On Christmas Day, 2007, my family and I set off on a round-the-world educational journey on The Scholar Ship. The Scholar Ship (TSS) is a fascinating concept in higher education. It is literally a floating university that operates out of a vintage two hundred meter luxury liner, the MV Oceanic II.
During its 2007-08 inaugural academic year, The Scholar Ship recruited students and faculty from all over the globe—from approximately fifty different countries per voyage—and facilitated an elaborate intercultural educational program while cruising from one international port to the next (McGettigan, 2008, 2009).
Having been awarded a sabbatical for the spring 2008 semester, I was fortunate enough to have the available time, requisite teaching experience and relevant scholarly interests (McGettigan, 1998, 1999, 2001) to serve as a member of The Scholar Ship's Academic Teaching staff. As an additional benefit, The Scholar Ship also welcomed my wife and two young daughters (aged nine and ten, respectively) aboard its first ever Hong Kong to Amsterdam voyage.
I should note that, as of this writing, The Scholar Ship (TSS) has suspended operations. Following a successful, but somewhat under-enrolled, maiden academic year, TSS was unable to secure sufficient financial support to continue operations beyond 2008. Nonetheless, hope remains that TSS will make a comeback. Given the increasing importance of international education (Davies, 2005; Rainey, 2006) in a fast-shrinking global village, demand for programs such as TSS is likely to increase substantially in the years to come.
Following a long trans-Pacific flight, my family and I arrived at Ocean Port Terminal in Hong Kong Harbor at approximately noon on Thursday, December 27. Having enjoyed a less than perfect night of sleep during the flight, we had hoped that our twenty-hour journey had finally come to an end. However, we discovered that rather than being tied up at the dock, The Scholar Ship was anchored outside Hong Kong harbor.
Apparently, docking fees in Hong Kong are ferociously expensive. Consequently, TSS had made more economical arrangements to anchor outside the harbor and ferry its passengers to and from the ship. At the dock, my family and I turned our luggage over to members of TSS crew and then went in search of lunch. Following about a one-hour wait—during which we dined on “drunken chicken” at a waterfront food mall—we hopped aboard the 2:00 PM tender that would convey us to the ship. Compared to the snowstorm that we had left behind in Colorado, Hong Kong’s weather was sublime: bright blue skies with air temperatures hovering in the mid-seventies Fahrenheit. Perfect for a harbor cruise.
As if the weather were not wonderful enough, the view of Hong Kong from the tender was simply fascinating. My wife, Susan, and I had visited Hong Kong about thirteen years previously. On that visit, we had learned that, as concrete jungles go, Hong Kong was king. According to our 1995 travel guide, Hong Kong was more densely-packed with skyscrapers than any other city in the world. In the intervening years, the crush of skyscrapers (many festooned with anxiety-provoking bamboo scaffolding) had only intensified. Hong Kong’s extraordinary skyline was a testament to its enduring role as a leading center for international shipping and finance.
As the ferry exited the channel between Hong Kong and Kowloon, we gained our first view of The Scholar Ship. Lying complacently at anchor amidst the frantic buzz of ferries and fishing boats, the MV Oceanic II (the ship that would serve as home to TSS) appeared vast and majestic. Any subliminal concerns that I might have harbored about developing cabin-fever during the voyage instantly evaporated. One glance at the massive ship set my mind completely at ease; there was going to be plenty of elbow-room aboard The Scholar Ship (Fogg, 2006).
As the tender drew alongside the ship, Donald, a returning TSS faculty member, explained that The Scholar Ship’s normal boarding ramp was not serviceable for at-sea arrivals. Thus, instead of breezing up a sturdy gangway—which was the usual entry method—ferry passengers would have to navigate a makeshift obstacle course in order to board the ship. The steeplechase began with a leap from the ferry to a rickety floating dock. After zigzagging across the dock, the boarding process culminated with a nail-biting ascent up a flight of steps that had been loosely lashed to the side of the ship. Better yet, the bustling harbor traffic stirred a ceaseless riot of waves which caused the ferry, dock and stairs to rock and roll awkwardly. While Susan and I paused to assess the hazards that lay ahead, our daughters, named Claire and Ruby, brushed aside such trivialities. Without a moment’s hesitation, both girls leaped to the floating platform like a couple of old sea dogs. Astounded by this performance, Susan and I had no choice but to give chase. Indeed, we fairly had to take wing to catch up with our daughters as, in their excitement, they sprinted flat-out across the floating dock and then sprang nimbly aloft the jury-rigged staircase.
In spite of our daughters’ effortless conquest of the stairs, another newly-arriving TSS Staff member, named Alicia, missed her footing at the bottom of the steps and nearly tumbled into the sea. Witnessing this, several nearby crewmembers dashed to Alicia’s assistance. After helping Alicia back to her feet, the crewmembers decided to remain stationed protectively around the base of the stairs.
Rowman & Littlefield: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780761856115