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Fishing Mauretania

Von Autor Erdmann Wingert

The fishing grounds off the Mauretanian coast could be mistaken for a floating junkyard. When a Spanish boat goes down, the sailors end up on the hospital ship “Esperanza del Mar.”

Captain Jorge García-Casilla smokes a cigarette, red-eyed. “Damn Russians think they own the ocean,” he remarks. Last night in the dark, a larger Russian vessel had nearly rammed and sunk the hospital ship. Even outside shipping lanes, container ships and tankers can crush smaller boats like nutshells. The crew’s amateur historian has marked the casualties on a chart on the wall next to the radio room: More than 70 ships represented by crosses off Cape Corbeiro between the 17th and 27th degrees of latitude. Capsized in storms, run down by larger ships, or hijacked, looted and burned. A shelf full of health records in the fileroom below decks tells of 60,000 men with crushed hands, amputated legs, wounds from knife fights, broken ribs, errant fishhooks, delirium tremens, paranoid schizophrenia, gonorrhea, tuberculoses, malaria, AIDS …