Thursday, April 16, 2009

Windjammer round Cape Horn

Irving Johnson took a movie camera with him on this voyage from Hamburg to Talcahuano. Bird Dog, at Maggie's Farm, calls it "The Best Video of 1929." I'm inclined to agree. 36 minutes and some seconds, all of it riveting.

This is how cargo shipping with zero carbon footprint was done. When I see Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd setting sail in square-riggers, I might take them a little more seriously.

Update: That bit about cargo shipping with zero carbon footprint reminds me of a song. (Funny, as I get older, everything seems to remind me of a song.) This time, it's Larry Kaplan's "Old Zeb," about Captain Zebulon Tilton of Martha's Vineyard. (Listen to it here.) The verse that's apropos goes like this:

Any fool can work an engine, it takes brains to work a sail,
And I never seen no steamer get much good out of a gale.
You can go and pay your taxes on the rationed gas you get
But at least for me, the wind is free, and they haven't run out yet.
The tradeoff, of course there is a tradeoff, is that a modern vessel needs far fewer crewmen, and the crewmen are much more likely to come home. Note that two men were lost on the voyage around Cape Horn in the video linked above.