Sea History 075 - Autumn 1995

Page 47


Christmas at A.ntofa9asta by Fred Klebingat

hristmas is comin' soon," said begin to be di scharged aga in and great had in the boat last Sunday," sa id the Captain Koester, sk ipper of the clouds of coa l dust would enve lope the Captain . " A thing like that can be a four-masted ba rk Anna, ex- ship. So, tem poraril y free of dust, Cap- turning point, a serious matter for a Otterburn once belonging to Shankland- tain Koester enjoyed hi s morning walk vessel' s di sc ipline. I-you-could find on the ship 's poop. He was a man of that our authority begin s to slip ." Burns, but now sai ling from Breme n. "Yes," said Gau, the Mate or Steueraverage hei ght, corpulent, and in hi s I was one of the men who pulled the mann, " this wi ll be the second Christmas fifties . Hi s face was adorned with great boat that day and so I knew all about it. away from home." whiskers. Hi s deportment commanded The starboard wa,tch began to fi ght among "A nd God only knows where we'l l be respect. Gau , the mate, was a few inches themselves while coming off from shore, the Christmas after that," the Captain shorter, well built, a man with a walrus and pretty soon they didn't know who replied in a reflective mood. moustache. He had a ki nd disposition for was hitting whom. They put up a grand It was December 1907. The Anna was a mate and was about ten years younger scrap for all those on the different ships to see, and it was a wonder they did not anchored at Antofagasta, a port in Chi le than the Captain . just south of the tropics. She had come "I wonder what the men have up their caps ize the boat. Some of the ships' from Newcastle, New South Wales, with sleeves this Christmas, Steuermann?" said crews thought that would happen, so a fu ll cargo of coal, and after a somewhat the Captain to Gau. He slow ly stroked they jumped into their boats to resc ue us, boi sterous voyage of forty-five days, she his whiskers and said, "It was certa inly a if that should be necessary . Drunk as had anchored at thi s roadstead in the lee great Christmas they thought up las t year they were, the Anna crew fin ally came to of the barren foot hill s of the the conclusion that the boat was Andes. A large white anchor not the place for a fi ght and In this [area], we set the treepostponed it until they came painted on the mountainside had g iven us the location of the po11. aboard. I did not see the last our tannenbaum memory of About forty ships, square rigpart of it, as I was detailed to a forested land in another hemisphere secure the g ig. gers and a few schooners, too, The Captain re lit hi s pipe were anchored here in four tiers, a continent and an ocean away. and carried on. " It 's that damn the ir bows headed westward ' Pisco,' Steuermann. That is toward the open Pacific, anchored and sec ured fore and aft. They put whe n we were ' running the easting the cause of it. Whe n they get drunk on me in mind ofan array of curtseying c ircus down, ' somewhe res south of the Cape of it , it sets them nuts but does not lay them out. " horses, as their bows rose and fe ll in Good Hope. " uni son to the tremendous westerly swells The Mate watched a pass ing empty "This bunch never does things by halves ," said Gau. lighter for a minute or two .... "Our men that never seemed to end. "I recall that Eq uator-crossing celebra- have gained a reputation ," he said. "They Most of these vessels had come here with coa l from Europe or Australia, but tion about a year and a half ago," said are supposed to be the toughest birds that there were quite a few ships loaded with Captain Koester. "That was something." ever manned a ship." Gau lit hi s pipe and walked to the rail lumber from the Pacific Northwest. Af" Not onl y at thi s port," replied Capter discharg ing, some of these wou ld and threw the match overboard , then tain Koester, " but also at Caleta Coloso load nitrate for home , but others were replied , " At times, I' ve wished they were and Mejillones. And even Stevenson, condem ned to a never-ending run be- less belligerent and not so hilarious , es- the stevedore, has asked me how I manage tween Australia and Chi le. pecially when they ' re as hore and return to handle a bunch of gallows birds .. . I tell everyone that if they leave the 'Pisco' There was the Whitlieburn astern of on board. " us loading nitrate, and she wo uld have I happened to hear all this as "Chips," alone, they're the best crew I ever had ." There reall y is not much to go as hore the last sack on board before Christmas the carpen ter, had detailed me to put in a and be bound for Europe. On the other grav ing piece in the deck before I'd be for at these so-ca lled harbors situated quarter was the Tarpenbek unloading sent in the ho ld to shovel coal. between Valparai so and Call ao on the "You are talking abo ut the fight they west coast of South America .. . . Thi s is lum ber, and she also wou ld leave before the Atacama Desert, a the holidays and go to California fora load of parched coastline where wheat and then sail to even a cactus would have Falmouth, Eng land, a hard time to survive. And harbors? These are for orders. There was a scaronly indentations in the coastline, all are open to city of I ighters this morning, although the crew sti11 was standing by ready to discharge The German bark Anna, exOtterburn , on wh ich th is coal and the steam was episode recalled by Fred up in the ship ' s donKlebingat took place, is key. It was only a matseen here at Co111111enceter of time before a 111e111 Bay near Ta coma , li g hte r wou ld come Washington, somerime beand the cargo would tween J893 and J895 . SEA HISTORY 75, AUTUMN 1995