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Abandoned teak rice barges, SE Asia



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Above is a gas station in SE Asia. You see them like this even in downtown Saigon circa 2021. The rack of "whiskey bottles" is really a rack of bottles of gasoline. Better stations have several grades of different colors. You must try to guess how many bottles you need to top-up because if you order one too many and the tank overflows, there are no refunds. Street dogs hang around looking for opportunities to snatch snacks -- or bite legs. Whichever. Some "stations" like this will try to add various substances to the mix to increase their profits. Your vehicle might run after a fill-up, or it might not. You pays your money and you takes your chances.


IMMEDIATELY ABOVE: I was fishing commercially off the coast of Washington/Oregon, USA, in the mid 1970's. Maybe 200 miles out. It was a mostly clear day, high cirrus clouds with a slight and very spotty and diffused layer of cumulus below it (thunderheads that never formed). Blue sky poked through prominently enough. The Coast Guard had been warning us by sideband for a few days of what was to come. We didn't think much of it. "Something" had happened in Europe and there was a gargantuan radiation leak. For the life of me I can't remember what the event was. Think 1974-1976. The resultant radioactive cloud was headed exactly for our position and we could track it by the hour. When it was due soon, we started watching for it, thinking there would be nothing to see at all but still curious. It showed up a little early because we were so far west, and it was moving eastward, having covered Japan in the days before. At first we could see what looked like just a weather front far on the western horizon, about 12:00 hours. As it came closer we realized it had "definition", like giant blurry globs of things were inside it. Godzilla came to mind for an instant. Of course it towered higher and higher as it approached. We wondered if it would bring wind. It became quite brown and fairly dark -- maybe darker than I have portrayed here. The sea took on the oddest hue I have ever seen -- sort of a burned mercury look. There was a twinge of orange in the cloud but areas of nearly black. Overall the perception was of dark and darker grainy browns and a bit of yellow. We didn't know how big the cloud was nor how long it would last as it moved toward and over us, but we were surprised when the front -- because it wasn't merely a cloud -- when the front, which extended from horizon to horizon, began to smell. The odor was generally of something sickly and burnt. At first we thought it smelled like burned electrical wiring, but that wasn't quite it. Then we began to fancy that it smelled like burned flesh and plastic -- but there was no known (or reported) mass casualty that might account for that. It smelled, rather, like the very fabric of life had been electrified severely and then dumped into the atmosphere, enough to cover several states. How that phenomenon could ever comprise a smell I do not know. We had never smelled anything like it and never did again. It took about six hours to pass completely and we wondered if we were getting "dosed". The Coast Guard radio did warn us of that. Once back ashore we found that the general population of at least two states in certain regions was reportedly receiving the equivalent of from two to four chest X-rays per day. Milk had to be imported for weeks and many food products had to be discarded for as long or longer. I've tried all these years to find and photograph a sky that resembled that strange cloud and never did. So I created this look with filters. Clearly this phenomenon didn't give me cancer. Yet. I'm old now and feeling fine. So far. If you go to sea for your whole life you will see and feel and hear things. This was just one of those things.


Above: Lucky to have survived their outing. There is virtually NO enforcement of safety standards (such as overloading) in SE Asia and the fatality rates are testament to that. As captain of a rescue vessel through 321 rescues, my advice is this: If you must travel on a dodgy boat with a dodgy skipper strap your life jacket on tightly and sit on the stern transom if you can, near the center. That way when the boat rolls, you can jump either to port or starboard, and maybe not get trapped underneath it.




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With MyMateNate!
n Jomtien, Chonburi, Thailand!
December, 2021



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