…are gone with time.
The endless days and stories of a tuna pilot go on during February and March. Few fishings, tedious weather, the same food as always. The helicopter pilot Alfonso Vega explains that during the month of February the are surfing the Pacific Ocean, including Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati. One of these days, the storm began to intensify with such force that the crew began to tie the ropes and all equipments on the boat’s deck, including nets, auxiliary boats, passing lights, fishing equipment and all kinds of tools and instrumental . Alfonso Vega and his mechanic went up the helideck, despite the rolling waves and wind intensity and carefully tied the helicopter. They paid special attention to the blades of the helicopter, very carefully, because they may suffer considerable damage.
In the kitchen during dinner, the strong waves hiting the tuna boat made everything fell down . The impact of the waves on the boat was so intense that the crew had to hold themselves to the railings to move around the ship and they were forbidden to access to the deck. Although those instructions were given in Korean, the radio operator translated that to my brother, who tried to sleep instead of the boat’s movement. After a sleepless night due to the constant slamming, Alfonso went up on deck to watch the spectacle of waves exceeding seven meters above the waterline of the bow and reaching the bridge crystals. Despite being eleven meters above sea level, the helicopter suffered constant shakes by the sea. My brother, aware of the damage that saltpeter may cause in all gears, did a very careful inspection of the helicopter and cleaning with fresh water to prevent its corrosion.
That afternoon, with the storm in full swing, the Korean tuna boat engine stopped because of a strong slamming, forcing the captain to continue for four hours adrift south direction, trying to reduce the impact of waves on the ship. The night came and the storm recrudesced. The tuna boat turned over to 45 degrees, causing that everything that my brother had on a shelf fell (clothes, life jacket, books and his “appreciated Nutella”).
After several days of “perfect storm” in late February, the weather calmed down and Alfonso went back flying in an area where other helicopters were seeking tuna banks. To avoid the collision between the helicopters all pilots communicated, giving their location and position. That night the air conditioning stopped working. At first my brother was happy (“Great! A lovely night without blankets and thermal shirt!”), but as the night advanced the heat became hell. My brother was about to go up to the deck to sleep, but the mechanic prohibited him to go, in order to avoid falling into the sea with the waves . “It makes sense, but when one is in a cell with three other men with no option to open a window, one can think of anything but safety”, says Alfonso.
Tarawa (Kiribati), in the Central Pacific Ocean
Since then until early March, my brother did not stop flying, up to seven hours to try to fill the cellar with the caughts, although the fishing was not very successful. A few days later he stopped flying due to the absence of fishing, and the captain decided to head to Tarawa (Kiribati), an atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean, to download the six hundred tons of fish before they lose their properties after several days frozen. Alfonso flew when they arrived in Tarawa and searched for nearby spot where he could relax and enjoy the beach and a peaceful place.
South Tarawa island is the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, famous because it was the scene of the Battle of Tarawa during the World War II. It was occupied by the Japanese until the 20th of November 1943, when the U.S. troops went ashore on Tarawa atoll despite the furious Japanese offensive.
And among the remnants of a bloody war is my brother, soon to bring us new stories, as fascinating as turbulent.