National Geographic : 1967 Apr
they can afford it-no heavy seas to worry about on the Rhine. "Ugly? Maybe to a landsman. But don't let a Rhineman hear you say it; you might just as well insult one of his family. Often, by the way, they live on board with him. Now, let's have a look at the rest of Rotterdam." The rest of Rotterdam would have taken a full year, but Frank chose a good cross sec tion. As we steered down-channel toward the North Sea, we passed the sturdy conning tower shape of Euromast, the city's 392-foot high sightseeing spire. Just beyond lay Delfs haven, the small docking basin from which in 1620-"the wind being faire," according to one chronicler-a contingent of 46 Pilgrims set sail for England, where they joined their fellow voyagers aboard the Mayflower, bound for America. Dodging a near traffic jam of ocean-going freighters, Rhine ships, and tugs, Frank made a quick tour of Europoort, Rotterdam's vast unfinished bulk-cargo terminal. Miles of pro posed docks may one day double Rotterdam's cargo capacity and put her ahead of rival New York for the title of world's largest port. Finally we reached the Hook of Holland, a bleak point of land whose breakwater and sol itary harbor warning light mark the Rhine's frontier with the North Sea (page 498). It was a restless frontier. Beyond the dark edge of the river's flow, surf sweeping in across miles of empty ocean churned and lashed at its powerful opponent from the land. The age less struggle recalled a declaration written centuries ago by the Frisians, early settlers along the lower Rhine and the builders of Holland's first dike system: That we Frisians shall establish and control a sea fortress... against which the salt sea shall thrust by day and by night. Frank swung the wheel, and we turned back upriver into the shelter of the fortress land. Ahead in the early dusk the lights of Rotterdam began to wink on. Beyond them lay the world of the Rhine. Ship's Bell Sounds Rhineman's Prayer Next morning I went in search of an empty berth aboard a Rhine ship bound upriver. I found one aboard Weissenstein, a newly built Rhine tanker sailing for Karlsruhe, Germany, with a cargo of diesel oil from Latvia. Her name was German, meaning "white stone," though her owner and crew were Dutch. I was soon to learn that among a dozen or more nationalities plying the Rhine, German is the riverman's tongue.