National Geographic : 1951 Aug
263 British Information Services Laden Boats Crash the Gold Coast Surf Head-on; Trident Paddles Beat the Frothy Sea Because the port of Accra lacks a deep-water harbor, waiting freighters must stand a mile or more off shore. Cargo is carried out to them by 24-foot surfboats manned by paddlers (page 271). Of the 80,000 people in Accra, the surfboat men appear the happiest; they love their dangerous job. Usually soaked, they dispense with clothing. Crews perch on the thwarts to allow space for cargo. The near boat jockeys for position. Crewmen will leap aboard just before the breaker strikes. milling about a roadblock. All were armed with bows and arrows or spears; the headman sported a World War I trench helmet. "Take it easy," I said to my wife, who might have been visualizing us in a cannibal's stewpot. "It's probably just a committee of welcome." And so it was, but not for us. "What this thing?" I called to the headman. "What you do here?" He looked into the jeep, and rested his spear on the ground. "All right, Massa, you go. We wait. T'ief man come 'long; we catchum, we killum." Race Relations Good in Gold Coast Next day we learned that groups like this are common in the Gold Coast as a result of a postwar wave of housebreaking and robbery. Organized as vigilantes-without-firearms and given semiofficial sanction, their job is to catch "t'ief men" in the act or with the goods. When they "catchum," they "killum," usually by the rather drastic means of driving nails into the culprits' skulls. Relations between black men and white are generally friendly, despite new nationalist tensions. A special liking is reserved for Americans, as I learned one day on the hot, tar-paved road to the Takoradi customs. I had stopped to pick up two uniformed men. One, with bare feet, wore a fez, blue wool shirt, red sash and shorts, and spiral leggings; the other a peaked cap, blue police man's uniform, and shoes. "What's the difference?" I asked, indicat ing their uniforms. The man in blue answered. "We are both Gold Coast police," he said, "but this one is an illiterate policeman. That means that he cannot read or write. But I," he said with pride, "am literate. I can read and write, and I wear the blue uniform."