For the ninth day in a row, the tranquility of this majestic bay is undisturbed by wind or waves. From sunrise to sundown, the warm blue waters around the ship mirror the mountains to the north.
This morning, Captain Stuart Buckle eased the 2,000-ton Mermaid Sapphire to within 400 yards (366 meters) of the Cape Jaquinot shore. The ship was so close we could see the trunks of big trees, the smoke of a cook fire, and the blue shadows of the coral reef.
“This is not the Ring of Fire of television and books; this is the real thing.”
That’s what one of the crew members says as we head toward the entrance to Blanche Bay on New Britain Island. Ten of us are leaning against the bridge deck railing taking pictures of three purple volcanoes dominating the skyline ahead of the ship.