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The last step I take on European soil is from the grey, cracked cement slab of Churchilldok in Antwerp to the yellow bottom panel of the gangway of the Bright Sky.
At breakfast, I ask the captain if I could go on the dock to photograph the loading operation. He makes no objections. The cargo agent of MACS is also present at breakfast and suggests that I should leave as soon as possible, as heavy snowfall had been predicted for two hours later. And really, as I look out the window, the first flakes are falling. Although the light is not yet ideal, I decide to go to the dock and take pictures.
While they are loading, I have to be extremely careful on the dock. Several cranes are in action and lift weighty things onto the ship. Forklift trucks and tractors drive around with more cargo.
I walk around the ship in a semicircle and take pictures of all the action. Then I look at the supplied freight. A whole series of trucks from England and Ireland are standing around, all with a sticker indicating that they are going to Walvis Bay. Actually, Namibia has a law according to which no vehicles older than ten years may be imported. But here are real oldtimers. Many of the cars are, in my eyes, no longer roadworthy. I’m horrified to think about them being allowed to drive on the streets of Namibia.
The captain had been annoyed in the morning that the customers had booked space for one car on the ship, but then delivered several vehicles. On a large truck, there is a smaller truck with a Sprinter on it, loaded with heavy machines. These constructions are tightly secured to each other but still unstable and painful to load and to fasten in time. Here I now see such car stacks.
Then I make my last step on European soil, go up the gangway and back on the ship.
At the moment I am busy with two things during the day; sometimes at the same time: taking pictures and preparing the cameras for the next action, i.e. copying memory cards onto the computer and loading batteries. I don’t have time to look at the photos, let alone edit them. Later there must be time for it.
At lunch, I ask the cargo manager of MACS about the load. In the cargo hold directly in front of my window cable reels had been loaded during the night. They were covering the floor of the large cargo hold. He tells me that one of the reels weighs on average 12 tons and has an average price of a small car: 18 000 €. These are bundled cables for cars.
In the afternoon, I go on to the bridge and photograph how the trucks for Namibia are loaded on the ship. Chains are attached to four points of the car, and then a crane lifts them into the hold. If you look at the photos, you might think that toy cars are being shipped. You have to experience this to know what it is like.
The latest MACS timetables are available at dinner, as is the Bright Sky timetable. We will leave tomorrow at noon and land in Walvis Bay on February 17th. But this date is still inaccurate. The captain already says that he wants to drive slowly through the English Channel to have better weather in the Bay of Biscay. I think we will have a real arrival date only at the equator.
The captain lent me a book: “Endurance” by Sean Kelly. Sean Kelly spent over a year in space on the ISS studying the effects of weightlessness on humans. The captain thinks the book is excellent and when I mentioned that I find everything about space travel and astronauts interesting, he took it with him. On the one hand, the ISS has nothing to do with the ship’s journey, but the ISS is also a ship – a spaceship. Perhaps the ISS of today is more comparable to the sailing ships of the Portuguese seafarers 500 years ago, who set off to search for the sea route to India and thus broaden their horizons? Perhaps the space flight of the future will become as routine as the loading of the Bright Sky today?
In the evening, a suspended ceiling is pulled over the cable reels. Then steel plates are laid and secured against shifting with wooden blocks.
Would you like to see an overview of all articles about my journey on the cargo ship Bright Sky? Click here for a table of contents.