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Around South America on a
Norwegian General Cargo Ship
Notes for a Speech to the Weston & Wayland Rotary Club
Delivered January 14, 1965
Warren T. Vaughan
28 School Street
President Don Morris, Weston Rotarians and Guests; Greetings.
Reaction at Oberlin to freedom -- need to travel and need for values.
Summer-Fall, 1963. Left Oberlin and went to San Francisco to find work and life experiences. Tough situation in San Francisco, no work. So I decided to get a ship. Tried the American unions with no luck - waiting lists and a Catch 22: Need to present an Able Seaman Card to get hired; need to already have a job in order to get that Card from the Coast Guard. Went to Norsk Sjomannsforbund - foot of Mission - for three weeks straight for two hours a day. Finally got a ship, got my immunizations, and in 42 hours was sailing under the Golden Gate.
Description of the Evanger
7,143 gross ton general cargo ship; approx. 8,000 horsepower, 7-cylinder diesel.
Typical of Scandinavian ships... white, clean, well kept.
Unlike the American or British ships I had a chance to see in port, which were black and orange, rusty-looking, and seemingly in disrepair.
My cabin was excellent and comfortable. I had a double crew cabin to myself. Crew quarters aft, officers and passengers midships.
30 in the crew, 10 officers, two stewardesses. Scandinavians seem to be the only ships (cargo) which carried stewardesses as women crew. We in the aft section of the ship saw very little of them.
The ship itself was a shuttle ship between the US and South America and inter-South America.
Heavy machinery -- Chile
walnuts -- Brazil
Eveready batteries -- Punta Arenas
pre-fab bridge -- Northern Chile
lumber -- Colombia
two heavy duty trucks -- Peru
cotton -- Peru
alpaca -- Peru
coffee -- Brazil, Colombia
munitions (grenades, rifles, mortars) - Dominican Republic
Oil (deep tanks) - Fortaleza, Brazil
Beef -- Montevideo, Buenos Aires (Libbey, Armour)
Inter South America:
Guano (fertilizer... masks, extra pay, etc.) -- Peru to Montevideo
Cotton - Peru to Brazil
Steel and Copper - Chile to Buenos Aires
wool - Peru to Brazil
Four months SFO to SFO via Straits of Magellan and Panama canal.
Maskingutt in maskinrom, five and one half days/ wk., 8hrs./day. Temp. 110F. Took my time when I went topside to empty buckets of dirty rags.
Complaint: Couldn't see anything... couldn't explain it that way to the captain, but finally changed to deck under pretext of claustrophobia when one of the crew was sent back to Norway. Was in Antofagasta, Chile.
Dekksgutt - working on deck. Same pay. $56 dollars/morth.
Splicing ropes, tying up ship, shifting cargo, chipping paint, painting, etc.
1st time out of the US for me. Physical sensations struck first. Hot summer, humid pungent, strange smells and sounds along the quay.
People lived without doors, only screens. "Cuba libre" 15 cents. "Cervesa" 25 cents. Foods cheap.
One place I was overcharged, but was unaware. When handling foreign currency for only a short time, one has trouble recognizing its value.
New 'Pengeliste" -- draw pay in Colombian money. Met Peace Corps people and took afternoon free from work. Went into jungle with them and saw their "installation" of low rent dwellings, built by the people themselves away from unhealthy slums.
Peace Corps people were unhappy. Colombians were hard to work with:
Slow and languid - siesta from 12 to 2
Sensitiveness to Americans
No singing or dancing in Paita due to the assassination of President Kennedy.
1) Aghast that Johnson be signed in 8 minutes -- an affront to Kennedy's memory.
2) Are you going to go back to fight in the revolution? (From a girl in bar in broken English).
Excellent catfish in the harbor.
Seaport to Lima. Very active, and indicative of Peru as a whole.
Tay Vaughan, Fall, 1963
I am sitting in the Norwiegian Consulate in Callao, Peru. The consulate itself is situated near the docks and, like most of the area, is to a certain extent run down. In terms of the way of life here, however, I would say that it subscribes to about the norm of respectability - a stuccoed front of a dirty cream color; sidewalks swept but nonetheless with an aura of sordidness; and the interior of the building naked but for a dozen or so benches and desks at which sit representatives from not only the consulate but also several of the Norwegian shipping lines. General impression: functional.
This I am wont to compare to a Norwegian Consulate in the United States, San Francisco, to be specific, for there in a glass-steel building on California Street were mahogany counters, thick carpet, and modern decor hidden behind a fantastic glass door an inch thick.
The volume of traffic through the consulate here I would say is equal to that of San Francisco, if not more. There were eight ships in the harbor outside Callao, waiting in line for berths when we arrived on a Monday, five of them Norwegian.
Peru is less impressed with the non-functional and supercillious, less oriented to the ostentatious. It is unnecessary to maintain a front of any sort... such as the front of quiet wealth found in San Francisco (and I would gather at other places in the United States). In the words of our escort from the consulate, "there is no time for unemployment", which means to me that in contrast to the port cities of Mexico, Columbia, and Ecuador, Callao-Peru is bustling with that clean, new-country feeling which says that the only place in the world to go is up progressively, sponsored by some unknown motivation among the people. They are rising at great speed, streamlining themselves of the extraneous and unnecestaries of life for which they "have no time." This is America in the late 1800's but with world trade taking the place of America's internal movement west (the Turner Thesis).
A trolley car goes arrogantly past outside as Peru climbs.
Noticed that the poor people lived at tops of hills and the rich at the bottom. Unlike the US it is a matter of plumbing. One pays less for a view (but is one aware of the view from within tar-paper walls?)
Watch and wallet stolen by a longshoreman -- they come aft to purchase cigarette cartons.
PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE
Southernmost town in the world dropped off batteries for south-polar expedition. Middle of the Straights of Magellan. Summertime green grass, small white buildings tucked away between two hills. Colony of bacteria under microscope?
STRAITS OF MAGELLAN
Glaciers cascading into the channel. Long days 4am to l0pm. Smooth weather, clear skies, crisp-cold air. Different constellations. Southern Cross. Alpha Centauri.
Magnificent city with long white beaches, green parks,
beautiful apartment houses along the Rio de la Playa.
Apartments had been built on beef money during Korean War...
With an AFS returnee I walked down the boulevard in the early evening, smiling at pretty girls, and drinking tea in open-air cafes. On one side was the Playa, the other modern apartments. It was a European experience more than an American one.
Christmas was unusual. A fireworks war with Swedish Ship's crew in other bar. No pine trees. Depressing.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Huge city. Very civilized, if I might presume. Large department stores. Wide Streets. - Many people. High fashions. Beautiful women. Very expensive. Drinks were 75 cents to a dollar.
I ran into a cellist on the street and was so starved for classical music that I asked him some stupid question and began a conversation. Invited to his home. Sat in on a quartet with his wife, and had a marvelous time... Wonderful German refugees. Herman & Hilde Heinitz Weil.
In a bar on the Calle Veintecinco de Majio an incident:
Argentine prostitute sitting with an Argentine. At table in corner. Drunk American. Talks up sits down, and makes play for girl. Argentine angry and in his broken English says he is buying drinks at the table. American pulls ten dollar bill from pocket and says he will buy. Argentine gives him bill back. American rips up ten dollar bill and throws it on table. Argentine stands, pulls twenty peso note from pocket and throws it on table after ripping it up. American stomps out. Motto: Money speaks.
New Year's like Christmas. Fireworks. No snow. No skiing. Nostalgia.
Fantastic hill in center of town. Special lift to get to top where there is a park and one can buy cold drinks and popcorn.
Seaport to Sao Paulo.
Cleft in the coastal range. Boat went in channel so narrow you could spit over the side of the boat onto land.
All of a sudden the channel opened into a beautiful green lagoon-like harbor with a white city on a hill. We loaded coffee. In the afternoon within ten minutes clouds came over the hill and dropped about an inch of water and then disappeared leaving bright streets and a very clean smell. It was fantastic.
Here they sold the best beer ever made.
RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZIL
Two hours at anchor in harbor, but due to strike of the people that sew up the coffee sacks, there was no coffee available. We left -- a disappointment to all.
Port of Bridgetown. English spoken here. Wonderful change.
Hawkers in pushcarts selling coconuts and fresh pineapple.
Bought a watch from a sly fellow -- gold with a calendar, etc.
It broke in a week. A learning experience.
Time of the "fete" or Carnival. Steel bands... amazing sound like a choirs of little children singing accompaniment to a bass of rhythmic drums.
Trinidad Hilton on the hill. Very beautiful. Modern. An Oasis for tourists where the world traveler stops. Drinks quite expensive and prices in general on a wealthy scale.
Cars, as in Barbados, drive on the wrong side of the road. Strange sensation... to anyone who has not been to Japan, England or a British Commonwealth Nation, except Canada.
Time of the riots. We were not allowed ashore. We entered from the Caribbean, had a wait of two hours, then went through.
Segregation exists there, as it is my understanding the majority of engineers were from the Southern U.S. States and most of the workers were recruited there from.
Work crew came on board to handle the lines, and while they were having coffee in the mess hall, I cornered one of them, a Panamanian, who said that there still was a bubbler for water for the blacks and one for the whites.
Only indication of trouble was the presence of guards in strange, out-of-the-way places. In fields and on jungle paths. There were, at each end of the canal, units of eight to ten military tanks. These tanks, though, seemed of permanent installation.
The canal took several hours to go through, with locks at both ends. At some points the canal was barely thirty or forty yards across, and at others, while in the central lake, several miles. We passed two sight-seeing boats which seem to make the trip a few times a day for the tourists.
Voyage duration: 4 months and 2 days
The Evanger carried twelve passengers round trip. Mostly older people who were out to see the Western Hemisphere. Treatment was fantastic. There were stewardesses who responded to a bell in each passenger cabin. Passengers ate with Captain and officers, excellent meals, each with menu and all the trimmings. While at sea there were Shuffleboard tournaments for the pass. Ping Pong, bridge, darts, and just plain talking. On weekends and in port the Captain gave cocktail parties in the lounge for the passengers. generally a congenial group. Unsure of the expense, but as I heard, very reasonable.
Cigarettes: $1.15 per carton. Fifth of Teacher's or Cutty Sark was $3.50.
Steward was provisioned with many and varied items of supply - stationery, matches, clothing, soaps, etc.