Arica, Chile

Trip Start Jan 26, 2009
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Trip End Mar 27, 2009


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Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday the 5th of March was to be a quiet sea-day as we sailed from Valparaiso to Arica.  Most every day we hear announcements for individuals to contact the pursers' desk.  With three thousand passengers "having fun" you can well imagine that the noise level does not go down very much when such announcements are made.  This announcement was, however, repeated at regular intervals over the course of several hours and with each the fun loving masses became ever more silent:  suspecting, I think, that something was afoot.
 
We were all curious but not overly concerned quiet until about 1100 hrs when ship began a fairly rapid turnabout.  The shipboard rumour mill was already going a mile-a-minute and the turnabout pumped it up several notches more.  The ship-wide PA system then activated and our cruise director announced, from the bridge, that we were reversing course to return to search for a passenger overboard.  PA announcements always lower the level of sound that 3300 cruisers having fun create but for the first time in our cruise there was absolute silence. 
 
In a letter we received late last night, Captain Pagano informed us that he had received notification earlier that day (0930 hrs) that a guest's wife had found a note suggesting a planned suicide.  The crew paged this individual repeatedly and began a ship wide search before making the decision to come about and proceed at full speed to the ship's position when this individual was last seen.  From there our ship assumed on-scene command and began a creeping line search parallel to the swell.  Shortly after we began our search a Chilean Air Force search aircraft arrived and after that a small Chilean Navy ship arrived to join the search.  The Chilean Air Force assumed on-scene command and we continued our search until sunset, at which time we were released from the search to resume course for Arica.  The passenger, most unfortunately, was not found.  The search was all over the news in Arica but I'm guessing it did not make the evening news in North America as our understanding is that the current financial troubles and continued bad weather everywhere continues to drive the North American news broadcasts.
 
We were late arriving in Arica so we only had a short, quiet, visit.  Arica, one of the driest places on earth, is a wonderful green oasis in a sea of sand.  We had a very pleasant stroll around the downtown core, looking at what the shops had to offer but finding nothing to suit our fancy.  We did discover a wonderful little shop that served the most delicious Italian ice creams (who would have thought) and I think this treat will be the singular memory we have of Arica after the sea of sand.
 
We are back on schedule again and heading for Lima (Callao), Peru where we are hoping to tour some ruins and visit the silver market (the ruins are to humour Jim and you can guess who is most interested in "things silver").
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