We’re now four months into the Distant Worlds 2 expedition, and we’ve entered the final stretch of the journey to Beagle Point. This is where it gets hard… and lonely.
The journey from Sol to Beagle Point is 65,279 light years. That translates to a minimum of 1,145 unassisted jumps in the trusty Anaconda, assuming we went in a straight line and jumped full distance each time. Neither of those assumptions are true. We’ve taken a lot of detours and flown short distance (economical) jumps often, just because we had time to kill. As a result, we’ve made about 3,000 jumps and have zig-zagged somewhere around 100,000 light years. We have about 13,000 to go until we reach Beagle Point.
We’ve seen some great sights along the way: ringed stars, neutron stars orbiting black holes, alien barnacles, brain trees, and bark mounds, gigantic living crystals floating in space, and lightning storms deep within nebulae. Thousands of gas giants of every hue, and thousands of planets, some barren, some rife with life, some destined to be terraformed into new colonies in the far future.
We’ve watched thousands of suns rise and set on tens of thousands of worlds, all of which will now bear the stamp “Discovered by CMDR Lanids.” The richness and variety of the game astounds me, even after hundreds of hours of doing the same basic thing: jump, pulse, scan, map, repeat.
Previous legs of the journey have been relatively short stints of a few thousand light years. This final leg is the whole remaining 13k in one go. The organizers of the expedition explained their reasoning for doing all of stage 4 in one shot as follows:
Stage 4: A journey across the Abyss… and beyond.
There is no specific arrival date for Beagle Point as the fleet is now so spread out (…) It is expected that many participants will be arriving at WP12 over a prolonged period of time.
Stage 4 is the longest and loneliest stretch by design (…) this final leg is something we try to encourage commanders to do at their own pace and with no pressure to meet a WP deadline. The expedition officially ends for you, the participant, the moment you reach WP12.Distant Worlds 2, Waypoint 12 Announcement
When I first read the announcement, it hit me harder than I was expecting. The text has changed a bit, unfortunately. I don’t have a copy of it as it was written on the day it was announced, but it reminded us that the goal was to start together, then break apart into smaller and smaller groups, until finally, we finished alone.
13,000 people had spent this whole journey flying out, largely together. Week after week, we all reconvened at waypoints and launched onward as one. We learned each other’s names. We found friends and discovered snakes in the grass. That’s not going to happen any more. From here on, it’s me, my Anaconda, and the waypoint. Once we get to Beagle Point, it’s just me, going wherever I want, however I want.
We’re going to jump, full throttle, into the darkest, emptiest part of the Milky Way. It’s by far the most dangerous part of the journey, other than when we return to civilization and face attack by other players. It’s extremely easy to miscalculate your route and end up stranded, with no fuel, 10,000 light years from the nearest human. In a very real sense, 2 months after we left the last place we could repair and refit, we’re now completely on our own. It’s exciting and terrifying, in equal parts. Months of exploration data could be lost by losing focus and making one bad jump.
I find that I’ve hit Stage 4 at an odd time in my personal life as well. A few days ago, I deleted my Facebook account. After years of having a place to share my thoughts, stories, and pictures to a large audience, I don’t any more. It’s just me. This website has, in a sense, become like my Anaconda. It’s my digital home, and while I’m here, mostly alone, it can go anywhere and do anything I want it to. I can shape it to perform whatever role or function I need. There’s a real sense of freedom to that, both in the game and in real life. It’s a feeling of being untethered.
So, this post begins a new phase of our explorations in the game: a few hundred hours of solo time to reach our destination, then the long return home. It also marks the beginning of my rediscovery of what it meant, and what it took, to share yourself with other people in a world without social media. I know my content will reach a vastly smaller audience (of about 4), but that’s okay.
Even alone, far out at sea, lost in the black, I’m home.
You can watch my explorations in Elite: Dangerous here: