The name Argentina comes originally from the Latin ‘argentum’ (silver) although, in Spanish, ‘plate’ has the same meaning and the country has Spanish roots going back to the year 1512. Argentina rose as successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata and the Spanish overseas colony was founded in 1776. It is the eighth largest country in the world and is bordered by Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay.
La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province, is a port some 100 miles from the entrance to the Rio de la Plata, and this is where we were headed with 16,000 tons of crude oil for the refinery. However, on the voyage through the Mediterranean Sea the ship developed problems which could only be rectified in a dockyard. The nearest dockyard, or perhaps the cheapest, was at Palermo in Sicily.
We spent a very enjoyable few days there with some adventures to remember – although one or two of them are not suitable for these pages!
After loading in Kuwait we proceeded via the Cape of Good Hope, a distance of 8,800 nautical miles, and were rewarded some 26 days later by the Third Officer telling us that we were in the River Plate. We rushed out to see land again but nothing could be seen and, smiling hugely, the officer told us that the river mouth was about 140 miles wide. However, the sea had changed colour from its normal blue to a dirty light brown, evidence of the huge amount of silt brought down from the hinterland.
This was confirmed later, when the ship lurched as she touched and slid along the muddy bottom of the river. Our Captain told us that it would remove all the barnacles and weed from the bottom of the ship!
About ten hours after entering we were berthed alongside the Armour Star meat factory and discharging the cargo through a pipeline that disappeared into the jetty.
Fascinated, we watched as, close by, a long train arrived at the plant, with the horns of the cattle visible through the gaps in the railway trucks. A ramp was lowered into the factory and gauchos shouted and pushed at the far end of the train, forcing the unfortunate beasts to stagger down the ramp to meet their end. It was almost enough to turn us into vegetarians.
As the port could not supply us with fuel for the return voyage, after discharging the cargo we proceeded to Montevideo in Uruguay, on the north side of the river’s entrance. We anchored near to where the Admiral Graf Spee was blown up and scuttled in December 1939, following a huge battle with the British cruisers, Exeter, Ajax and Achilles. The wreck could still be seen with the top hamper showing above water.
We managed to get ashore in Montevideo for a short sightseeing trip before we sailed again for the loading port so it might be said that we saw two ports for the price of one!
by Terry Took © 2016
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.