Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A SPECIAL NIGHT... SHRIMPING. Part 2

This is a story, called 'A special night, that I wrote about a night that Paul and I did a reportage on SHRIMPING.

Part 2

1... I noticed how green-grey Paul had turned; his eyes wide open, concentrating on a point somewhere behind me. Or maybe he was looking for the shore?

(This is an image of a similar trawler trying to overtake us, I guess they have to include this kind of sport before the reality of the long hard night or maybe it's just a male thing? HIHI...sorry guys. (#_#))

A wave of sympathy shot through my fragile stomach.

With shaky fingers he took two pills, trying to swallow them and nodded at me that everything would be all right

I saw Sylvain’s hand reach for another cigar.

I turned my face towards the open window, hoping for some cool air, but hit a wall of warm motor fumes.

Poor Paul looked even more sallow now. I beckoned him to trade places, but it was too late. He barely had the time to quickly waltz out.

The fried egg, that he so lovingly cooked that evening, against my better judgement, disappeared into the sea.

Danny kindly slowed down a bit.

When he came back in, Danny consoled him saying that he should not feel any shame and that for his first eight years at sea, he had been seasick each time, and even now, when he changed boats, he still had it, and that the best Paul could do, was have something to eat.

Promptly Paul’s torso disappeared over the side again.

The two men soon lost interest. They listened on the radio to their pals were telling the story of a recent drinking adventure, with glee in their voices.



2 …The matey, now outside, scurried around, untying nets.

Mounted on each side of the boat, were huge metal triangular structures, weighted with rusty chains and lead, attached to a pulley-system.

As the engine revved, I saw both constructions being slowly lowered. The boat stretching out its iron elbows, as the massive wheels creaked under the pull of the cables.

Danny was commanding the operation from inside, from another panel with knobs and handles.

They were now ready for the first trawl, in a rush to drag the nets on the bottom of the sea and catch its riches, avoiding the treacherous sandbanks and debris, remnants of war and disaster.

Too many of these boats had capsized, often ending in fatal tragedy affecting the whole fishing community.

Once the “elbows” were out, the rhythm of the boat became much more stable. Now like the others it looked like a pair of scales, yes, well balanced, ploughing through the sea, slowed down by the motion and the heavy netting.


3 ...The sun played hide and seek in a dramatic sky, sinking steadily into the sea, whilst shining eerie white rays from behind the dark clouds.

The water a black moving mass, except where the sun reached, it became molten gold.

I zoomed in on boats fishing in the distance and felt great excitement with the wonderful images I was seeing through the lens, and immortalising.

All too soon, darkness fell upon us.

As I used 400 ASA film, I pushed the limits, keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a fantastic result. This was hit and miss stuff. Ah well…

We sailed straight into the sunset.

Danny turned on the lights. It was obvious that from now on, the activity was going to take place at the stern.

The metal beams came up, carrying full nets, a rain of seawater pouring from them as they swung in, towards the back, nudged along by Danny.                                                                                                                                                     




4 ...Here the night and all the work really started. Danny grabbed the nets and released the knots holding the catch and with a whoosh everything flooded into a square metal trough.

He was wearing heavy-duty rubber gloves to spread out the mountain of glistening sea-life.

I stood looking in wonder at this wriggling and flapping mass.

Some additional info:

To avoid by-catch of juvenile fishes selectivity devices are assembled (sieve nets, sorting grids, escape holes). The towing speed for shrimp is between 2,5 and 3 knots. When the beam trawl is used for shrimping, the foot rope is held off the seabed by setting a string of wooden rollers ahead of the foot rope. This allows unwanted species, such as starfish and crabs, to escape under the belly of the net. The shrimp, stimulated by the approaching rollers, jump vertically and are caught in the net.





5 …The men started to sort instantly, shoving the shrimps through a side chute into a shiny drum – horizontal, two cylinders with holes, turning one inside the other, the shrimps in the inner one being rinsed constantly by seawater. Small crabs and young shrimps gushed out and washed back into the sea. From the middle drum came baskets full of shrimps.

The burner was lit under a tall round kettle, where seawater was brought to the boil and the shrimps thrown in.
Sylvain added a handful of something. Seeing my questioning look, he said: “It’s chicory granules, good for the taste, and gives them a shine and lovely pink-brown colour.”
If I were to tell you that there’s a huge difference in taste, and I'm an expert on the matter, it’s all down to the cooking!
Now and then he lifted the lid releasing a steaming aromatic cloud.
Danny continued picking out sole, starfish, jellyfish, crabs and other fishies. Everything too small or unwanted was thrown back into the sea.
He showed me the different types. There was a tiny ray, very dangerous, colloquially called (colloquially) a “policefish”, which was so deadly that if you were stung by the spike on its back, you’d have to raise the alert immediately, so they could come out and air-lift you to hospital.
I noticed when he took off his gloves, that he was missing part of his thumb and his index finger on his right hand. He became conscious of it and hid his hand.
I later heard from his mum, that he lost them years ago in an accident. His hand got entangled in metal chains while hauling in the netting.



6 ... … The green neon light above the work area mixed with the white spotlight, the golden glow of the flames and the steam made for a ghostly atmosphere.
This is probably my absolute favourite, I love the atmosphere, maybe because I still feel the emotion when I saw it in my lens!
That neg needed a lot of TLC(tender loving care), I wanted to do it justice.
…The next batch was poured into the kettle, while the steaming cooked shrimps stood, cooling down, in the officially approved rectangular plastic trays, ready for the fish-market.
By then the nets were dragging the sea-bottom again.
Danny and Sylvain stepped into the wheelhouse to drink hot coffee from their flasks. They poured something out of a bottle into the cups.
Danny winked at me and said: “It’s cold out there!”
I agreed. He nodded encouragingly and offered the small bottle. I declined with a smile. He shrugged and put it away.
...Danny and Sylvain were still hard at work. The nets had to be rinsed, 
Sylvain rinsed containers, hosed the deck, kept an eye on the stove, boiling with their last catch of shrimps.
I found Danny, next to the wheel house, sifting through the cooling shrimps. I went up and asked if I could join him.
Sifting was done in a wooden tray with a mesh bottom, strapped in, so that it could gently rock back and forth, getting rid of tiny shells, fish and crabs. The rest was hand picked by us. He taught me a bit more about sea-life and told some stories.

Gradually the air warmed up, the light becoming brighter.
The end of a hard night, the start of a glorious day.  

So, end of part 2, read part 3? Thanks, M, (*_*)

TO USE ANY OF MY images or TEXT on websites, blogs or any other media without my explicit permission. © All rights reserved

1 comment:

danesejoan said...

Magda,
Not only do I love your photos, I also love your words and ability to tell such an enthralling story! I am so glad I found you through Google+/Women in Photography! Looking forward to following you and your husband's adventures in the future. :)