Day 11, West Africa Cruise – At Sea, Off the Coast of Gabon

View of the G Expedition in Port in Lobito, Angola
Latitude: 0° 54.7307’ S
Longitude: 7° 46.5771’ E

I should probably spend a bit of time talking about the internet and communications because I know many people have questions about it.

The internet connection aboard the Expedition isn’t great and it isn’t cheap. I can’t complain about it too much however, as I am still amazed at the fact that we are able to have an internet connection at all in the middle of the ocean. When you consider that the ship is usually in the polar regions, it is even more impressive. (the satellite which the ship communicates with is located over the equator, so the farther away from the equator you get, the harder it is to reach. It is a function of angle and signal strength, not distance.)

Nonetheless, the internet is slow. When you log into the system, it says you have a 96k connection, but in reality, this is only true if no one else is using the bandwidth. In reality, other passengers, the crew and official ship business can slow the connection even further.

Pulling up a web page, if you are lucky, can be done in maybe 10 seconds. Alternatively, I’ve also had it takes several minutes. Simple pages are much easier to load than pages heavy with javascript. Loading Google+ or Facebook is almost impossible even under the best circumstances.

I’ve used the internet on the ship enough now to have developed several tricks to maximize my experience.

  • I use the mobile version of sites when possible. For example, using will make things load much faster than the normal Facebook page.
  • I have set the basic HTML version of Gmail as my default. The standard version has too many scripts and takes too long to load. You lose out of features, but at least it works.
  • I’ve learned to get online when most people are sleeping. After 11pm I can usually get better speeds than in the middle of the day. Likewise, if I get online first thing in the morning, I can usually get things to work.

The most frustrating thing has been the inability to upload photos. I usually upload images directly from Lightroom to my Smugmug account. That is impossible from the ship. What I’ve been doing is saving low quality jpeg’s, no larger than 600px wide and uploading those. The quality is usually good enough for online and I only need the photos to support the daily updates I’m doing.

The reason it is frustrating is because I have’ already taken some amazing photos on this trip and I really can’t wait to share them with everyone. I expect an orgy of photo uploading when I get back to Cape Town. I think I’ve been averaging over 500 photos per day on shore. I’ve been lucky so far in that at every stop, I’ve had at least one experience that has resulted in some really great images.

Next Stop: The Island of Sao Tome