4. Koei Maru 30

Another snippet of time to upload a few more diary entries from my 1988 adventure in the Falklands. It really is quite a moving experience for me to read through and reproduce this journal, especially digging out my photographs and digitising my slides. Much of what happened in this special year has been in my head, but I am surprised by how much I had forgotten. 

This time I get to sea at last, but it is not the easiest of transitions…

Tuesday 15 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

At last I am on board my first jigger, the Koei Maru 30 (a Japanese ship that I will have to become familiar with, since it will be my home for the next few months). I arrived on the boat yesterday with John Barton (who then returned to Port Stanley) and have settled in fairly well.

I slept very badly, but at least I slept. I hope to spend most of my day sleeping so that I can adapt to working nights. We were due to leave Berkeley Sound last night, but instead won’t leave until tonight…transhipping is taking much longer than expected.

I know I shall be lonely here – there are only a couple of people on board who speak English, and they seem reluctant to talk to me. I am already bored – I will have to get into some good books. I also know that once we get out to sea I shall start getting seasick – it is my destiny.

Isn’t it bloody typical, I have to keep a record, just like everyone else, except my log is going to be published as part of my role on a jigger/long-liner. I hate that kind of responsibility…I only hope I am up to it.

Wednesday 16 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

My whole life is being turned upside down. Night is to become my day and day is to become my night. All this to get accustomed to inside a box (my cabin), which behaves like a lift passing rapidly between the ground and first floor of a hotel or department store. Although I haven’t yet been physically sick, and there is still time for that, I have been tired and queasy.

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Squid jigging began very early this morning (at 1am) and I took a sample at 2am which I finished at 4am. I slept until 3pm or so this afternoon, but am still tired.

The task in hand is most unpleasant and the better and faster I get at it, the happier I will be. I cannot truthfully say I am enjoying any of this, or not yet at least. When I listen to my tapes, I just get homesick and depressed.

The food has been ok but is all very samey and I am getting sick of it. Oh for a bottle of cool milk.

Nobody told me that squid make squeaks. It makes the job much harder – I don’t like it – it isn’t fair catching so many like this, just the same way purse-seining is ruthless. The poor bastards don’t have a chance. All to end up as someone’s lunch. Let’s go veggie!

(I ought to point out at this juncture that the previous paragraph was something quite out of character for me. I was a confirmed carnivore, and spurned vegetables at every opportunity and was an incredibly fussy eater. Being exposed to a Japanese cuisine was something of a challenge for me)

The crew are beginning to acknowledge me but their English is so limited, like my Japanese.

Thursday 17 March. Koei Maru 30

No change of address yet, sorry. This morning is now tonight and I am just about to shower and go to bed, it is 7.30am. Many people will be able to identify with this problem, nurses, doctors, night-shift workers of any kind. It is an unkind way of living – artificial daylight – it makes me feel so seedy, or like I am spending my life in a Safeway supermarket – at the fish counter!

I am over the worst of my queasy feelings and am able to attack the beer in my fridge. I don’t know whether I mentioned it or not, but I was given a case of beer and a bottle of Japanese whiskey on arrival by the fishing master. He is the most gentlemanly of the whole crew, and the senior officer. The captain looks and behaves like a wild man. These men are not the well-groomed, tidy, automaton-like, businessmen I always associate with Japan. far from it…they are rough, tough, informal, friendly fishermen, as fishermen the world over tend to be. There is little that is typically Japanese about this lot, except the shoe ceremony, which I shall describe at some other date.

I will complete today’s entry in about 8-9 hours or so, which for me will be tomorrow. Incidentally, my dreams last night (night/day) were all about flying or acrobatics. (the effect of the rise and fall of the boat?). I could fly. It was great!

Breakfast was divine. Yucky eggs, cucumber and lettuce, but also yummy steaks mmmmm, it was good. I did my sampling early to get the first one out of the way and also to avoid the crew (I didn’t want to be in their way). As it turned out I did get in their way.

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3. Preparing to go to sea

Thursday 10 March 1988. Port Stanley

Up early (7.30am) -ish to go to a seminar on board the Falkland Desire (research vessel). Fortunately the sun was out and it has been a pleasant day. There is a quality of light here, it is so clear and bright.

The seminars were on the whole fairly boring and I didn’t make notes, a mistake perhaps.

I discovered the bank and the Post Office and am just about to post my first three letters (Deb, Ma and Ad and G&G K). They will not go until Saturday.

Lobster Krill washed up on the tide line, Port Stanley March 1988
Lobster Krill washed up on the tide line, Port Stanley March 1988

I spoke to an Italian fisheries man, Dr Luigi Giannini, over lunch (king crab, beef etc.). He gave me his business card and an open invitation to meet up.

I drove the long wheel-base Land Rover to FIPASS. I am now going out to pose a bit with my camera. ‘Til later, ciao.

I have just been subjected to the most horrendous half hour of my life so far, here in the Falklands. It was a meal of rice and chilli con carne type of thing with beans (kidney?) and baked beans. I was gagging and almost puked several times. What a horrid experience. I couldn’t finish it.

Friday 11 March 1988. Port Stanley

So far on subsistence alone I have notched up some £115 in 4 nights, can’t be bad. I have done very little real work, although I am almost completely sorted out for going to sea. Another beautiful day – the difference between this place and any other I have been to is that you can see for miles, there is no mist or haze in this sunlight. It is clean here. I have driven both Rovers now and can’t say I like either of them. Bizarre road rules include giving way to hills and to the right. I don’t understand myself, but I am a bit stupid with these things.

Tonight is Friday night and it is fish and chips (relief). It is the horrible food which is driving me to sea, I can’t wait to be on board a jigger, but I may have to wait now until mid-week. I am beginning to pick up the storyline of the Archers – oh my God, what is life coming to?

The past two days I have seen the same elderly bearded man fixing exactly the same fence in exactly the same place at the infant and junior school. Things can take forever here. I found the Co-op today and went to the West Store and Farmers Store to get a hold-all (brill) boots and overalls. I still need some kit, mainly a hacksaw for removing otoliths from very large fish.

I have just taken some pictures of one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, the pink and orange mackerel sky to the West. I took about six pictures and hope at least one comes out as it was. Fish and Chips – here we come.

Saturday 12 March 1988. Port Stanley

First film of 24 exposures is finished – I think I booked real bad…I opened the camera, so I must start again and retake as many of the pictures as I can.

I spent much of the morning doing what I had travelled so far from London to escape, namely data entry onto a computer. I was given the afternoon off because I go to sea for sure on Monday and tomorrow I see my first squid – what a joke! I am a little bit miffed because I will be boarding the ship alone without guidance for the first couple of days.

I had a walk out of Stanley up towards Tumbledown Mountain. I took stacks of photographs of geese (Upland and Kelp) and washed up lobster krill. I also went to the Co-op to buy some provisions for the trip. I may be at sea for three weeks – it is very likely.

It has been so hot today. I was not expecting that.

Falkland Islands 29p stamp, March 1988
Falkland Islands 29p stamp, March 1988

Sunday 13 March 1988. Port Stanley

My last day in Stanley and blazing hot too. I am exhausted, too tired to write, I have sunburn (face and arms) and am aching (ankles and back). Walked for miles with Crag and took tons of pictures. I will fill in the detail tomorrow…meanwhile, night night.

AFC lost 1-2 v Nottingham Forest in the cup.

2. Leaving and arriving

Well my ‘flu has subsided, thank heavens, I genuinely don’t think I have ever felt so ill in my life before. I am still not back at work, and have been keen to use the quiet time to continue with laying down the journal I kept in 1988 when I visited the Falkland Islands as a Scientific Officer with the fisheries department.

It should be obvious from the journal itself, but my girlfriend at the time was called Deborah. The next few entries describe some of the upset of leaving loved ones behind. It was tough, but exciting too.

Thursday 3 March 1988. Montague Place, London

It is these pages which I shall return to for home comforts during those ‘black’ periods I am sure to have on my voyages. I shall remember the bomb site loosely described as my bedroom. Remember the phone call with Deborah in which she told me she was coming to London tonight and not tomorrow afternoon as planned.

Every time I go away I spend a fair amount of my time recording music – I don’t know where I would be without music. Jim said that rechargeable batteries are essential – I may have to get some. Also, I may copy him and get a small electric organ, for hours of composition fun.

Tonight I say my farewells to Dad, he is taking Karen and me to a restaurant somewhere in the St Martin’s Lane area.

Deborah’s present is great – I wish someone would buy ‘Hockney, a Retrospective’ for me!

It seems that I, like everyone else, buy presents which I myself would only love to receive given half a chance.

I said my farewell to Sean – he will keep me posted re AFC. I hope he keeps his word.

I received my ticket this morning – no turning back now. I think I ought to give Neil Downs a buzz.

Saturday 5 March 1988. Montague Place, London

A lovely meal at the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory and a drink at le Beaujolais was as much of a send-off as anyone could ask for.

Seeing Deborah off was painful – I didn’t think I would cry, but it was inevitable. Everyone tries to kid me that (5) 10 months is such a short time. It isn’t.

My coat problem was solved today – Richard gave me a Barbour type coat when Deb and I went to say goodbye. I shall see such a change in Helen when I get back. I have a stack of clothes and bits to take.

The Lucian Freud exhibition at the Hayward was enjoyed far more by Deb than by me.

Sunday 6 March 1988. Montague Place, London

I am not certain, but I could be terrified. It is all still unreal. Less than 24 hours, and my adventure will have begun. I would like to think that I could be home with the snap of the fingers, but must be content without any such luxury. Everything is set and ready to begin.

I will miss very much everyone whom I love and this makes me sad, but this cannot hold me back. Missing Deborah already. Very much. How is she so understanding?

Some things have been left undone, but I do have tomorrow.

My next entry will probably not be made for a couple of days, although I hope I can do some writing on the aeroplane.

I am too tired to stay awake, too excited to sleep.

Arsenal beat Spurs 2:1 at Highbury.

(At this point there are letters from both of my grandmothers stuck into my journal. They are both personal and very touching. Sadly both have since passed away, but their advice, love and guidance was an essential part of this extraordinary year)

I love my grandparents. They write so well.

(There were a couple of further cuttings in my journal, the last ones before leaving the UK. The first is an article from the Sunday Times on 6 March 1988, which was a little unsettling, and the other was the standings in the Barclays League First Division. I wasn’t going to let a few thousand miles stand between me and football!).


Wednesday 9 March 1988. Port Stanley

The flight, although very long, was ok. I think boredom was the most challenging problem to overcome. The jet, a tri-star, was rather like a bus or a coach, very smooth. Ascension was like a Dr Who set, lava and dust everywhere. I picked up a small piece of lava from the airstrip. It was very hot, 80 degrees at 7:30 in the morning, and I could have happily stayed there.

On to the Falklands. I don’t feel I’m here – getting down was so easy, I could just as easily be in a small Cornish village.the buildings are colonial wooden or post-colonial wooden and corrugated iron.

My first task today was to accompany ‘the Warrah’ a small patrol vessel, to Berkeley sound for some checking up on jiggers, trawlers and reefers. It was quite rough but the Stugeron sent me to sleep. I saw my first wild dolphins today, and Gentoo penguins and steamer ducks too. The cormorants here have white breasts.

Jim went to sea in a Taiwanese jigger – he was not too happy about it.

And so my journey had begun. I am enjoying reading through my journal, bringing to life some experiences that happend half a lifetime ago. I will try to make time to do another upload soon.

Stephen

1. An Ill Wind

I have chosen to begin my journey into blogging by revisiting an adventure I had when I was a youthful man of 24 years, and had the world at my feet.

The title reflects more the circumstances I find myself in right now – I have ‘flu and am at home with a few moments to write – than anything directly related to my story.

  • It is an Ill wind that blows nobody any good. Often misunderstood. The saying is based on the premise that when something is bad, someone else will usually benefit. However, it must be very bad, when nobody at all benefits. (Thanks Wikipedia, you have no idea how I have struggled to explain this to people).

On 22 February 1988, I received a letter from Peter Derham Associates Ltd, which was to change my life. I had a job offer to work in the Falkland Islands as a Fisheries Scientist.

I had been to University to study Marine Biology, and then took further studies in Fisheries Biology and Management, so I suppose it was a job offer that was too good to turn down. And it sure beat the hell out of the dismal temp jobs I had in London – photocopying flunky, stock-taking minion and billing accounts checker for a heating firm.

On the downside, I would miss my girlfriend and family terribly, and I was really entering unknown territory. I was a good traveller, with plenty of ‘Inter-rails’ and other trips under my belt, but this was a little more serious.

I had no time to fuss though, my flights, pending a medical examination, were booked for the 4th March – an incredibly short 10 days away.

Now to the point of this blog. I kept a log of my entire experience, and now have the opportunity, thanks to the incredible Interweb, to share the diary. I wrote it with the show-off inside me believing that it would interest others in time. I am not certain that will be the case, but I am rather looking forward to reproducing pages from the diary over the coming weeks and months. I hope you enjoy it too.

Enough already with the introduction, let’s get into the story with a beginning, a middle and an end, but without a deliberate or contrived plot. It is what it is, what it was.

Wednesday 2 March 1988. Montague Place, London.

I will always try to keep this diary as up to date as possible, but my past experience(s) is (are) not encouraging. I could make an introduction about how private this journal is etc., but it may be my intention for people to read this (if they can) after I return.

For two weeks now, since I heard about the job and made the decision to take it, I have been haring around London buying clothes, camera, pen-knife, Walkman, marmite, Stugeron, writing paper, books. I still haven’t finished. I have also visited Bangor with Andy and been to Newcastle to see Deb. That was last weekend.

My preparations are almost complete, but I bet I forget some things. Jim and I had a great chat yesterday. It brought me down to earth with a bit of a thump, thud, bang or crash and made the Falkland Islands a little bit more real.

I am very much looking forward to going, but will miss Deb, the family and friends. I am sure I can cope with the loneliness, and after all, it is a small price to pay to have a job which is really ideal for me. (Update 27 April 1988 – This is not true. It is a large price to pay!).

I hope I don’t get seasick!

I will continue with the blog, when next I have a moment.

Stephen