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Oct 18 - Murky Montevideo

RRS James Clark Ross

Update 18 October

Noon Position : lat 33 35.5 S, long 052 27.5 W (Bearing: 67 T, 200 from Montevideo)

Distance traveled since Immingham : 6127 nautical miles

Air temperature @ noon today : 17.0 degrees C

Sea temperature @ noon today : 15.9 degrees C

Wind: Direction ENE, Force 4

Visiting Murky Montevideo!

This week saw our first port call since we left Immingham. We steamed up the river Plate (good pub quiz question there, which river are Montevideo and Buenos Aires on?) and arrived at the port just after breakfast. I had high hopes for the weather in Uruguay but as we arrived it was raining cats and dogs. The crew on deck got soaked as they made fast the moorings and the officials trooped up the gangway with raincoats and umbrellas. After they had decided that all was in order the weather, fortunately, improved and we had sunshine for the rest of our visit.

Approaching Montevideo in the murk, followed by an
altogether sunnier view of the port later in the weekend.

You may notice the mast of a sunken ship sticking out of the water in the top photo. This was the Calpean Star (formerly the Highland Chieftan) a ship, which was plagued by bad luck throughout its' voyages. She was launched for the Nelson Line on 21st Jun.1928 and started her maiden voyage on 21st Feb.1929 when she left London for Buenos Aires and intermediate ports. On October 11th, 1940 she was damaged in an air raid on Liverpool. In 1948 she resumed commercial service to the River Plate and continued on this route until she was sold to Calpe Shipping Co, Gibraltar in Jan.1959 for use in the whaling industry as a store, accommodation and frozen whale meat transporter. Prior to being sold, in July 1959 rumour has it that she docked at Liverpool with engine trouble, after a voyage from the Antarctic that had been dogged by many misfortunes. The crew blamed these on the presence on board of an albatross destined for a zoo. Fifty of the crew staged a sit-down strike because they were unwilling to continue their unlucky voyage. The captain is reported as saying that it had required some courage on his part to bring the albatross on board in the first place. And most of his crew still believed that the bird would bring bad weather or misfortune, or that it was connected with the souls of the dead. In her next year at sea,1960, she suffered grounding damage off South Georgia and was towed to Montevideo for repairs. After repair, whilst homeward bound, she was grounded after a boiler room fire, and was abandoned. [Information from Merchant Fleets, vol.5 by Duncan Haws and personal accounts]. To be wrecked on the way out of the harbour after repairs is more than unfortunate, I would say!

To avoid any trouble with unlucky Albatrosses, maintenance and drills have continued aboard the ship as usual in the week prior to port call. One of the jobs this week was for Doug, the deck engineer, to check the oil and hoses of the cranes and gantries. A job for calm weather, I think you'll agree.

Doug Trevett aloft on the central
crane (left) and stern gantry (right)

Out and about around town

Readers of the web-page in previous years will know that the ship has spent time in Montevideo in the past. The British Antarctic Survey Ships often visit this port for fresh supplies or to pick up personnel. The year before last the James Clark Ross had to come to Montevideo for repairs and this took two weeks. Therefore, a lot of the history and sights have been described before. For those interested in the history of Uruguay and the adventures of our intrepid predecessors I refer you to the web-page two years ago.

As soon as port passes are issued and those crew with shore leave are able to, they head into town for lunch. The most popular place is the Mercado del Puerto or 'Port Market'. Now, there are all sorts of rumors surrounding this market, which is apparently housed in a large railway station. I had heard three before I arrived, 1) The station was being taken to Paraguay by a ship, which was damaged and had to call into Montevideo for repairs. They didn't have enough money to pay for these repairs and so to settle their debts they left the station. 2) This was a railway station built for Montevideo but the railway never got here, so they decided to put a market in it and 3) The station was delivered and remained on the quayside uncollected for so long that the people of Montevideo decided to put it up and use it for the market. After a little detective work the Chief Engineer has discovered that it was never a railway station at all! What's more, no Uruguayan ever lifted a finger in its' construction. In 1868 the city fathers decided that a market place was needed for the port and ordered this ready made building from Liverpool, England. The steel structure duly arrived with a large number of English engineers, who then put the building up. Initially, it was used as a general market place but over the years it has become an eating place selling every cut of barbecued meat that can be imagined (and a few that can't!). Whatever the true story, we were certainly treated to a fine lunch. This was followed by a pleasant afternoon looking round the centre of town.

The next morning I was able to take advantage of the improvement in the weather and go out for a bike ride. On leaving the port if one turns right there is a wide shoreside promenade, which is off the road and continues all the way along the edge of Montevideo. I set off on my bicycle, a bit wobbly at first because my sea legs couldn't quite do the transition to pedalling. I was able to watch the weekend life of the Uruguayans as they went fishing, jogging, sun-bathing and dog-walking. There were beaches and a fun fair, the marina, palm trees and parks, lovers sat on the sea wall, children flying kites and political canvassers. In short I was able to absorb all of the atmosphere of a laid-back, latin american weekend. After perhaps 15 miles I turned to come back to the ship only to find that there was a strong head wind, meaning that I got a significant amount of exercise on my little jaunt, as well as bonhomie!

All too soon it was time to leave again, we were only in port for 32 hours - a very short call. The pilot was aboard at 1600 hours and very soon we turned our bow south again. Already we can feel the change in temperature as we head towards the Falkland Islands. Soon we will be arriving in Stanley where we will be joined by the scientists, Fids and workers bound for Bird Island and Signy.

The pilot boat alongside as he manoeuvres
alongside to take the pilot back to Montevideo

And lastly - the most important thing that happened this week was my mums' birthday! Happy birthday mum!

All photos this week were taken by me (L. Handcock). Many thanks to D. Anderson for doing the detective work regarding the Calpean Star and the Mercado del Puerto.

Bye 'til next week, Lisa