thoughts and knew extensive vocabulary in our native tongue. Our hopes were quickly dashed when we realized that despite English signs and monetary system, the city appeared to be much more Spanish than British and the language of choice was predominently Español.

After refueling and stocking up on some groceries, the rest of the day was ours to play tourist. No visit to Gibraltar would be complete without visiting the monkeys. Barbary macaques, the only wild primates in Europe, inhabit the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Once we ascended, we stumbled upon a cluster of monkeys that were clearly indifferent to our presence. Just two more pairs of gawking eyes that posed no threat and thus warranted no attention. The only time one took notice of us was when Suzannah momentarily set down her water bottle and a mischievous monkey snatched it up and claimed it as his own.

Tomorrow morning we set off again, but not before a big meal and a night off from the thrashing ocean.