Two days ago, Zach Weisberg (of theinertia.com) forwarded an email to me. It came from one Terje Eriksen of Norway, with an interesting request:
is an article that mentions the ferry Shissiwani of Comoros - and I beleive that this ferry was bought in Norway some years back. By then it had the name Jæggevarre. As it happens I am born on that ferry - in a taxi - in 1964.
I have searched the net to get some info about the ferry and to find out if this one is actually operating these days - and then I came across this article by Michael Kew. It would have been great fun to get a photo or two showing that ferry these days.
Do you think it is possible to get in touch with Mr. Michael Kew?
Terje Ansgar Eriksen
|In Comoros, this is quite useless information.|
Photographer John Callahan, who visited Comoros with me, sent a few shots of the boat; I forwarded them to Terje. His reply:
You guys made my day!!!!
The story is even better - this ferry was built in a town called Harstad in 1960. It was put in traffice between two villages Olderdalen and Lyngseidet, and in those days this stretch was actually the only road linking North of Norway with the South. So one lovely day in 1964 my mother started to feel unwell, and since she was expecting me she knew what was going to happen. In those days there was not that many cars available, so she sent for a taxi from our neighbouring village - and the drivers name was Ansgar Dalvik. He came - and then they rushed to Olderdalen to catch the ferry going to Lyngseidet - the goal was to reach the nearest city - Tromso. Anyway, I did not have time to wait - so I was born in the taxi on board that ferry. In fact - the crew wanted me to be named after the ferry ( Jaeggevarre ) , but my mother did not want that - but I got Ansgar as a middle name - after the taxi driver.
Years after - I left Norway to do some work with Emergencies - mainly Logistics, and worked for World Food Programme, Unicef, Unrwa in various locations - Iraq, Palestine, Sudan... During that period I met my wife-to-be, and she is a Kenyan. For the first years in our relationship we used Nairobi, Kenya, as a base - and then I read online that my birthplace was going to follow me from Norway to Africa!!! The ferry got sold, and the went all the way from Lyngen to Comorro islands... Since we now have two children we decided that Norway was a more predictable place to live - so we moved up here in the arctics. But my soul - and also my birthplace - is still roaming around in that East Africa!
http://www.lyngenlodge.com/ (just to show you the area where the ferry was operating )
Thank you very much for the photos! I was so happy to receive them!!!! I tried to find them online - there is a few friends I wanted to show these photos to.
Cheers - and Happy new year!
The piece of my Comoros tale that Terje had found:
|Luxurious, fully appointed overnight accommodation.|
“Sachet, monsieur! Sachet! Sachet, s’il vous plaît!” People—mostly children—began vomiting within an hour out from Moroni’s harbor, frantically screaming for the blue plastic bags (sachets) that a man darting around the deck was dispersing, trying to reach people before they puked onto the ship or someone next to them. Instead of just vomiting over the gunwales and into the sea, a Comorian would stick his or her head into a bag, spew, then pass the bag to anyone in vicinity who was also ill, assuming they hadn’t expelled onto the deck already. When a bag was full, the sachet man would grab it, tie it shut, and toss it overboard.
Initially since it was dark and since we couldn’t really see what was happening, Emiliano and I thought it was a game. Simon corrected us. “It’s disgusting,” he said. Rarick, who was sitting on the deck amongst several seasick locals, caught the brunt of it, narrowly avoiding random sprays of chunky white vomit.
“Looks like they all ate the same thing,” Callahan said.
“Cassava,” I said.
“Nice, isn’t it?” Cataldi said, grinning.
We’d left an hour before sunset— babies crying, strong wind, whale spouts, clearing skies—and when darkness fell, reality set in.
“Welcome to the Hell Ship,” Callahan said, lighting a cigarette. “We’re in for a long night.”
The Anjouan-registered Shissiwani-II was an old 120-foot Norwegian trawler, a sad and filthy hunk of rusted iron, topping maybe four knots at full throttle, overloaded with cargo and smelly Comorians. The ship had no toilets, no food, no lights, no shelter, nowhere to sleep, only a few dirty plastic chairs to sit on. The crossing was to consume 14 hours: 10 hours of sailing followed by four hours on the boat outside Mutsamudu’s harbor, waiting for the Anjouan customs office to open.
The lower decks were littered with garbage, bits of rope and wire, dirt, plastic bags, bald tires, goats, ratty chickens running amok. Up on the top deck, where we were crammed in with the other passengers, were lines of the crew’s drying clothes, flapping in the wind—not much else except a few crates of bottles and chunky rice sacks of dubious contents. The air smelled of shit, diesel smoke, sweat, and vomit.
Eventually the crowd fell silent. Immense darkness at sea, a sliver of moon, countless stars and the Southern Cross. Judging from the rough sea, there was plenty of swell. I tried to doze partially supine on some chunky bags, but a man soon scolded me—“Fragile!” People were jammed into corners and in the corridors, sleeping almost on top of each other. The deck was layered with spew. I put my iPod on and tried to zone out for the duration, but its battery died as we neared Anjouan, which was sighted at 1:45 a.m.