As the Chorcha River descends from volcanic highlands in the Chiriquí province of western Panama, it curls around the hamlet of Chorcha not far from the provincial capital, David, and meets a gravel beach at the end of a narrow road. One morning earlier this year, a military-style landing craft basked there with its square-lipped bow lowered onto the bank, like an amphibious whale with mouth agape. Two men stepped ashore.
One was Rob Jameson, a six-foot-six blond Liverpudlian and talkative naturalist. The other—quieter and a foot shorter—was captain Jairo Pimentel; he grew up along this coast. Both men wore pale azure shirts and khaki shorts, the livery of Islas Secas, a luxury lodge on a private archipelago set like a broach upon 1,035 acres of dark ocean in the Gulf of Chiriquí.
Luggage stowed, Jairo pointed the boat downstream between mangrove-lined banks. Barrier islands, the mainland’s forward guard, lay between us and the eastern Pacific. Once beyond them, Jairo throttled the twin engines, and the boat nosed up. Soon large swells were rolling in, orderly saltwater hills. Rob shouted that they were stirred by a storm across the Pacific—unimaginable distances. What came to mind was the word oceanic.