Atlantis in Mexico: Part Two
Manzanillo, Colima is an important seaport since before the Spanish Conquest and a popular international tourist destination. The old, provincial port is also the western home for the Mexican navy. Driving in from the north towards Manzanillo's international airport, Playa de Oro, the scenery is lovely with palm trees and fruit trees, tropical foliage and lagoons. But as you approach the harbor, the scene changes to a marine beehive. You might even encounter the Japanese fleet in town! The docks are downtown, and the railroad tracks to the wharves cut across the main street.
The town itself is situated on the southern end of Manzanillo Bay on a narrow isthmus that separates the Pacific from the large Cuyutlan Lagoon. Before the Spanish came, it was an important fishing village said to have hosted junks from the Orient. Today Manzanillo ranks as Mexico's most important western port, largely because it's the only major one with rail connections to the interior. It's a shipping center for coconuts, bananas, limes, avocados, mangoes and sugar cane from the local plantations.
Following a five-hour express bus ride south from Puerto Vallarta, I arrived with two of my teens at Manzanillo. We booked in as planned at the Hotel Sierra Manzanillo located at the Playa Audiencia. In 1522 while in search of Chinese treasure in the Pacific, Cortes's captain, Gonzalo de Sandoval granted audience with local Indian chieftains in this same small cove. For two days I sought for my 'audiencia' with Valise, my Internet connection, via the two phone numbers that he had given me. Nada! One proved a wrong number and the other rang without answer. "Was this Internet international connection a bust?" I wondered.
Never the less I determined to make one more attempt to contact Valise. My twelve-year old daughter, Rose and I boarded a city bus, which shuddered and snorted the seven miles back into downtown Manzanillo. Following a visit to the local fresh food market down a rabbit warren of streets, we made our way to the zocalo that fronts the harbor. In the winter sun, we sat, eating fresh fruit ice cream and gazing at the ships in the harbor. "Could one of them be the ATLANTIS? I questioned. "If ships at a distance have everyone's wish aboard', then which ship held mine?"
The Research Vessel ATLANTIS is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). It is one of the most sophisticated research vessels afloat, equipped with precision navigation, bottom mapping and satellite communications systems. The research supports the understanding of the biological, chemical and geological processes that have shaped our planet and influenced the physical and chemical properties of the world's oceans. Through the synergy of submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, and sophisticated, towed, deep-submergence vehicles, the "Inner Space" of the vast, virtually unexplored region beneath the world's oceans presents a challenge for scientific investigation.
Only one more stone remained unturned in my personal search for ATLANTIS. I would ask at the tourist kiosk by the zocalo for a possible new address or phone number for Valise's elusive company. The tourist policeman in his starched white uniform and Safari hat spoke few words of English. In limited Spanish, I requested the information. Yes! The helpful policeman located an address and a new phone number! The secretary who answered the phone said Valise was supervising the loading of the ATLANTIS at this very moment. Not a moment to waste! The tourist policeman pointed the way to the pier only hundreds of feet away where the ship lay at dock.
As Rose and I approached the ship, I saw a man pointing and directing crewmembers to move and hoist cargo. Upon my approach, he turned abruptly towards me and asked, "Are you looking for someone?"
I answered, " I'm looking for Valise Tudoran."
He replied, " I'm the man."
I quipped, "Then, I'm Wendy Devlin, from the Internet. Happy to meet you!"
Valise's face dropped in surprise. Then we chatted a few minutes to catch up on our news. He said, "We are nearly finished loading the ship for the morning. Go and wait in the shade until we break soon for lunch. I am taking the ship's captain, the director of the project and another scientist out for lunch. You and your daughter must join us!"
Soon we were all seated at a dockside restaurant. Darting ocean breezes lifted and pulled at the plastic canopy. Its simple tables covered with checkered plastic tablecloths hid its reputation as a