National Geographic : 1952 May
596 Doryman's Grin Marks a Good Day and a Boatload of Fine Fat Cod Joao de Oliveira, Argus's Second Fisher, caught almost 75 tons of fresh cod this season (page 584). Here he climbs aboard after unloading his dory. Though he has put in a full day on the Grand Banks, he still faces several hours' work cleaning cod. was still room for the odd cod. But every tank was full of cod-liver oil, every barrel on deck full of salted tongues and cod cheeks and other odd edible parts, and the hold itself was mighty near to full. Where the Plimsoll line was nobody knew, for it was hidden under the long dank grass. For a hundred days we had eaten cod and daily supped of the midnight soup of codfish faces. The dorymen call it the "soup of sor row," for they say that, once having eaten it, you are bound to come back to the Banks again. One hundred days of the soup of sor row were days enough for me. Finally our captain weighed anchor. At first the dorymen dared not believe that he was really going home. They feared that, if the weather eased, we would anchor again on one of the southern banks and cram the last cod yet again into that cavernous hold. The last cod? There was no such fish! But the north gale blew and we raced away homeward, southbound through Davis Strait, with the Creoula rolling her rails under beside us and the fierce wind howling in the rigging, and the cold seas creaming aboard (page 575). Yet it was not until we had sailed past the bank of Fyllas and past the Danas Bank that the dorymen dared smile. Danas was the last large bank. The course now was southeast toward the Azores-the Azores, and sunshine, and good Portugal! A hurricane or two smashed up from the Gulf Stream's edge and took a heavy swipe at us (page 595). The little motor ship Cova da Iria, caught in a maelstrom, foundered. She was 600 miles from us. The schooner Adelia Maria took off some of the Cova's peo ple with their own dories, for a banker has a lifeboat for every man aboard. To a dory man his dory is his life. If that won't save him, nothing will. Back Home to the Sunshine The great seas leapt at us, too, and smashed along the decks, but the Argus was a stout good ship and Adolfo an expert sailor. We had to heave to while our radio crackled with stories of this schooner and that schooner with dories washed overboard, dorymen gone, fish ing gear smashed. Our own dorymen on watch were roped to gether by the wheel to keep them from going over the side. The North Atlantic in Septem ber and early October is a wild, bad ocean. On a sunny morning we touched at lovely Ponta Delgada, and our Azorean dorymen landed there, full of smiles. We sailed in the moonlit evening for the last few hundred miles, the happy romp home. I left the graceful Argus, rusty now but lofty and still a picture of romance and adventure, in an arm of the Tagus. I looked back at her while she was in sight. Of the 45 sailing vessels and motor ships of the Banks fleet which left, 43 returned. Some brave dorymen remained to sleep forever beneath the gray old sea or under the shelter of Holsteinsborg's cold hills. It was a great adventure that I shared with them, and I learned to regard the Portuguese as Captains Courageous indeed.* * For a longer account of Alan Villiers's voyage with the Portuguese dorymen, see his new book The Quest of the Schooner Argus (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1951).