Punta Arenas, Chile

We looked at the excursions offered by the ship and decided against buying.
A visit to see penguins on Magdalena Is. USD $299 / person,

Penguines

but we had already booked to see hundreds of penguins on the Falkland Islands, because it was much cheaper. We could have booked to explore Torres del Paine National park, but this tour was a little too rich for us at USD $1299 each . . . .

As none of us had been to Punta Arenas before we thought the best thing to do was to visit the tourist office and pick up a local map, and an information booklet, and have a chat with the staff. A 3.5-hour walking tour off the ship was USD $129, so we figured with a little effort we would see just as much – which we did.

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The rainbow over Punta Arenas made us feel welcome.

Unfortunately, on leaving the ship we had to contend with high winds, and heavy rain much of the time. The ship supplied umbrellas for each cabin, so along with our own umbrella we were well covered. (excuse the pun).

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Welcome to windy & wet Punta Arenas . . a town that joins the Atlantic & the Pacific.

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Two of our friends with the whale tail in the background.

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The town felt small  & friendly, and we enjoyed out short stay, even allowing for the poor weather.
We just had to get used to the rule of the road to cross the streets. . . .

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A visit to the tourist office soon had us up to date with information and street maps.

The office was in the Plaza de Aramas, which also held the statue of Ferdinand Magellan. Note the statue of a young boy on the right side of the monument, he is dangling his leg. Look closely and you will see it is shiny, because if you kiss the toe of the Patagonian boy you will return to the city in the future. Maureen and I didn’t take up the offer – not because we don’t wish to return one day, but we didn’t fancy catching anything that we shouldn’t, being so far from home.

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I’ve cropped out the young boy so that you can see his polished foot.

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The six of us DIY walking tour and trying to keep warm and dry.

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As we crossed the road, I had to take a picture of the local café.
We didn’t go in, as we were on our way to the maritime museum, which was inexpensive to enter and very interesting.

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Took this photo because my daughter’s name is Sara.

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General Baquedano

The first training ship of the Chilean Navy, she was a corvette and was launched in 1898. I took a photograph of the paining in the museum. She was decommissioned in 1959.

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Maureen’s going for her helmsman’s ticket. Perhaps I should have said ‘helmsperson’s’  ticket in this PC day and age . . . just for the record I have a helmsman’s ticket stamped in my discharge book, as yet nobody has taken offence.

During our time in the museum we watched a short film, about thirteen minutes, of Sir Ernest Shackleton, and viewed & read quite a lot of memorabilia.

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Ernest Shackleton – 1874 – 1922

The details of the man who rescued Shackleton’s men off Elephant Island in the middle of a southern winter was an eye opener for me.

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Captain Luis Antonio Pardo Villalón 1892 – 1935

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Tug Yelcho in 1913 –

Shackleton’s three-masted barquentine Endurance, had been crushed by the ice, and sank in October 1915, in the Weddell Sea.

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Endurance being crushed by the ice.

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The final pieces about to sink.

All the crew of 28 escaped, but then had to make their way by sledge and lifeboats to Elephant Island.

Shackleton and five of his crew in April 1916 (southern winter), made their epic journey of 800 miles (1300 km) in an open lifeboat to South Georgia, the life boat was named    James Caird .

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James Caird – actual photograph taken as they launched the boat for the rescue mission.

From South Georgia he made his way to Punta Arenas to organise the rescue of those  left behind on Elephant island.

With Luis Antonio Pardo Villalon in command, and Shackleton as a passenger, they sailed in August 1916 from Punta Arenas to Elephant Island to rescue the remaining 22 of Shackleton’s crew. The rescue was a great success in extreme conditions for such a small ship.

For his bravery and skill in rescuing the trapped men Captain Pardo Villalon was offered a considerable amount of money by the British government, but he refused to accept it and commented that he was just fulfilling a requirement for the Chilean navy.

After leaving the navy Luis Antonio Pardo Villalón was appointed consul in Liverpool (UK) from 1930 to 1934.

The highest point on Elephant Island was named after  Luis Antonio Pardo Villalón, and there is a Cape at the northern end of the island, which was named after his ship, the Yelcho.

The Yelcho was built in 1906 by the Scottish firm G. Brown and Co. of Greenock, on the River Clyde.

In 2016 Shackleton’s grand daughter, the Honorable Alexandra Shackleton flew to Punta Arenas to open the “Shackleton, 100 years” exhibition to honor the great explorer and Piloto Pardo.

The museum was a very interesting and well worth a visit if you are ever in Punta Arenas.

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Azamara Pursuit is alongside the wharf on the far side, and on this side are two other vessels (the red one & the orange vessels).
I think the red vessel is the RV Laurence M. Gould  (RV = Research vessel), from the United States’ National Science Foundation – she is an ice breaker.
The orange coloured vessel is the Almirante Maximiano and she is also a research vessel, Brazilian owned, but registered in the Cook Islands.

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As we made our way back to the ship you can see how fierce the wind was – the white caps are caused by the strong wind.
On reaching the land end of the wharf we were not allowed to walk to the ship (about 200 meters) because the authorities consider that that the wind strength made it too dangerous. They laid on a small bus to take us to the gangway, which was sheltered by our ship.

An interesting few hours, but must admit it was a pleasure to return to the comfort of the ship after being in heavy rain, and then being blown dry by the wind from the Antarctic. It was unfortunate that we missed seeing the replica of Magellan’s ship due to the bad weather, but for me the details of the Shackleton rescue and the museum in general made up for the poor weather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sad end to a fine ship.

In southern Scotland there is an area that used to be called Peebleshire, until 1975 when Scotland abolished counties as local government areas.

Robert Barclay of Glasgow, founded an engineering & ship building company in 1818, and and over the years it grew in size.

In 1875 he built the first four-masted, iron-hulled fully rigged ship in the world for R & J Craig of Glasgow. It was called County of Peebles. It had a cargo capacity of 1614 net tons, and on entering the jute trade between Great Britain and India she was, what we would call today, ‘state of the art’ for a windjammer.

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With the success of the County of Peebles R & J Crag ordered eleven more similar rigged four masted ships.  Each one was named after a Scottish county, County of Inverness being just one other of the sisters.

In 1898 County of Peebles was sold to the Chilean navy and renamed Muñoz Gamero so named after Benjamín Muñoz Gamero who was a Chilean naval officer & governor of Punta Arenas in the Straits of Magellan. He was killed during the Mutiny of Cambiazo in 1851.

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Another picture of County of Peebles 

During the late 19th century sailing ships could be competitive on long voyages to Australia or India. Overall they were faster than steamers, because they didn’t have to bunker for coal nor did they require freshwater for steam. At that time a steam ship would average about 8 knots, and had to call in various ports for bunkers etc.

Later steamers replaced the windjammers because they could maintain a schedule, and were not subject to the wind.

The windjammer era ended in the 1930’s.

Moshulu

If you are interested in life aboard a windjammer, may I suggest ‘The Last Grain Race’ by Eric Newby , The above is a photograph of the Moshulu the ship in which he sailed

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This edition was published in 1956 – the author who, became a travel writer, took part in the Last Grain Race in 1939 when he was eighteen. He shipped out as an apprentice seaman.

Back to County of Peebles – the Chilean navy had bought the ‘Peebles’ so as to be used as a coal hulk at Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan.

In the mid 1960’s she was beached and used as a breakwater, and is still there today.

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I took the above photograph, and as you can see her masts are ‘cut down’. A sad end to a fine ship that in 1880 sailed from Cardiff to Bombay in eighty three days; and in 1883 sailed from Glasgow to Buenos Aires in 59 days and her last voyage as a commercial vessel was  in 1898 , she arrived in Hamburg, 101 days out from Calcutta.

All our yesterdays . . . .

 

 

 

 

 

A ship’s biography

During WW2 the US Navy created a classification of ship as ‘Attack Transport’, which consisted of a specially built ship that would carry troops in to battle, but as normal troop ships were usually converted merchant ships, and relied on either docking or tenders to deliver the troops ashore an ‘attack transport’ carried her own landing craft so could land troops anywhere.

There is a film called Away all boats , which was made in 1956 and based on a novel by Ken Dodson, who was an officer who served on an attack transport during World War 2. The film stars Jeff Chandler, I’ve seen the film recently and it’s not bad.
Keep your eye out for a young Clint Eastwood – he doesn’t have a speaking part.

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USS Riverside

On the 13th April 1944 an attack transport, commissioned as Hull 870, was launched and acquired by the US Navy in June 1944 and was named USS Riverside.

She was assigned to the Asiatic- Pacific theater of the war, and at the end of the war spent time in Asia as Occupation Services.

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During her wartime appearance . . .

In January 1947 she was reconverted for the merchant service and sold to Pacific Argentina Brazil lines (P&T) in December 1948, and renamed SS P&T Forester.

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SS P&T Forester

She was later sold to Moore McCormack Lines Inc. in March 1957, renamed SS Mormacwave

 

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SS Mormacwave

In 1966 she was sold to Grace Lines Inc. and renamed SS Santa Leonor. Under her new name during her maiden voyage she was sailing from Rio de Janeiro to San Francisco. Her previous port of call was Buenos Aires, and her next stop was Valparaiso, Chile.

During our recent cruise on the Azamara Pursuit in the Magellan Straits, we met the Santa Leonor –

 

 

 

 

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On the 31st March 1968 at 1.52 am the Santa Leonor ran aground on rocks off Isabel Island, approximately 20 miles into the Patagonian Channels, in an area called Paso Shoal.
The vessel slid back into the channel and floated a short distance, before finally came to rest on one of a small group of islands called the Adelaide Islands. Neither the vessel nor the cargo was salvaged. The crew and passengers were all saved.

If you would like to read more about this incident read the report  it makes interesting reading.

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The end of this ship’s biography.

 

 

Puerto Montt

Puerto Montt is a town in southern Chile known as the gateway to the Andes. It began life quite late, not until 1853.

For a ship’s tour of nearly eight hours the cost would be USD $169 per person, so it was research time to cut the cost.
It wasn’t long before I found GV Tours, a tour company that has several offices across Chile. They were easy to deal with, and they were prompt in answering all my questions. The cost for a three-hour tour, which is about our limit, was USD $55 per person, with the use of a small bus, driver & guide. Other people on the ship had the same idea and I think we ended up with about twelve to fifteen passengers in total.

We wished to experience a scenic drive to Petrohue Falls, see alpacas, and visit places of interest during the drive. The ship docked on time, but it was raining.
On boarding the bus I looked out of the window to make sure that I would be able to take a few scenic shots as we traveled to Petrohue Falls.

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Not the ideal way of photographing the scenery – and it was summer time.

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The scene as we arrived at the main gate of

Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park.

The park is named after Vicente Pérez Rosales, who organised the colonisation by Germans and Chileans of the area. He was born in 1807 and died in 1886.

To reach the Petrohue Falls we had to walk along a muddy track & with additional hazards of slippery rocks in the pouring rain, but one can not blame the tour company for the weather.

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This might give you some idea of the conditions, umbrellas were the order of the day, and wet gear was required by everyone.

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The water was wild and dramatic as it poured over, under and through small gaps in the rocks.

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This what we’d hoped to see  in the background, but the mist & rain defeated us. . . .

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Even in the rain the falls were impressive.DSC04340r

 

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I wondered if we would see anyone trying the above  . .  we didn’t, I took a photograph of a poster of what you can do at the falls.

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Far more peaceful, I doubt that the fish would agree with me.

From Petrohue Falls we walked a little further to Laguna Verde, which is a lake hidden along a pathway in a thick forest of Coihue trees.

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You can see the rain on the water, which is green due to the algae and minerals in the water – they do say who ever drinks from this lake will have good luck for the rest of their lives . . . I had the feeling that drinking from this lake would shorten my life some what, so perhaps it is true . . . as long as your life is very short.

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What we’d hoped to see.

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Lake Ilanquihue –

We’d hope to see Osorno Volcano, across the lake – the above is what we saw . . .

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We left Petrohue Falls and drove to a lookout point for more photographs of the lake, but the weather was still ‘uncooperative’, so we crossed the road to check out a few wet animals.

DSC04358rAlpacas are gentle and curious as to what is going on around them – they followed our movements without fear and as I pointed the camera they looked in to the lens as if they all done it before.

 

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Alpacas are smaller than lamas, and are bred for their wool. Lamas are are bred as pack animals.

Our next stop was Puerto Varas and the weather was a lot kinder.

The town was colonised by German migrants who had answered the call from the Chilean Government in 1853 to open up the area, which at that time was a vast wilderness. Many of the houses that we saw had a strong German influence.

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German Club dated 1885

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The town had a pleasant feel to it, and I don’t think it was due to the blue sky, which helped to brighten our spirits.

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We found a small market that was selling mainly clothes, and many were made from alpaca wool. Although light in weight they were bulky so cramming them in to an already full suitcase was out of the question.

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Puerto Varas was built on the banks of Llago (lake) Llanquihue. We walked along the shore line and came to Teatro del Lago (Theater of the lake). The town has a festival of music in January and February each year but when they don’t have a concert the building is closed, although we were able to walk around the outside of the building.
In the largest auditorium it can seat 1200 people and is made completely of wood. From a distance it has a stripped appearance, and at first I thought that it was painted metal, but once you get closer one is able to distinguish the different types of wood.

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Lago

Main entrance area – this part faces the road.

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View from the side of the theater

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The walkway around the theater is also made of wood – the railings are metal.

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At last a view that we were able to photograph, even though we couldn’t see the volcano. Took this from the end of the walkway around the theater.

Overall we enjoyed our day out, but must admit I am pleased that we didn’t fork out USD $169 each!

  What we were hoping for

Thanks to http://www.sharynsstudio.com for the video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should we or shouldn’t we . . .

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Before we emigrated to Australia we lived in a small town (small for the UK) of about 11,000 people called Congleton, which is in Cheshire.
During the time we lived there we took part in the celebrations for the town’s 700 th anniversary.

I worked shifts for BOAC (later British Airways) at Manchester Airport, which was 50 kms from home.
We enjoyed our time in Congleton, and loved the location of our house, which was one of five that over looked the River Dane.

The above picture show the view from our bedroom window.

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The above view is from our living-room window.
The above photographs are getting old.

Life was good until the interest rates went up to 18%, petrol climbed to stupid prices (I didn’t have a company car, so I was paying for my own petrol) and the weather could be a pain.

The whiteness of the above two photographs is the frost – not snow.

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Come Christmas we had snow, which was fine and felt very ‘Christmas’, until you had to dig the car out and try to get to work – if the road was open.
At times only four wheeled drive vehicles were allowed out of the town.

So a decision had to be made, because the cost of living in such a beautiful area was killing us. We decided to move closer to the airport, but which airport?

Instead of moving closer to Manchester we decided to move closer to Melbourne airport in Australia, so we began the long process of gaining permission to emigrate. Which is another story.

After about a year we finally had permissions to emigrate.

It took us over a further year to sell the house, due to the high interest rates – we sold the house twice, but the first time it fell through because the buyer couldn’t secure the loan due to the interest rates.
Finally we sold, but we had to be in Australia by a certain date or else our Australian residency visa would expire.

We left power of attorney with our solicitor and flew out just in time. We paid full price for all our tickets, I was too old, at thirty five, to emigrate for £50.00.

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 Our first Christmas in Australia on Chelsea beach in Victoria.

I was out of work for eleven days, and was offered three jobs. The best job interview I’d ever had was in Melbourne. I was taken to a pub for lunch by the State Manager & the Admin manager of an international courier company, and at the end of the lunch they asked when I could start.
I started the next day and was given a company vehicle as part of my package. At the end of my first day I left the office in the dark on a wet rainy Friday, driving a strange vehicle and I didn’t know the way home.
In the end I kept Port Phillip Bay on my right and kept going until I recognised the railways station near where we lived.

From then on we’ve never looked back, Australia is a great country.

Road to Zanzibar

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It’s Always You
Bing Crosby sang it to Dorothy Lamour, in Zanzibar of course . . .

Christmas Day 1964 – we arrived off Mombasa and berthed alongside the Chakla, another Company ship. Also, in port was a BI passenger ship named ‘Karanja’ and this name had a family link for me. My father was on the first ‘Karanja’, when she was discharging troops in Operation Torch off North Africa during WW2.
She was bombed and sunk. Fortunately, Dad survived, but I wanted to see the replacement so as to tell Dad.

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Karanja that Dad sailed in during the war.
During peace time she operated on the India – East Africa Service.

hms-cropHMS Karanja in 1942 – after she’d been bombed, and is now on fire, and I can only assume that Dad was helping to fight the fires – she sank later.

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Karanja, that I saw in Mombasa.

The evenings over Christmas were spent along Kilindini Road, mainly at the Casablanca Bar and The Nelson Bar, very popular places that Christmas.

kilindini-tusksAt the top of Kilindini Road were the famous ‘tusks’.

During the Christmas period HMS Eagle and her support ships arrived in port. She was a Royal Navy aircraft carrier with a compliment of over 2500.

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                                The above shows HMS Eagle leaving Mombasa harbour.
Among the various Royal Navy crews were several bands, and these bands obtained permission to play in the nightclubs and bars of Mombasa.
To say that Mombasa, during the Christmas period of 1964, was a ‘jumping’ town is an understatement.

1965 – New Years Day and onward

I met a young lady who had a car – very unusual at that time, and she asked me to join her at a beach outside Mombasa called Nyali Beach, and she arranged to pick me up from the ship.

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Of course this sounded a great idea, so I agreed, and she did pick me up in a small VW car, known as a Beetle. It was battered and dented, but it moved. The picture is the closest I could find to illustrate the car (I think the young lady had a blue car).

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A girl , a car & a beach . . . what more could a twenty year old want?

Little did I know that it wasn’t for my charming self that I was invited, but my ability to pick the car up a little by rocking it or to push it – a lot! The car did not have a reverse (it was broken, and she couldn’t afford to have it fixed), so every time we had to reverse I had to get out and push it backwards. I have been very wary of invitations to go for a drive with a female ever since. The beach was nice, and the sun helped me recuperate after all the exercise of pushing a VW part of the way to Nyali beach.

Mombasa is an island, so we had to cross to the mainland to visit the beech. Fortunately the car didn’t breakdown on the bridge.

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We were in Mombasa for a fortnight during which time we change our Indian crew to a full African crew. We now had to learn Swahili instead of Hindi.
The Chilka was the first British ship to carry a full compliment of African crew. We managed to make the newspapers and the Mombasa Times ran a major story with photographs, unfortunately I can not find any pictures.

The one problem with the African crew was that most of them did not have any concept of a European winter. They had sailed ‘deep sea’ from Mombasa, but mainly to neighbouring countries or to India or the Persian Gulf. So, when we mentioned to some of them that they should consider something better than open toed sandals for a UK winter, they grinned with their large sparkling white teeth, as if they knew best.

Our new African steward was aware of the winter cold, and he had planned for such, but he told us that the deck crew would have to find out for themselves, because they will not listen to either him or us.

When they did arrive in London the deck crew had a grey pallor due to the cold, and they had so many layers of clothing on that they could hardly move. During their free time they spent most of it in the cinema, because it was cheap, and they could at least keep warm.

After leaving Mombasa our next stop was Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika, which had become independent in 1961. It was a very short trip, a matter of hours.

Tanganyika Territory or German East Africa before WW1, was transferred to Britain under a League of Nations mandate in 1922, later confirmed by the UN, which changed it to a Trust territory after WW2.
In 1961 the trust territory was transformed in to a sovereign state, and eventually became a republic within the Commonwealth.
In April 1964 Tanganyika joined with the Peoples Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba, to create the United Peoples Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which became the United Peoples Republic of Tanzania a few months later.

The city of Dar es Salaam still had that British feel, but I never felt as comfortable as I did in Mombasa.

Tanganyika might have changed its name to Tanzania, but at that time people still referred to it as Tanganyika. The economy of the place was not as strong as Kenya, and it showed.

Our time in Dar es Salaam was about three days. Not long enough to see much, because we had to work each day, but the town was a lot quieter than Mombasa.

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From Dar es Salaam we sailed for Tanga, which is a seaport on the northern tip of Tanzania, very close to the border with Kenya. Tanga, famous for its sisal, means ‘farm or cultivated land’ and gave its name to Tanganyika, which means ‘Sisal farm’.

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Sisal plant – the leaves are removed and dried to make the sisal that we know at home.

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Sisal leaves drying in the sun.

Tanga was the first German East African establishment, having been bought from the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1891.

Of course, we loaded sisal, after discharging, stone, heavy machinery and frozen food, including more ice cream. Two days was enough for Tanga, after which we sailed for Zanzibar, a favourite place for the slavers of old, and of course Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.

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Picture from the internet – it was taken in 1964

The Anglican Christ Church cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar stands on the old slave-trading market site.
In 1822 the British signed a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar to end slavery, but it took until 1876 before this trade came to and end. Of course, the trade carried on to a lessor degree by kidnapping children and selling them to ‘customers’ in the Persian Gulf. Slaves escaped to freedom as late as 1931.

David Livingstone (pictured below) estimated in 1857, that 80,000 thousand slaves died on the way to the Zanzibar slave market, and of those that lived 50,000 were sold to Sheikhs and rich traders in the Persian Gulf.
This slave market had nothing to do with the West African slave trade to America, which was outlawed by the UK in 1807.

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David Livingston

The altar, in the cathedral is supposed to be at the exact spot of the whipping post.

We loaded bag of cloves from dhows and barges using our own gear and the local labour for stowing the bags.

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Mtwara, in Tanzania was our next port of call. The town was a created town in the 1940’s for the export of groundnuts (peanuts), but the enterprise failed, and it was abandoned in 1951.
The town had been created to house 200,000 people, but when I visited Mtwara it had a feeling of being abandoned, with few people walking the dark sandy streets.

On leaving Mtwara it was back to Dar es Salaam, followed by Tanga, where I had an inoculation top up for cholera (another blunt needle). Not sure if it was the injection or the local beers, but I was not a happy chappy for a few days.

Our final East African visit was back to Mombasa where we anchored in the Mombasa Creek. The constant sound of insects and birds as we lay at anchored reminded me of the Edgar Wallace books and films that I’d seen and read.

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The Canoe song.
If you like Paul Robeson, click on the above link to hear him sing from the film.

 After a day and a half at anchor we moved alongside at the main port area, to load tea and coffee for the Sudan, and a present of flour from America for Aden.

Two days later our East African adventure was over, and we sailed for Europe via the Red Sea.

We arrived at Aden five days later around mid-night; anchored, and immediately gangs of labour came aboard to unload the Aden cargo. They worked through the night and we sailed at lunchtime.

It was two days to Port Sudan to discharge the Mombasa tea and coffee along with empty soft drink crates – no idea why they wanted empty crates. Strange how odd things like empty drink crates, stick in one’s mind from so long ago.

The export cargo from Sudan was Arabic gum (in bags, with plenty of tiny insects), ivory (it wasn’t illegal at that time), and groundnuts.

It was February, and as we got closer and closer to the Suez Canal the temperature became noticeably cooler. A very pleasant temperature for the Europeans, who were still in tropical whites, but for our African crew they began to complain of being cold. The Company had arranged for a supply of warm weather clothing for the crew and this was handed out.

The problem was that the clothing was of mixed sizes so some of the crew complained that they couldn’t move because their shirt was too tight, and others complained that their legs were cold because their trouser were too short. It became the cadets’ job to reclaim all the clothing and to make sure each crew member was kitted out with clothes that fitted, as best we could. This put a stop to a break out of fights over pieces of clothing.

Once in the Mediterranean all the crew appeared to put on weight – in fact they refused to take off any of their clothing because they were so cold, and they began to look like a gang of Michelin men.

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It took us a week from Port Sudan to Gibraltar, during which time the temperature had dropped from around 27 c (80F) to a cool 12 c (53F) and the crew were suffering.

Our next  port was Hull in the UK, and we had to transit the Bay of Biscay in winter – not a pleasant experience with heavy Atlantic swell causing us to pitch, roll and corkscrewing in a force eight.

The temperature kept dropping and by the time we reached the English Channel it was down to 6 c (42 F), the officers were now in ‘blues’ far too cold for shorts.

I paid off Chilka on a Sunday, while still at sea, with the grand sum of £20 in my pocket. I’d been away for about four months, so I didn’t expect a long leave. We docked in Hull on Monday morning, and by the afternoon I was back home in Birkenhead, which is across the river from Liverpool.

Yesterday and today –

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Chilka at 7,132 gt, a happy ship to see the world and experience different cultures.

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Credit for the photograph by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

A container ship alongside in Zanzibar in 2011, where is the ‘romance’ of going to sea if you are only in port for a few hours.

Ice Cold in Aden.

 

chilka2M/V Chilka

The Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar behind us and Chilka heads for Almeria on the southern coats of Spain.Almaria

From memory it was a small town with few attractions for the cadets, but we loaded over 2000 barrels of grapes in to our freezer chambers destined for Mombasa, in Kenya.
Chilka was not a freezer ship, but a dry cargo vessel, with some freezer / chiller cargo space.

At the same time, we were unloading bags of cement. Each day during the passage from London we tested the bilges for water, and at each test we found that we were dry, which was unusual, because we always had some water in the bilges. On arrival in Almeria we began to discharge the bags and found that the cement had been contaminated with water and had set hard. The noise of jackhammers was soon heard as we completed the discharge of cement.

devonia_mta

Our next port was Malta where we berthed near the BISNC company school ship Devonia. This vessel had been a troop ship and had been converted to carry school children around Europe on educational cruises.
The Devonia cadets where known to all of us cadets in the Chilka, so that evening it was an ‘educational’ down the Gut as it is locally known, or as its correct name Strait Street (Strada Stretta, in Maltese) – which was a famous bar area of Malta in the 1950’s & the early 60’s. We were only in Malta for the one night and sailed the next day for Port Said to join the southbound convoy through the canal.
The British had helped Malta to be free of the French in 1800, and Malta had asked to be a sovereign nation within the British Empire – this was granted at the end of the Napoleonic war in 1815.
Malta was given complete self rule after WW2, in 1947, and she was considering the idea of being part of the UK, or have dominion status in the same way as Australia, Canada & New Zealand, but later decided on becoming an independent country, which took place in September 1964, and at the same time she joined the Commonwealth.

the_gut__valletta__malta_by_triathlonjohn

Found this on the internet which gives a good idea as to how narrow Strait Street (the GUT) is . . . .GUT

It was a popular place with the Royal Navy, and as we were dressed in ‘civvies’ we stood out some what.

Two days after clearing Port Tewfik, which is at the southern end of the Suez Canal, we were off Port Sudan, and within a short time alongside the wharf.

Port Sudan was a dusty town to say the least, but they did have a picture house, which I visited on my first evening ashore, to see ‘The Great Escape’, because it was the only English-speaking film available.

Great_escape

I’d seen it in the UK, but viewing it in Sudan was a completely different. I had the choice of ‘Stalls’ or ‘Circle’, so for the price I chose the ‘Circle’, which was just as well. Between the Stalls and the Circle area there were rolls of barbed wire to keep ‘Stalls’ patrons from cheating the system and sitting in the Circle, and I thought the barbed wire was to enhance the realty of the film. . . I should get out more.

great escape

From the internet, he was not watching the film with me.

Next day I was invited by the second officer to try out his aqualung off the reef that shielded the port. We borrowed a small boat to get to the reef.
I didn’t have any idea as to how to use an aqualung underwater, so the whole exercise was quite exciting. He explained what I had to do, and how to breathe normally under water, and the experience, for me, was out of this world to be a part of the under-sea creature environment.

port-sudan

I’d been down about ten minutes when the sun over my right shoulder ‘went out’ as if a cloud had passed in front of the sun. The problem was that I’d not seen a cloud in the last two days, so looked up to check what had caused the ‘cloud’. It was a large shark. I didn’t have any idea what type of shark it was; all I knew was that I was in his area and he was bigger and stronger than me. Fortunately, I was able to swim ‘backwards’, while watching the shark, and as soon as I touched the coral reef I felt safer. I don’t know if it is true that a shark would not get too close to a reef in case it damaged itself on the reef, but at the time I trusted this thought, and eventually made my way in to the coral reef’s shallow area, where I was picked up in the borrowed boat. After this episode I only went snorkeling near a reef.

Aden, one of my least ‘favoured’ ports of call was our next stop. We worked cargo at night because of the heat and the nature of the cargo – ice cream and cheese. I’d never seen a cargo unloaded so fast as this cargo during the night. The labour must have been on contract that any loss of ice cream would have been a penalty or perhaps they had been promised an ice cream on completion.

emergency

At the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Aden became an important coaling station on the route to India and also as a base against pirates. It seems that not much has changed in the area with regard to pirates since 1869.

Abdel Nasser of Egypt, in late 1963 called for a Pan Arabist cause, which partly ignited the Aden Emergency with the throwing of a grenade in late 1963 at British officials at Aden airport. The grenade killed a woman and injured fifty others. An anti-British campaign had begun using mainly grenades. The two main anti- British groups were the NLF (National Liberation Front) and FLOSY (Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen).
The requirement to keep law and order brought in more and more troops, which is why we had so much ice cream to unload that night.

ICE CREAM - Lyons Ice Cream Poster

My British readers will remember this advert from the mid 60’s.

The British withdrew from Aden at the end on November 1967, the Suez Canal had been closed by Nasser on the eve of the Six Day War, (5th to 10th June 1967), and then it became the demarcation line between the Egyptians and the Israelis forces. This contributed to years of disruption to the Yemeni economy and Aden in particular.

It appears they are still fighting among themselves over fifty years later.

From Aden we set course for Mombasa, in Kenya. Unlike today we did not have to worry about pirates as we sailed down the Somalian coast.

For the movie buffs, I borrowed the title of a film for this blog, with a slight, alteration,

IMG_2787

A classic British film from 1958.