Oslo Bulk 9 taking on salt at Las Coloradas, Yucatán, México

Above you can see the Oslo Bulk 9 taking on salt at Las Coloradas east of Río Lagartos. In the original high-resolution picture the name was clearly visible. Once you have a ship's name you can look it up at a ship-spotting website such as the one at http://www.vesselfinder.com Just type the ship's name into the search box and hit enter.

That website and others describe Oslo Bulk 9 as a general cargo ship built in 2011 and weighing 5629 tons. It's 108m long (354ft) and 18m wide (59ft). Owned by Bulkship Management AS of Oslo, Norway, it currently sails under the flag of Singapore. After the picture was taken, at VesselFinder.Com, I tracked the ship as it left Las Coloradas, headed northward and within a couple of days docked in Morgan City, Louisiana. Then after another couple of days it was in the Gulf of Mexico again, its destination listed as back to Las Coloradas. The ship doesn't always shuttle between here and Morgan City; This year it's also been spotted in: Mobile, Alabama; Kingston, Jamaica; and Kaliningrad, Russia.

I'm told that much bulk salt exported from Las Coloradas goes onto icy streets up north. Despite all the salt leaving Las Coloradas by ship, on the road between Río Lagartos and Las Coloradas there's frequent traffic of big semis pulling double trailers filled with salt to be distributed throughout Mexico.

I'm fascinated by all these details and love to visualize Oslo Bulk 9 wandering the world's oceans, sometime in Kingston, then in Kaliningrad, and now suddenly next to all those agaves on the beach at Las Coloradas, a sun-dazed little town of very modest, even hangdog-looking huts and houses on sand right beside the sea. I can imagine the ship sometime soon checking in with the office in Oslo, not knowing whether the next day it'll set sail to Maracaibo for a shipment of bananas, or Taiwan for a load of cheap steel, or maybe back south to Las Coloradas.

Where Oslo Bulk 9 goes all depends on how much is being paid for what, where, and the luck of the draw.

In other words, it's the same dynamic as in ecology. Money energizes the shipping industry the same way that Nature on Earth is fueled by solar energy. Money arrives at the home office and ships set sail, same as sunlight lands on photosynthesizing plants, energy is stored in carbohydrates, and eventually that energy, in one form or another, works its way up the ecological pyramid. We are all wandering ships competing for limited resources.

And both aboard ships at sea and among us organisms dealing with predator-prey relationships, transfer of energy, and evolution toward ever more sophisticated and efficient systems, there's this: The occasional individual human who for a moment lays down a wrench or mop, or steps away from the computer, and looks around, wonders about it all, shakes his or her head, and simply gets back to work.