Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ocean hell cities

Many times I have sailed the coast of eastern South America, the continental shelf extends far off shore and connects to the Falklands or Malvinas as they are know to Argentineans.
It is also a plentiful fishing grounds that fleet factory fishing ship visit from all around the world, some legally and some..... well not so legal. the licenses to fish here are large, but the bounties are high.
As the day light dawns and another day of sailing comes to an end, the oceans can be calm or wildly blustery, it makes no difference, it seems like there is no other person or ship on the planet, but that's until it gets dark.
Darkness engulfs the water world and then the hell cities emerge, strangely from no where they arrive like an invasion from outer earth. They are the factory ships, the squid ships that light up the night. They sit dormant all day, on deep anchors as the continental shelf is only 100 to 150 meters deep, but when the night falls they creep into the night sky with their powerful flood lights that attract the creatures of the deep, the squid.
All night they beam their powerful rays of light deep into the murky shallow waters luring the sea life to the surface to their death.
The loom of their lights shine for many many miles, so any navigator in these waters can see the warning signs, its not just one or two, its 10's 20's and more of these monster ships that are in location for prime time fishing.
The aerie feeling on a cloudy night, with layers of strato cumulous capturing the reflected light makes for quite a sight, in lines they seem to be, like a freeway of connecting cities.
But life on board these boats isn't so nice, to see these ships is a designers disgust, how ugly could a ship be, with large over hangs for the jiggers to work from the hull and to support the powerful downwards spot lights is more like an ancient aircraft carrier. The black stained hull sides streaked from deck to waters edge with squid ink is just a day time reminder of their nightly slaughter.
Last year when in the Straits of Magellan, we encountered nine of these vessels at anchor close to the shore and city of Punta Arenas, we had just arrived back from expedition in the depths of Tierra Del Fuego when we received an emergency message that a crew member from a ship had been lost over board, we were close, and proceeded to the area to join in the search.
For three hours we drove and searched the waters of the Magellan along with port rescue craft and helicopters, we did find a jacket and an Asian packet of cigarettes floating with no owner to them, a sadness extreme came over all of us, as even in summer the water temperature is grim.
We learned after that it was actually four sailors from one of these squid ships that had taken the chance of being close to shore and had tried to swim the distance, three bodies were found, but nothing of the fourth ? maybe they made it ? god only knows.
But fishing has been a part of life for thousands of years and any mariner knows its a tough game, how tough I don't think any of us really want to know.

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