National Geographic : 1948 May
The National Geographic Magazine became difficult to find a man who knew how to make pork fit to stand a year's passage. Finnish ships, taking a tip from Arabia's sheep-carrying dhows, tended sties of live pigs and slaughtered one a month. Other vessels gathered the flying fish dropped aboard in the trade winds. In calms, the men caught bonito, dolphins, and albacore. A daily issue of lime juice kept scurvy away. Winds Scream Through Icy Rigging Cook and steward excepted, every man had to be on deck in bad weather. At the gale's command, everyone up to the rank of chief mate piled into the high rigging, where the wind screamed and the ice lay incrusted. By day and by night all hands faced work on the high yards, their only safety a thin wire rope between them and the sea a hundred feet below (page 704). If anyone fell, he was almost surely doomed. Rarely did a lifeboat go out on a rescue mission, for the great sailer, running before sea and wind, could not be stopped. Lifeboat drill was a rarity. Now and then a ship went missing. Ice bergs loomed along the Cape Horn road. A bad landfall, a savage hurricane, a stove-in hatch, a dismasting in a sudden shift of screaming wind-all these things spelled death. When the sailer goes, she sends out no radio messages, launches no boats; she takes all hands with her. When I first went to sea, at the end of World War I, I met 70-year-old men in the forecastles of Cape Horn ships. They knew no other life; scorned to go in steam. They ran aloft with the youngest boy; stood up to every violence of the overwhelming sea. By the mid-1920's these men were gone. In their place came boys. In the full-rigged Grace Harwar, a 1,760-tonner noted for her tendency to slay a man a voyage, we had only 13 youthful hands when I sailed with her in 1929. We ran the big Parma with a couple of dozen boys. Rowed 30 Miles to Call on Pamir It was during my days with Parma that I learned to know Pamir. I boarded her under strange circumstances one evening during the grain race of 1932. Though I told this adventure in the Janu ary, 1933, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, it is not unworthy of repetition. The four-masted Parma had wallowed for days in the South Atlantic doldrums when we sighted the lifeless sails of our rival in an equally windless sea 15 miles away. As there was not much work to be done, a party of us obtained our captain's permission to borrow a lifeboat and pay a friendly call. It was 2 p. m. as the davits lowered the lifeboat into the sea. At our lower level, Pamir sank out of sight below the horizon. After a short row she reappeared. Taking turns at the oars, we reached her side in the tropic twilight. Our hosts were astonished at seeing us looming suddenly out of the empty Atlantic. No one in our party had more than a nodding acquaintance with Pamir's men; yet within a few minutes we were exchanging yarns like the truest of old friends. That night we rowed the 15 miles back to Parma by moonlight, taking our course from the stars. We reached our own ship at 2 o'clock in the morning, 12 hours after our departure. Pamir raced us right up to the English Channel. She and Parma led the pack in a virtual dead heat. Both made the passage from Australia that year in 103 days. Finnish Fleet on Last Legs Some years ago the Aland Islands, a bit of Finland in the Gulf of Bothnia, became the last home of sail. In the port of Marie hamn the redoubtable Capt. Gustaf Erikson based his fleet of square-riggers. Somehow he scraped a living out of bargain-counter charters of Peruvian guano, Chilean nitrates, Scandinavian lumber, and Australian wheat. Last year Captain Erikson died at the age of 75, leaving the future of his line in doubt. Of all the square-rigged ships he used to own, he bequeathed to his heirs only Passat, Viking, and Pommern; and if Pommern ever carries cargoes again she will have to undergo a costly make-over. Even in Mariehamn it is difficult these days to recruit crews. War cost the Alanders seven years of sailing experience. The stream of men going into the grain race dried up. Early this year Erikson's Viking and Passat picked up charters of Australian grain, pos sibly their last cargoes. Meanwhile, the big Moshulu was badly damaged when she dragged ashore in Norway recently. The ex-Scottish Archibald Russell is laid up in the River Tyne. Abraham Ryd berg, once a Swedish training ship, has con verted to full power. Padua and Kommodore Johnscn, both Ger mans, have gone over to the Russians, re putedly as naval training ships. Parma is broken up. Denmark's school ship Kjpbenhavn, greatest sailer of them all, went missing in the Southern Ocean in 1928-29, leaving no trace. The cargo-carrying Cape Horner is done.