National Geographic : 1955 Oct
554 Meuse-side Homes Glide by a Belgian Girl Steering Her Father's Boat A captain's wife and older children share his duties. This girl's turn at the wheel indicates papa and maman are dining in the flower-scented pilothouse, their one-room home. They pass Givet, France. coal mines below Namur. Large Belgian boats carrying 1,000 or more tons lumbered past us. Dutch boats appeared, looking, with their wide turned-up bows, like motorized wooden shoes. Belgium and the Netherlands both ob serve the principle of free competition on the waterways-that is, boats from other coun tries work under the same rules as nationals. France, on the other hand, restricts foreign shipping. A Belgian boat may operate be tween France and Belgium, but not, as a rule, between French ports. Soon we penetrated the outskirts of Liege, and here we witnessed an impressive demon stration of the significance to Europe of in land shipping. For 10 miles, as we neared the center of the city, the Saigon churned a wake between ranks of coal mines, cokeries, steel mills, zinc foundries, chemical plants, cement mills, and electric generating stations. Smoke poured from blast furnaces. Whistles shrieked. Cranes groaned as they unloaded coal and ore from dozens of boats and reloaded others with steel and other products.* This pulsing industrial complex has been tied to the sea by a watery superhighway, the Albert Canal. Tomorrow we would take this turnpike canal. But today I must try to see the engineers whose job it is to main tain the canal and thus the industry of Liege as a working adjunct of the great port of Antwerp. In this I was extremely lucky. Efficient Belgians Get Results Belgian efficiency and hospitality were to impress me more than once, but nowhere more than in Liege. There I boarded a tug boat belonging to the Office of Navigation, a semi-independent Government agency in charge of the Albert Canal and related water ways in Belgium's northeast corner. With me were waterway engineers Raoul Lievens and Marcel Vandormael-Houben; the Office of Navigation general manager, Paul De Rudder; and the chairman of the Office of Navigation board of directors, Alexandre Del mer. Professor emeritus of geography at Liege University, M. Delmer was also former Secretary General of the Ministry of Public Works. M. Delmer, I soon learned, had been in * See "Belgium Comes Back," by Harvey Klemmer, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1948.