Seashell Series 2020
Original Photos by Barista Uno
Plagues do not come very often. But when they do, they cause a great deal of fear and consternation. The present coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted supply chains, wreaked havoc on stock markets, and sent people panic-buying in the supermarkets. The following quotes should provide some food for thought and perhaps even solace in this terrifying time.
There is a culture of greed in maritime Manila which reminds me of Gustave Doré‘s drawing of the greedy and indulgent pushing rocks in Dante’s Inferno. Not all have succumbed to the greed. I have known a few spirits whose kind-heartedness and generosity have helped preserve my faith in humanity. However, many folks, particularly in Manila’s manning community, have capitulated to Mammon, to the siren call of money. The following are two of my personal encounters with them, both excerpted from my e-book, Close Encounters in Maritime Manila:
Non-EU countries supplying crews to EU-flagged vessels undergo periodic inspections by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). Some may see this as outside interference, an assault even on national sovereignty. But that is just the way things are. Now, the EMSA inspectors can be a bit pedantic when it comes to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). They may nitpick or find fault in small details. The following may help maritime officials and training institutions brace themselves for the dreaded visit by EMSA:
I recently decided to do a new series of seashell photographs. Men drool over beautiful cars, but I am more fascinated with shells. As for photography, I see it as a new (at least for me) mode of expression — a respite from the sometimes arduous task of wresting with words. I hope you enjoy viewing the collection.
The STCW convention sets minimum standards for the training and certification of seafarers. That’s all well and good, but is competency enough for ship officers? Many a seasoned captain has figured in horrific sea accidents, not on account of bad weather or an unseaworthy vessel, but because of some character flaw.
Willem van de Velde II (1633–1707) was one of the leading Dutch marine painters of the 17th century, if not indeed the best amongst them. He was a consummate artist. He depicted fishing boats and naval ships with remarkable precision and artistic discipline — both of which he learned early in life from his father, a sailor and himself a gifted naval artist. Particularly noteworthy was Van de Velde II’s sensitivity to atmospheric changes and the subtle movement of clouds over calm or rough seas. Beyond the technical aspect, however, one gleans from his works the Dutch people’s special connection with the sea and deep pride in their maritime heritage.
Early this February, I invited photographers on Facebook to submit their photographic artworks depicting the sea for a special Marine Café Blog feature. The idea was to show how one can use digital technology to extend the boundaries of the imagination and create memorable images. Here, in no particular order, are the most striking of the works submitted:
Does a country pass or fail the inspections conducted by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to review its compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) ?
It may seem strange for Marine Café Blog to raise the question. After all, everyone has been talking of the Philippines having “failed” the string of EMSA audits since 2006. Filipino maritime officials are expressing optimism that the country will “pass” the next one in March 2020. In turn, the two terms are bandied about by the press, which has done a great deal of sloppy reporting on the subject.
Inspectors from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be in Manila shortly to check once more on the country’s compliance with the STCW convention. Unless they are wearing blinkers, they cannot possibly overlook one basic fact: there is still a glut of maritime schools.
Love is like rich and heady wine. It can intoxicate and send lovers to a state of euphoria as Polish artist Franciszek Zmurko (1859-1910) depicted in his painting, In Rapture. But with joy often comes tribulation and sorrow. The following are some unforgettable quotes from writers and philosophers who delved into one of most complex human emotions.
A girl in every port. The expression sums up the popular image of the sailor: an inveterate womaniser and skirt-chaser. The reputation, I think, is not wholly undeserved. With their pockets filled with dollars, seafarers get to meet women in all shapes and colours around the world. The temptation to have a fling can be too great to resist.
Some maritime Casanovas never change. They go on with their merry ways long after they have grown older and quit sailing. On the other hand, there are seamen who may have sown their wild oaths but eventually settled down and remained faithful to their wives. I have known both types. Many seafarers, I am sure, can identify themselves with the following artworks:
How many out of every 10 Filipino ship officers would do whatever they are told by their foreign captain? I once posed this question to a former chairman of the state marine licensing board in Manila, himself a licensed master mariner. Without hesitating in the least, he answered: “Eight out of 10.”
“That which is not slightly distorted,” wrote the French poet Charles Baudelaire, “lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity — that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”
The following works of marine art grab one’s attention precisely because they contain, in varying degrees, the distortion and irregularity that Baudelaire spoke of. They are not an imitation of reality. They are mirrors created by the artist to reflect that reality as much as their own inner thoughts and feelings.