By Eva Barbarossa
I spent the summer of 2011 ferry-hopping. I stayed mostly at sea, spending time on a few of the islands for breaks from the sailing, and eventually hunkering down for a bit on Prince of Wales Island. I had never been out that way in the north Pacific, nor to Alaska. I'd flown over the Aleutians to reach the ferry, but islands from the air are never the same as islands from the sea.
I have a thing for ferries. I like the thrum of diesel, the salt-rust smell, the clank of heavy steel doors, the squeal of cranes. I like their purposefulness; ferries don't go to sea for pleasure. They’ve got something to do, somewhere to be; someone, surely, is depending on them.
I prefer the early mornings, when no one other than the crew has surfaced. I like to roam the decks, dressed warmly enough to plunk down wherever the best view is, out of sight of humans, just me, the ship, the sea, the expanse.
My first morning in the Aleutians, my first offshore in the north Pacific, held a strange blue green for a moment, changing to blue grey, the islands rising from the sea, coiled in mist. I saw no animals, no birds, save for these elegant beings erupting out of the sea, wrapped in diaphanous stoles, uncaring, beautiful, and deeply alive. They sang me songs, histories, lives, stories that drew me in, in a language I could not know or understand, but still I was mesmerized, in love, at peace, alone.
This first morning I knew I was not going home anytime soon, that home wasn’t where I’d come from anyway, that I wasn’t leaving, not the sea, not this space, not these places that are inhabited by creatures that are not human but are more than that.
Eva Barbarossa is a writer and scholar who spends a great deal of time on ferries. The photographs are hers.