Something different

Aer Lingus

Our third and final promo was with Aer Lingus – the above shows Aer Lingus B 707 at Manchester Airport.
We picked New York again, but this time we didn’t fly direct, but via Dublin and Shannon.
The memorable thing about this flight for me was at Dublin Airport while we were in transit. I visited the Gents and when I finished, I opened the door that I thought was to the concourse, but it was not and as I stepped through I found myself in the street! The door closed behind me – panic how do I get back inside the transit area??

Working at Manchester Airport during the ‘troubles’ we were warned to report anything unusual, because the airport was a possible terrorist target, so having stepped from the comfort of the transit lounge in to a Dublin street I was not sure how I was to convince anyone that I’d only visited the Gents.

I looked at the door and turned the handle which opened the door and I walked through the Gents to the other door, it was easy . . .

The flight was uneventful, except for my short visit to Dublin, but the ‘troubles’ in Belfast were still going on in the early 1970’s

maxresdefault  Picture from the internet.

Our transit stop in Shannon was uneventful, but it was an interesting stop considering that the Shannon Estuary had been the main port for transatlantic seaplanes in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. They landed in the estuary and the terminal was located at Foynes on the south side of the estuary. Land based planes lacked the range to fly the Atlantic at the time. 

Seaplanes_at_Foynes

To warm the passengers off the flying boats a hot drink was invented . . 

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Irish Coffee!

In 1947 Shannon airport was the first airport in the world to offer duty free shopping. 

447-4471066_ireland-map-river-shannon-on-a-map-hdThe above map shows the location of Shannon – circled

To return to security, during our earlier BOAC trip to New York we were at the airport checking in for our return flight when we spotted a brown paper parcel in the corner of the of the check-in area near the BOAC counter.
Our first thought was that BOAC was a target and perhaps the parcel was a time bomb.
We reported this to BOAC security and a security guard came over to us and asked us to point out the parcel – which we did. He then slowly walked over to the parcel and as the man got closer he recognised what it was, it was an empty wine bottle in a largish bag. He thought our reaction was funny because the airport was a common place for a ‘wino’ to leave empty bottles.  He picked it up and brought it back to us . .  from our angle at the check in desk we could not see the shape of the bottle.

 

Bottle

We pointed out the BOAC regulations about reporting strange parcels or anything unusual. We then told him of the ‘troubles’ and that BOAC could be a target.
Living in the US he did not seem to have any concept of what had been going on in Belfast. 

On a happier note our visit to New York was full of site seeing and experiencing Macy’s on 5th Avenue-of course!

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On our first trip (which was early winter) we visited Macy’s.

One of our friends entered the shop wearing a pair of sandals – outside there was snow about.
We wandered around as pure tourists, not buying anything just looking, when we were approached by security and asked to leave, because they did not encourage a ‘hippy’ to frequent their store – our sandal wearing friend was not welcome, so we all left.  

Mus

In the evening we visited ‘Your Father’s Mustache’ on 7th Ave & 10th St. They did not care what we wore on our feet.

Father's mustach

  The location was in Greenwich Village.

We visited Your Father’s Mustache  (the music in the clip is banjo music but when we visited it was mainly jazz)a few times during our two trips, but on our second visit to New York we sat at a table and ordered a jug of beer – it came quite quickly, but it was green!

largerI asked the waiter for a normal coloured beer and was told that as it was St Patrick’s Day and that we would only be allowed to drink green beer – and me a English protestant, but beer is beer !   

One might think that the green beer is a modern-day marketing trick, but they have been making green beer in New York for over a hundred years.

Dr. Thomas Hayes Curtin was an Irish American, his family had emigrated to the USA when he was five years old.
To celebrate St Patrick’s Day in 1914 he created the green beer –  his recipe was one drop of wash blue in a quantity of beer.
Today he’d be in prison, because ‘wash blue’ is an iron powder used to whiten clothes – it is also a poison.

Nowadays they use a few drops of food colouring. . . . 

G&B

How can green beer compete with a nice drop of Guinness?

wales

Not wishing to upset the green apple cart, but St Patrick was Welsh, and had been sent to Ireland to convert the population to Christianity.

shamrock

So instead of the green Shamrock beer they should have had the daffodil yellow beer . . . 

flower

Mug+of+fresh+beer+with+foam  We enjoyed our time in New York, but on the negative side we were concerned at the amount of security required by our hotel – I cannot remember the name of the hotel, but I do remember that we were on the ground floor and the windows were barred.

custom-window-guards

Something like this 

and the locks on the door to secure the room –
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again, something like this, but I think our room had larger locks and more of them, and all I wanted to do was make sure we were not involved in a fire!
By the time I’d worked the locks out we’d have been dead.

Obviously, society dictated that this amount of security was required, which was a disappointment to me and changed my long-held image of America.

It would be about twenty-three years before I would return to New York, but this visit in the 1990’s would be from Sydney in Australia, via London, not Manchester, UK.

 

Promos

AF

Working for an airline sometimes (very occasionally) we were offered cheap trips on a particular route if the airline was doing a ‘promo’ to encourage people to fly to a particular destination.

Air France in the early 1970’s offered a round trip ticket to Paris via their  Caravelle service for £7, (£100 today or US $130) which included two nights in a hotel.

Maureen and I had been married for about eighteen months and we had not had a honeymoon, because we decided to take out a mortgage to buy a house, so the £7 sounded a good deal. We left on Friday and arrived back late afternoon on Sunday.

We stayed at the Hotel Pretty, but I am unable to find any details of this hotel online and my lasting impression of the hotel was that it was cheap, but it did have a memorable breakfast.

The large oblong table was covered in a blue plastic table cloth, and a bread board was placed in the centre,  along with long sticks of French bread and a large knife for cutting the bread and of course a pots of jam – but we did not have any butter.

breakfast

The above picture gives you an idea –

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Each of the hotel guests were given a plain white bowl (without a handle) for our coffee, and for me it was the best coffee I had ever tasted. I’ve never been able to recreate the taste again.
Bread sticks were passed up and down the table and chunks hacked off by a hotel guest to be smeared with jam.
Our group consisted of  Maureen & I, another couple and two single males – all the males in our party worked together for BOAC cargo at Manchester airport.
We were not offered cereal or bacon & eggs  . . . but we did share the smell of . .

fags

I think smoking in Paris at that time was compulsory . .

Overall, we enjoyed our ‘foreign’ weekend away and it was not long before we decided to take advantage of our ability to fly with BOAC at a discount rate. This time we picked New York.

From memory once again I think we were accompanied by others from the BOAC team.

VC10 The aircraft was the VC 10 – Manchester to New York, non-stop.

VC10-Interior

Inside the VC 10 – Maureen & I were fortunate because we had three seats for the two of us.

I asked a stewardess (this was their title at that time) if I could visit the flight deck, she said she would ask, which she did and a few minutes later I was invited to meet the captain and his crew on the flight deck – how times have changed.

VC 10

Captain, first officer, engineer & navigator

The flight deck was quite crowded when I was included. I was offered a small pull-down seat while I chatted with the captain as he explained the routine of the flight. I was particularly interested in the navigational officer’s duty having been a deck officer at sea.

In the early 1970’s satellite navigation for commercial aircraft was still in the future. The first NAVSTAR (Navigation System with Timing and Ranging) was not launched until 1978, which was part of the US defence department system, and it was not until the 1980’s before the system could be used by commercial aircraft.

VC 10 buble

To navigate across the Atlantic the navigating officer would use a ‘bubble sextant’ . . . 

sextant

When I was at sea we used a sextant to navigate around the oceans, (see above picture for a marine sextant) the idea being to measure the angle of the stars or the sun by bring the image of the star or sun down to the horizon and reading off the angle from which we would work out our latitude etc.

Obviously when flying one could not measure the angle of a star by bringing it down to the horizon, because if it was night and cloudy the aircraft would be above the clouds so the navigation officer would not be able to see the horizon at 30,000 feet.

On the aircraft they used a bubble sextant, which has a bubble in a liquid filled chamber (think a carpenter’s spirit level), which provides an artificial horizon. While the navigator holds the instrument, the pilot does his best to fly straight and steady, and at a constant speed, because if the plane is jerked in anyway the navigator receives an incorrect reading. The pilot may do his best to keep the plane steady, but wind and air density can cause alterations, so the navigator will take several readings and average out the result. 

The black and white picture above the picture of the marine sextant shows a VC 10 navigator taking readings.

Thanks to the bubble sextant we did not get lost on the way to New York.

Richard Byrd, 1888-1957 (not the same Dicky Byrd that worked for BOAC) developed the bubble sextant using a modified standard marine sextant, and in May 1919 he flew the Atlantic in a NC-4 seaplane and landed in Plymouth U.K.  
NC = Navy Curtiss flying boat.

Richard Byrd’s flight took three weeks after stops in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the Azores, and Lisbon,

At that time there was a prize of £10,000 (worth about US $600,000 today) for the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, and it had to be completed within 72 hours. The prize was only open to non-military flyers. 

Alcock and Brown won the prize in June 1919 in a Vickers Vimy bomber, they completed the flight in less than sixteen hours.

Alcock_Brown_2-1

As they approached Ireland, they thought the ground that they could see was flat grassland and ideal for a place to land. The landing area was a bog . . .but they were the first people to fly the Atlantic non-stop.

The visit to the flight deck was interesting and it helped pass the time because it would be some time before airlines introduced films (movies) on a regular basis, which mainly came about with the advent of the B747.
Oddly enough the first commercial inflight movie was shown on Imperial Airways Ltd (the for runner of BOAC) from London to Paris in 1925, it was a silent commercial film of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book – The Lost World.

Movies

Cargo passengers ?

Some months after Ollie’s weather forecast incident I was again on nights, but this time with another colleague, when we received a message from the inbound aircraft that they had an emergency.

We asked for details, and it was not an emergency of the aircraft, but a passenger problem. Knowing the aircraft was a freighter, why did they have a passenger problem? 

Frt deck

To give you an idea of the inside of a freighter the above picture is of a B727 which is smaller than a B707, but the principal is the same with the ‘ball bearing’ roller beds to roll palleted cargo to the correct location.
The larger planes of today can carry a higher payload than the B 707C. (C=cargo)

B747

The above is the main deck of a B747 freighter, as you see they can now load pallets side by side rather than one behind the other.  During my BOAC days the pallets were pushed in to place by airport loaders, whereas today it is mechanically controlled.

There are aircraft that are called QC – quick change – which means the passenger seats can be stripped out and pallets loaded in their place.

B_737_QC_2-13-695x461

This is a B 737 QC – note that the passenger overhead lockers are still in place only the seats have been removed to make room for cargo.

Of course you don’t have to remove the seats if you don’t want to . . 

B737 cargo

The above is a B 737 where the seats have been left in place, but protected, and cargo loaded instead of passengers. Thanks to Covid-19 this system has been used a great deal due to the lack of passengers and the demand for cargo aircraft.

Back to the emergency on BA 066 freighter from New York to Manchester and finally London.
We asked more details of the emergency and what we could do to help.

Part of the cargo on this trip was a live dolphin –

dolphin

The dolphin would be in a hammock, which was in a water tank, the ‘passenger’ would be accompanied by a ‘handler’. 

tanks

I have included this picture to clarify the ‘hammock’ system, which shows a ‘multiple’ system. Obviously every care would be taken for the health and welfare of any animal.

The emergency was the dolphin, it had given birth earlier than expected, and this was perhaps due to it being her first flight. . .

The request was for a smaller tank for the calve, and can we have it ready for their arrival?

We asked how large will the tank have to be?

Not smaller than about 45 inches (1.1 mtr) we were told, at that time the UK was still measuring items in feet and inches.

The two of us at the BOAC base put on our thinking caps – a baby dolphin, 45 inches long, the tank has to be large enough to hold the dolphin and a certain amount of water . . . . who would have such a tank?

So, being resourceful (as we thought) we rang Manchester zoo and asked if they could possibly bring out a container for a newborn baby dolphin born on a B 707 over the Atlantic? . . . . . click!

They didn’t believe us. . .

Never mind we will ring Chester Zoo, they are a much larger concern and we were sure that they would know what to do . . . click! again.

The dolphin was consigned to a zoo in Yorkshire, so we rang the Yorkshire zoo, but the zoo did not answer the phone.

I suppose ringing at 3.00 am didn’t help. . . .

Then we had a brainwave we would ring up an undertaker for a waterproof coffin that could hold the dolphin and the water. We rang a few and didn’t get anywhere, well, we thought it was a good idea.

Thinking caps again, and the aircraft was getting closer and closer . . .

Finally, we thought outside the square – just a little outside, by offering a largish sum of money – who to ring – Scotland of course! (A very un-pc thought in today’s world)

We rang our office at Prestwick airport (they were awake) and had a chat and suggested the coffin idea – they agreed and said they would let us know.

Eventually our Prestwick office found an undertaker who was willing to take a chance that we were telling the truth.

So now it was up to us – we called up BA 066 and explained the problem that we had in getting anyone to believe us in Manchester and suggested that they divert to Prestwick where an undertaker with his plastic lined water tight coffin was waiting.

There was a long silence until at last we heard the Captain telling us that he had been in contact with air traffic control, and he was diverting to Prestwick, but he would not be calling at Manchester after Prestwick because he would be out of hours if he did, and would not be able to take the aircraft to London.

We agreed, and told him that we would deal with the cargo agents in the morning – well to be exact, dealing with the agents who were going to be as mad as anything due to their cargo being in London, would not be our worry as we signed off at 7.00 am and went home to bed.

The cargo would be trucked from London to Manchester and would arrive the following morning.

Both mother and calve survived and were trucked from Prestwick to the Yorkshire zoo, and everybody was happy including the Scottish undertaker.

Yorkshire

Perhaps things have changed, because I have read that Yorkshire now advertises boat rides for visitors to visit dolphins in their natural state rather than going to a zoo.

More diversion problems . .

a small monkey eats bananas in a national park. Asian jungle with monkeys
 

On one diversion that had monkeys as cargo we had to remove them from the aircraft to have the hold cleaned and also to feed and water the animals. Unfortunately, one of the monkeys escaped and ran across the warehouse floor to the wall and within a few seconds had scaled the wall and was now sitting on one of the roof beams.

This was a huge problem because we did not have any idea if the animal was healthy or what deceases it could spread amongst British animals and humans.  

How to get it down . . . use bananas of course – a monkey will do anything for a banana, or so we thought.

We tried to tempt it down with various fruits in the hope that we could capture the animal.
Ollie, one of my colleagues, was adamant that we should do our best to keep the problem in house before we called in a sharp shooter. 

rifle

Ollie tried his best to entice the animal down and spent a considerable amount of time placing fruit at strategic places. The animal did come down partway and took some of the fruit, but it was always just out of reach of being captured.

Ollie was very concerned and kept telling me that it was only a matter of time before the animal would trust him . . . 

Finally Ollie did get close to the monkey, which emptied its bowels and threw some of the contents at Ollie and hit him in the head – Ollie was upset to say the least, so he rang the police for a sharpshooter muttering about the ingratitude of monkeys. 

The monkey was shot with a tranquilliser dart from memory, rather than a bullet.

asleep

Found the picture on the internet of a tranquilised monkey.

I’ve called my colleague Ollie, which was not his name, I haven’t seen him for over forty years, but I do not wish to cause him any embarrassment if he sees this post.

Ollie

I named him Ollie, because he reminded me of another Ollie, not in looks, but in ‘off set ability’.

One night Ollie and I were on nights together (there were two of us because a freighter was due from New York), I was working on the load plan for the final leg of the flight to London and I’d left Ollie to listen on the radio.

Our call sign was ‘Speedbird Manchester’, and the inbound flight was ‘Speedbird 066’ (i.e BA 066). 

Around 3.00 am the aircraft was still over the Atlantic, and they called us for the local weather to assist them when landing.
Normally we would ring the airport control tower for a full weather report because the aircraft dealt with us rather than the tower.

This night Ollie decided to go outside to see what the weather was like, and then wandered back to the radio.

‘Speed 066 this is Speedbird Manchester, – it’s raining!’ this in a strong Bolton accent

There was silence from the aircraft, until the aircraft replied and asked if we could be a little more explicit!

What they wanted was cloud height, wind strength, and wind direct etc.

Ollie held the microphone and said ‘Speedbird 066, this Speedbird Manchester please hold . . . ‘
after which he wandered outside again and on his return to the radio he said – ‘Speedbird 066 this is Speedbird Manchester, it’s pissing down!’

After that night I refused to work nights with him ever again.         

Damn the dams in Laos

LA

In 2010 eight of us (four couples) from Sydney thought it was time that we visited Indochina, and one of the countries on our list was Laos.
We flew to Thailand (Bangkok) and then domestically to Chiang Mei.

From Chiang Mei to Luang Prabang, which is in Laos, we decided to fly with Laos Air.

Loas Air

It was not a large plane, but I have flown on smaller, and not as modern.

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Coming in to land at Luang Prebang – Picture thanks to KI.

After clearing customs and paying USD$30 each for a visa on arrival, we were met by the hotel transport, which was a large minibus, for the trip to the hotel.

delux

A modern day picture from the hotel’s website for a Mekong Delux room.
The room is much the same as the rooms that we had in 2010

The Grand Hotel overlooked the Mekong River, hence the name of the rooms.

M river

View from our bedroom.

Hotel

Part of the hotel’s gardens.

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Breakfast was outside and it was often cold first thing in the morning – we were there early March . . . pic thanks to KI

M river01

Yours truly wondering why the water in the river was so low. I was told later that it was due to Chinese dams being built upriver, the flow had been considerably reduced.

M river02

We booked one of the boats for a trip to Pak Ou Caves also known locally as the caves of a thousand buddhas – the trip would include lunch.

M river03

A further indication of how low the water had become. We just boarded by climbing from the sandy riverbed into the boat.

Mriver04

 

Not far from where we boarded the river boat we saw the above boats just sitting on the bottom due to the low water.

It was an enjoyable boat ride to the caves.

Homes

A home along the river bank, they did not have many modern day conveniences but they did have satellite TV, which is more than I do :- o) 
Other homesMore homes along the bank.

approach

Approaching the caves, as you see they are popular

inside

Inside the caves . . it was quite cool.

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There were a large number of statues in the caves. 

After the caves we returned to our boat to cross the river for lunch.

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The old white-haired guy is being very careful going down the stairs – pic thanks to GD

Lunch

Lunch – with a beer or two of course – very pleasant, overlooking the river.

MT village

After lunch we were shown around a small village, but due to the heat (early afternoon) most stall holders were inside – they did come out when the ladies showed an interest in a particular item.

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                           Of course we found the moonshine man  . . . . pic from KI    

   

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                      We watched the booze being made . . .pic from KI

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                                                            The moonshine man . . .pic thanks to KI

Bottles

I was offered a free drink of locally produced wine, which was pleasant, but I did not fancy a pickled scorpion – even a free one! 

 

M river05

On returning to our boat we were able to appreciate just how low the water had become. 

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Our boatman had moved our boat to a small pier, which highlighted the low water – Picture thanks to GD

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Luang Prebang main street – following pics are thanks to KI

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   Main street

   

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Plenty of restaurants and we found the food to be tasty, very fresh and ‘sharp’. Beer, wine & spirits were available in restaurants & bars at good prices – of course the locally produced beer & wine were cheaper than the imported drinks.

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The Night market came in handy for small gifts to take home. Pic thanks to GD

 

 

 

London

 

Ticket As I sat in the transit lounge at Tehran airport & scanned my ticket – it was a BOAC ticket, but the the airline was Qantas.

Boarding pass

As was the boarding pass

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The aircraft in 1968 was a B 707 /138, which had been modified by Qantas with a turbofan and they renamed their modified aircraft as V-Jets – the V from the Latin word vannus meaning ‘fan’, or to be pedantic  “thing that blows against the grain”.

Qantas Airways was the new name, because up to 1967 Qantas’ name had been Qantas Empire Airways .

The route from Sydney to London is traditionally known as the ‘Kangaroo Route’, and Qantas had various ways of getting to London in the 1960’s.

boardin

Boarding was via a set of stair – the idea of an aero-bridge to assist passenger boarding  of the aircraft was in its infancy.

The aircraft that I was to board had arrived from Sydney via Manila, Hong King and New Delhi, and from Tehran our next stop would be Athens and finally London.

In 1966 you could get to London from Sydney via the Fiesta Route, which was via Fiji, Tahiti, Acapulco, Mexico City, Nassau, Bermuda, London.

Don’t forget at that time the in-flight entertainment was the airline magazine or you chatted with the passenger next to you, or you read a book, because movies on demand was years in the future and even the pull down public screen for everyone to watch the same film, was also in the future.

The cost of my ticket for a one-way trip from Abadan to London was $288.50 USD or in today’s money USD $2,187 (AUD $3,124). It was an expensive one-way flight in economy.

QFG seatingPicture from the internet of the inside of a Qantas B707/138 economy class seating, and the one thing you hoped for in economy was that the centre seat was unoccupied.

dress code

At that time you dressed appropriately for international travel – the above is just an illustration.

Uniform

Stewardess’ uniform for Qantas in 1968

QF menu

Once I sat down I was presented with a breakfast menu.

Menu02

Of course in 1968 smoking onboard was acceptable . . .

smokeSASand even encouraged, because some airlines created cigarettes so that the smoker became advert once they left the aircraft. Many airlines gave away matches and cigarette lighters with their name and logo imprinted on both.

We arrived in Athens at 5.00 am (05.00 hr) and as we were only on the ground for forty five minutes so I doubt that we would have left the plane as it was refueling, but we were not allowed to smoke.

ETA London was 8.15 am.

On arrival I had to transfer from Heathrow to Euston railway station in the city, to catch a train to Liverpool – I was hoping for a steam train experience of my childhood, but I’d forgotten that the line had been electrified in 1966.

0_lime17

Liverpool Lime Street still had the old feeling and the ‘smell’ of steam, which could have been just my wishful thinking.

A fortnight after I arriving home British Rail ran the last scheduled steam train from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria, and then on to Carlisle before returning. This last service was in commemoration of the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester line in 1830, which was the first public railway system to use only steam locomotives.lms_5mt_45110_barton_moss_15_gns_spcl_11-08-68_edited-2

The above is the actual 1968 train, and the picture is off the internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khorramshahr

sheet three19072020

With such a long time at anchor off Doha, Qatar, there was not any excuse not to write home – at least we didn’t pay for the postage. We handed our letters to the purser or chief steward, which was then handed over to our agent, along with any Company communication. The Company mail was bagged for head office in London and posted. As you see everything was what we call ‘snail mail’ today – life without the internet.

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We sailed from Doha for Kuwait after our thirteen days of hanging around at anchor and only working cargo for a day.

Leaving Doha on the 12th July, we arrived off Kuwait at 4.00 pm on the 13th and of course we anchored . . .

Kuwait from the air

Kuwait from the air – picture from the internet.

We stood anchor watches (the same system as at sea), so I was on the mid-day to 4.00 pm and the midnight to 4 am. I remember recording the temperature at 4.00 am as I completed the ship’s log  37 c ( 98 F), It was a warm night, but not as hot as the lunch time report, which listed the temperature as 45 c (113 F) mat 1.00 pm, and we didn’t have air-conditioning and everything that was metal was too hot to touch, which meant most of the ship outside the accommodation.

The following day we moved alongside to work cargo. An uneventful day of heat and dust and the smell of oil, but what would I expect being in the Gulf?

To reach our next port we would be sailing up the Arvand Rud if we wished to discharge in an Iranian port or the Shatt-al Arab if we wished to do business with Iraq. Both side of the river were ‘touchy’ as to how we named the river.

shatt_al_arabAs you see Kuwait is at the bottom of the map and our destination was to be Basra in Iraq.
Khorramshahr & Abadan are both on the Iranian side of the river.

Shah

In 1968 the Shah was still in control at that time and things did not change until Khomeini

Khomeini arrived in 1979.

From Kuwait we sailed to Basra, the plan being to call at the Iranian ports on the way south – this was our normal procedure.

We arrived in Basra on, I think, the 17th July, which was the day of the Ba’thist bloodless coup d’état in Iraq

Sadam

and this gentleman became Vice President. The photo is of when he was a very young man and became more recognizable later in life

220px-Saddam_Hussain_1980_(cropped)

Saddam Hussein in 1980

From memory, the change in government did not affect us and after working cargo we sailed for Iran.

On arrival in Khorramshahr (Iran) on Saturday 27th July, I received a letter from the Company that I was to fly home because my contract for two and a half years on the eastern service had come to an end.
I don’t think I’d ever packed my bags as fast as I did that day – goodbye heat and sand!

My relief walked up the gangway and I warmly welcomed him and offered him my last cold bottle of beer. . . .what a sacrifice!

The ship’s agent drove me to Abadan to catch a plane to Tehran for the connecting flight to London.

727100

Iran Air B727 /100 had been in service with Iran Air for a couple of years before I flew with them in 1968, configuration was 106 passengers in two classes, I was of course in economy.
seating

B727 / 100 seating – I was near the back.

As I checked in for the flight at Abadan airport I was surprised at the large amount of hand baggage  that passengers were allowed to carry in to the passenger cabin considering how small the cabin was, in comparison to today’s aircraft.
I’d flown around Asia & Australia to join various ships so I was aware of the restrictions re cabin baggage, but Iran Air didn’t seem to have the same restrictions.

1921_Primus_poster

One person had a small primes stove.

After we had taken off and the seat belt light had been switched off the man with the primes stove squatted in the aisle and lit the stove to make his tea . . . .

Nobody reacted near the tea maker, and as I had an aisle seat I undid my seat belt to tell the tea maker to put out the naked light. Before I had had gone two steps there was a blared movement of a stewardess (one could use this word in 1968) moving from the forward part of the aircraft to the tea maker. I’ve never seen a crew member move so fast before or since.

The flight was IR 800 and we left Abadan at 10.45 pm (2245 hr), flight time was about 90 minutes.
We landed at Mehrabad airport, which at the time was Tehran’s primary airport. The link will give you an idea of ‘yesterday’s’ travelling – it is silent. There weren’t any aero-bridges at that time.
The aircraft in the short film was not the aircraft in which I flew.
My connecting flight was due out at 02.55 hrs (02.55 am) Sunday, it was going to be a long night.

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In 2007 a new airport opened in Tehran for international flights. It is called
Imam Khomeini International Airport. (Picture from the internet)

 

 

 

B.H.S

 

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B.H.S = Boredom – Heat – Sand (and for my British readers BHS is not British Home Stores!)

We sailed from Muscat for Doha, but for some reason, which I can’t remember, we were diverted to Bahrain, which is 130 km ( 81 miles) as the crow flies from Doha, but a little longer by sea.

The above map shows how close most of the ports are to the Straits of Hormuz.

Before we arrived at Bahrain we were diverted again to Dammam, which is in Saudi Arabia. I have underlined Dammam with a green line. Again, not all that far as a diversion but . . .

The problem for us was that we had loaded the cargo in a set way for discharge i.e Doha, Bahrain, Dammam, but by making Dammam our first port of call we had to move the Bahrain & Doha cargo before we could discharge Dammam cargo – a small detail that had to be taken in to account.
Due to delays in Bahrain I think our Gulf agency was trying to avoid further delays by unloading Dammam before Bahrain.

Dammam was, and still is, an oil port, so there was little incentive to go ashore, plus Saudi Arabia was ‘beerless’.
We had to contend with sandstorms mixed with dust and the overpowering smell of crude oil. I thought I’d left that particular perfume when I left tanker life in 1963.

It was not a happy stay because we had to constantly check the cargo being discharged. The supervisors failed in their jobs to identify cargo destined for Dammam, as against Bahrain or Doha.
With a language barrier (supervisors were expected to speak & understand English but didn’t), and the heat and dust, while  standing on the wharf sweating pints to get the labour to reloaded certain cargo was a ‘trying’ time.

I was told by one supervisor that he was a fine fellow who had worked on many British ships . . . biting ones tongue so that we were not in this port any longer than necessary, was a huge effort.

There was a suggestion made that we should ask Australian exporters to write the contents of each box in Arabic, because this might stop the labour breaking in to as many boxes as possible to find something worth stealing.
We had cartons of tinned peas, and other vegetables, which were broken in to, and the cans were opened by the labour, who then drank the liquid and threw the rest away. The pictures of peas & vegetables on the cans didn’t mean anything.
Cartons of liquid detergent were also broken in to and the detergent consumed, at least the thieves would have been ‘regular’ thieves. . . .

I think we were in Dammam for two long days before sailing to Bahrain and anchoring off while waiting for barges to come out to us.
Bahrain did have berths for deep sea ships, but the only time I was on a ship that went alongside was on my first ship in 1962, which was a tanker. So, I think the berths were tanker berths, not general cargo berths, which is why we anchored.

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Arad Fort Bahrain – built in the 15th century, before the Portuguese arrived in 1622.

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Manama Bahrain in the late 1960’s – Manama is the capital.

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Manama today – Picture is from the internet.

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Another shot of Bahrain in the 1960’s – we liked Bahrain because it allowed us to buy Red Barrel beer legally. Buying a beer in the Gulf was always ‘hard work’, unless you had access to private clubs such as the British Club in Basra or you went ashore (via dhow) in Bahrain.

It was very pleasant to sit ashore and drink a cold beer, a different feeling than drinking the same beer on board ship – small pleasures.

Our next port was Doha, and we arrived at 4.00 am and anchored. We hoped that we would begin discharging cargo at daybreak, but we just sat at anchor all day. To keep cool we would shower, but not dry off but just stand in the shade on deck allowing the water to evaporate to cool down.

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Doha in 1968 – picture is from the internet

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Coastal strip in 1968

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Today . . .

Qatar, the capital being Doha, gained independence from the British in 1971, after being a British protectorate since early in the 20th century.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani signed a treaty with the British in 1868 that Britain recognised Qatar as a separate status at the end of the Qatari – Bahraini war of 1867–1868.

In 1867 the ruler of Bahrain sent his brother with 500 men and 24 boats to attack Qatar. The attack was joined by a force of 200 men under Ahmed al Khalifa, and the Abu Dhabi ruler also sent 2000 men in a further 70 boats.
Doha was sacked and basically wiped off the map, the houses destroyed and the people deported.

The following year, 1868, a Qatari force counter attacked Bahrain, and destroyed 60 ships and 1000 people were killed.

Lewis

British Resident at Bahrain Lewis Pelly – Lt General, KCSI (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) awarded in 1874. Click on the link to read of an interesting life.

Lewis Pelly, accused Bahrain of breaking maritime law by attacking Qatar in 1867 and he fined Bahrain 10,000 Iranian Tomans.

One Iranian Toman was the equivalent of 10,000 dinars or about £740 British pounds at that time.
So the total fine was around £7 million (GBP) in 1868, which allowing for inflation, is about £125 million (GBP) today. A large sum for a small area like Bahrain that had yet to find oil . . . .

The official currency of Persia was (is) the Rial and 10,000 rials would equal one toman, which itself is a Mongolian word due to the Mongolian invasion around 14 AD, but spelled as tomen, which in Mongolian means ‘unit of ten thousand’.

The current Iranian currency can be referred to in two ways as rials or toman, which for a foreigner is confusing, but the actual notes and coins are the same.
In 2019 the Iranian Government passed a Bill that the currency would change from rial to toman and this would take place in May 2020, and the change over will be phased in over the next two years.

Back to 1968 . . .

We sat at anchor for days waiting for labour to come out to us and discharge the cargo. With temperatures around 40 c (109 F) at 4.00 pm in the afternoon, life was a little tedious to say the least.

We did have one high moment – a group of us where outside around 4.30 pm having a beer (in the shade) when we heard a loud shout from the Chief Engineer – he’d just had a telegram from England that his wife had given birth to their first child – it was party time!

We lay at anchor for thirteen days, the sea like a mirror and our position was sheltered from any cooling breeze. It was hot!

We did experience a ‘small’ distraction when another BI ship anchored near us – she was the MV Chyebassa.

Chyebassa

Any diversion from the heat and boredom was welcome. On the day of the Chyebassa’s arrival I was on duty, but the other officers went across to her and many stayed the night, and the following day MV Juna reciprocated the hospitality.

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MV Juna

It was a pleasure to rekindle friendships with two cadets that I’d sailed with when in MV Bankura, in 1966 on the India to New Zealand run and the second engineer I’d sailed with when in MV Pundua in 1967 on the India, Hong Kong, Japan run. It was have another beer, and ‘remember when’ time . . . . a very pleasant interlude.

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MV Bankura

Pundua

MV Pundua

Thanks to the heat during our time at anchor I think we were Allsopp’s best customers in the Persian Gulf,

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and when we eventually sailed for Kuwait we didn’t have any regrets leaving Doha, even though Kuwait was not on our holiday list.

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Kuwait maybe on certain people’s holiday list today, but I doubt that it was a holiday destination in 1968.

 

 

 

Muscat, Oman

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Muscat means ‘anchorage’ in English, and it is obvious why it got that name being protected by a rocky island. The above photograph is from the internet – it was taken in 1970, two years after my visit.

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This is Muscat harbour in 1903, the fort that can be seen is the Al Jalali Fort.

In the 15th century Muscat was a minor port, but once Vasco de Gama had rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 in his attempt to find a way to the spice islands things began to change.

In 1507 a Portuguese fleet under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque, which was on its way to attack the island of Hormuz, sacked Muscat.

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The island of Hormuz controlled the straits of Hormuz, (even then), the island is 8 km (5 miles) off the coast of Persia (now called Iran).

The Portuguese attacked and captured Hormuz in October 1507, which allowed them to control the trade in to and out of the Persian Gulf.

The importance of Muscat for the Portuguese was due to the safe anchorage and that they could replenish their water barrels. Barracks and warehouses were built by the Portuguese in Muscat, but the Ottomans attacked, so the Portuguese built a fort in 1550 at al-Mirani, but the Ottomans attacked again two years later and the town fell and the fort destroyed.

The Portuguese regained the town two years later and this time they built another fort on Fort al-Jalali on a headland, and rebuilt the twin Fort al-Mirani, both forts had cannon so commanded the anchorage.

Fort

I ‘doctored’ a modern map to illustrate how the two forts commanded the harbour.

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Fort al-Jalali which I took in 2016

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Fort al-Mirani one of mine from 2016

Later the Portuguese built walls around the town as a defensive measure, but the expense of occupying and defending Muscat was a strain of Portugal’s finances. Trade was not as prosperous as they thought and by 1630 the British & Dutch dominated the Persian Gulf. The local Omanis captured Muscat in 1650 and that was the end of Portugal’s rule.
The new rulers became a colonial power themselves by taking over certain Portuguese colonies in East Africa (Swahili coast), and then became involved in the slave trade based in Zanzibar, which was ruled by Oman. It was not until 1970 that slavery was made illegal in Oman.
When I arrived in 1968 the ‘Secret war ( 1962 – 1970)’ still had two years to run, not that I saw any of the fighting, just that we were aware that British troops were involved alongside the Omani troops fighting communist rebels.

We arrived off Muscat on the afternoon of the 10th June, and it was hot! Cargo work was to start the following day, and we were to unload in to barges. From memory Muscat didn’t have a dock facility and all ships worked at anchor in to barges.
We didn’t have anything to do (except an anchor watch) so those of us who were off duty decided to go for a swim. With borrowed flippers and a face mask I was able to enjoy another world. All kinds of coloured fish and plants waving at me as I slowly moved through the water. It was calm, quiet and peaceful as I checked out the multicoloured coral, it was if they had been painted recently.turtleI was fortunate to see a turtle who was paddling along with all the time in the world heading out to sea. Picture is of a turtle in Muscat harbour.

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Found the above on the internet, and it is a photograph of the sea around Muscat, although I have a feeling that it was a lot clearer and more colourful when I went swimming in 1968 – pollution perhaps?

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But I do remember very colourful sea creatures.

I borrowed a spear gun and thought that perhaps I could spear our dinner. So I aimed my gun at a large looking fish with plenty of meat on it – pulled the trigger and the harpoon shot out and hit the fish in the side, but the harpoon just bounced off the fish and I don’t think the fish was aware of being attacked . . . so much for the great fish hunter.

I should have stayed with the others in the boat because while I was experiencing armoured plated fish they were fishing and caught so many that the there was just enough room in the bucket for the water to keep them fresh. We were all looking forward to fresh fish for our evening meal. The fish were multicoloured and looked quite ‘plump’.

We had little knowledge of fish and just to be safe we asked the carpenter (who was Chinese) as to the best way of cooking the fish. In our experience we have always found the Chinese to be knowledgeable about fish and the cooking of the same.
All the Chinese (carpenter and engine room fitters) were from Hong Kong and they were all called ‘John’ and they were referred to as ‘the Johns’.

This was not derogatory term, because it has a link to history. In the late 1700’s a Chinese seaman who worked for the British East India Company was given the job of looking after Chinese seamen in the Limehouse area of London. He had a partner, who was English, and his partner had a daughter who this Chinese seaman wanted to marry.

After they were married the Chinese male wished to buy a property for him and his wife, but could not buy property, because he wasn’t English.

So he used part of his fortune that he has amassed over the years to pay for an Act of Parliament to allow him to become British. This was passed through Parliament in 1805 and he became the first Chinese to be naturalised and he called himself John Anthony .

This is why Chinese crew members were called ‘John’ in general terms, but once one learned to pronounce their individual name correctly then we used their correct name.

Unfortunately, John Anthony died some months after being naturalised. There is a restaurant in Hong Kong called John Anthony . Check out their menu.

Back to the bucket of fish as we stood around while carpenter ‘John” surveyed our great catch. He managed to keep a serious face as he studied the catch but eventually he just burst out laughing. Every fish that we had caught was poisonous – so they were returned to the deep.

Later, after showers we were on deck with a beer in hand (of course) when all of a sudden, we saw a whale very near the ship. The whale surfaced and blew continuously. I never expected to see a whale in such warm waters, and I’m not sure what type of whale it was, but I found this piece of film of  Muscat whales .

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Without air-conditioning the only place to sleep at night was on deck – for me I preferred the monkey island, which usually had a wooden deck.
When off duty and siting outside many of us would wear a large bath towel in the form of a lungi, which is a southern India / Sri Lankan dress for both males & females. A lungi is much cooler than trousers or shorts.

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This is not me . . .

To try and sleep in the Persian Gulf heat I would obtain two very large bath towels, soak them in water and place one on the wooden deck on which I would lie, and then pull the other over myself in the hope that I could sleep before the towels dried out and became stiff.
The day time temperature was around 41 c (105 F) and the night time temperature would drop to 34 c (94 F) – lime juice and salt tablets helped.

For my sins of yesteryear I now suffer from rheumatism, which I blame on sleeping on and under wet towels on wooden decks.  . . . any chance of compensation I wonder.

It would be forty eight years before I returned to Muscat, but this time I didn’t have any problems sleeping because the Azamara Quest was air conditioned, the beds were comfortable, and with only 650 passengers, sleeping was not a problem.

One could fall asleep on the balcony if reading a book, how time had changed.

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Azamara Quest – in 2016 Maureen & I sailed in her from Singapore to Dubai.

 

 

Clip joint & a runner

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We arrived in Colombo on the 8th June at 2.pm for fuel and water, because our next port of call would be Muscat in Oman and it was already getting hot and summer months in or near the Persian Gulf is an experience I can do without.

There was little for me to do so I decided to go ashore and have a haircut. The above picture was taken in Colombo about five years ago, not in 1968.

Being male, I did not go looking for a specific barber I just went in to the first barber shop that I found, which makes life a lot simpler.

I asked for a longish crew cut, because I wanted to be able to keep cool in the Gulf, plus this type of haircut would be easy to keep tidy.

I leaned back in the chair and he started on the crew cut, which did not take long, and I thought I’d have time for a quick beer before returning to the ship.

Suddenly the barber poured a liquid on my head and started too massage it in. I thought it was some sort of hair oil, but realised it was not when it started to froth as he rubbed hard on my head. I later realised that it was a type of liquid soap that he used as a ‘dry’ shampoo.

I expected him to wash everything off, but he wiped my head clean with a dry towel, and then repeated the process.

At the end of the second procedure my hair felt clean and cool, and then my head was rubbed with Bay of Rum. Only very occasional had I seen this procedure in the UK so sat back to enjoy the process.

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I don’t know how true this is but in the sailing ship days sailors in the Caribbean used to rub themselves with a bay leaf so that the bay leaf oil would hide the stink of their living conditions below decks while they waited for the sugar cargo to be ready.

A by-product of sugar is molasses and the slaves realised that it could be fermented into a drink. The local brewers took the fermented drink and distilled it into rum. The sailors fed up with rubbing themselves with a bay leaf soaked the bay leaf in rum. The rum extracted the bay leaf oils and the sailors would rub this on their bodies – hence Bay Rum.

The locals added other herbs such as cinnamon, citrus rind etc and so produced a male cologne. This was popular in the early part of the 20th century, particularly during the prohibition period.

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The manufacturer printed on the label for external use only – but at 58% alcohol people took risks by drinking instead of rubbing on the liquid.

Back to my barber – my head was massaged with the Bay of Rum and boy did he massage. It was the monsoon season, and very humid, and the shop was not air-conditioned, but the barber kept stopping and spraying my face with cool water – how is that for customer service!

The next thing is that my head is being dried with a hair dryer and this was followed by a cutthroat razor across the back of my neck and down the side of my face – I sat very still!

cut throat

Suddenly the headrest was dropped down and I am lying flat with my head resting on the dropped headrest and I am looking at the ceiling.

I think that surely he must have finished with my hair, I only asked for a crew cut – he had finished with my hair, but not with me . . . he now starts on my face pulling hither and thither and rubbing other bits until he suddenly he pastes my face with cream (hello sailor) and rubs this in before producing a machine, by which time I am thinking how to escape. The machine has suction pads and he starts working them over my face.

At last he finishes and allows the chair to be up-right to its normal position. I make a move to get up, but he holds me in place as he powders the back of my neck with talcum  powder and has another go with the razor – I still didn’t move.

The use of a lot of talcum powder is common in the East due to the humidity.

Next is the Brylcreem

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A British invention created in 1928, which I have only ever used once, and did not like.

I held his arm and said, ‘No thank you’, so not getting my head creamed entitled me to another head massage!

All the above took just under half an hour, everything was completed very fast. The bill came to Rp 5.50 (five and a half rupees), which was about 8/3d at that time (eight shillings and three pence, or £5.16 in today’s money) or $1.00 USD about $12.60 in today’s money.

A simple haircut in Australia had cost me 7/6d so for another 9d (9 old pence) I had all the trimmings, and because I’d changed UK pounds on the black market the exchange rate was better than the banks, so the barber had a 30% tip and we were all happy and I was his best mate.

I was the only European in the shop and I did not see any others enter. They missed out on a great, if unexpected, experience,

I returned to the ship only to find that we were one steward short – he had jumped ship. He’d received a letter from home (he lived in Goa) that his wife was ill so instead of taking the advice given to him by the chief steward, which was to tell either the first officer or the captain, he decided to leave immediately for Goa.

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The above map is a modern map so if you wished to drive / ferry (Ceylon is an island) / drive to Goa from Colombo, which is about 2000 km. The estimated driving time would be about fifty six hours.
In the 1960’s it was not unusual for crew members to receive bad news from home via various sources, such as friends or family, and at times the information was a lie, and all the individual wanted was to go home before the end of his contract.
If the captain considered the request genuine he would release the crew member and have the ship’s agent arrange flights for the individual to fly home at the company’s expense.

I heard that the missing steward was planning to go by train – then ferry – and finally train, but he’d left his passport on the ship, so now he was an ‘illegal’ in Ceylon.

The train service was called the Boat mail or to give it its full name – Indo-Ceylon Express. The first service was February 1914, so the steward must have been aware of the service.

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The train would get as far as Talaimannar in Ceylon and then he would require the ferry to Dhanushkodi, which is in India.
The problem that he would have is that Dhanushkodi was destroyed in the 1964 cyclone.

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Some of the remains of Dhanushkodi. The town was abandoned by the survivors and the remains are still visible today.

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The remains have now become a tourist site.

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I’ve marked in red on this modern-day satellite photograph where the town was located.

The ferry service in 1968 terminated at Rameswaram, which is on Pamban Is. about 40 km from Ceylon. (check the above map)
From Rameswaram the steward would have to arrange a train to Tuticorin, which is near the southern tip of India, where he would have to change again for a train to Goa.

From the mainland of India to get to Rameswaram there is a bridge, called the Pampan Bridge which was built by the British in 1914 to encourage trade between India and Ceylon, it is still in use.
The track is a single line track and the train moves slowly because of the wind. The bridge is 2.2 km long and the train in the video has twenty-two carriages. You can hear the wind in the above video link.

The bridge is a metre wide and has 143 piers. Trains are stopped operating if the wind exceed 58 km per hour.
The centre bridge was built by  a German engineer called Scherzerit, it opens to allow ferries and other vessels to pass.

Without his passport I’d be surprised if the steward even managed to leave Ceylon. We sailed without him at 7.30 pm, and we were in port for only about five and a half hours, but this would have been long enough for the agent to book air tickets, if the captain considered that the steward was telling the truth.

I never knew if he made it to Goa or if he ended up in gaol in Ceylon.

Being a train lover from when I was a child, particularly steam trains, I thought these links might be of interest.

Bridge from the air   aerial views of the most dangerous rail crossing in India.

Inside a train crossing the bridge  click this link and fast forward to three  minutes to see views from the train, and see how narrow the rail support is above the water.

anziqry5jeq21 Pampan Bridge at sunset.