King Leopold's Ghost

Noon Position: 25 45.3 N 132 11.6 E
Course: West nor' west Speed: 6 knots
Wind: East nor' east, F4 moderate breeze
Sea: moderate Swell: north east 2 meters
Weather: overcast, drizzle, cool
Day's run: 136 nm

We continue to make good time in the fair breeze, though the sky has gradually grown overcast and a light steady drizzle has started to fall, It would seem the tropical depression way down south over the Philippines is making itself felt up here at 26 degrees north.. By tomorrow it will have squeezed the pressure gradient between here and there sufficiently to cause strong winds, and the warm air mass colliding with the colder air coming off the Asian continent is going to cause some heavy rainfall. However, so far all is going according to plan. I think we have managed to work ourselves sufficiently north to avoid the gale force winds that are indicated on the weather faxes to the south west of Okinawa and, with luck, we should continue to make good time towards Okinawa.
At this stage I reckon that we will get to the southern end of Okinawa sometime Friday forenoon. The big question is what will conditions be like once we round the corner and attempt to head north to Naha. It looks like headwinds, and depending on how strong they are will make a big difference as to how long it will take to cover this last remaining fifteen miles. The longer range forecast have the winds abating on Thursday and Friday but picking up again on Saturday. With luck we may make it into port by Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile as we get closer to Japan the number of large ships we are encountering is gradually increasing. So far nearly all of them have been heading south, and it occurred to me this morning as another large ship, a tanker I think, riding high out of the water passed about a mile ahead of us that in fact all the south bound ships I have seen have been in ballast. This then made me think that Japan must import all her oil – well perhaps we all know that already, but I just checked my little “Pocket World in Figures, 2007 Edition” book and it tells me that mineral fuels are in fact a major import to the tune of 98.5 billion dollars (c.i.f. - whatever that means). Now this little elementary piece of deduction reminded me of a very admirable Belgium clerk who, sitting in his office at the Belgium docks in the late 19th century, noticed that all the inbound cargoes from the Congo carried ivory and the like, but the only outbound cargoes were men and guns. This rather simple observation led him to the conclusion that Belgium was not in fact trading with the Congo, but rather was subjugating it. The story goes, as told in “King Leopold's Ghost”, that this conclusion disturbed him so much that he went and visited the Congo to confirm his hypothesis. I will not distress my gentle readers with an account of what he discovered but suffice to say it was what inspired the famous line from Conrad's “Heart of Darkness” - “The Horror! The Horror!”. He returned to Belgium and ultimately mounted an effective campaign to have the brutalisation of the Congo people ended.
I mention all this, one, because it intrigued me reflecting on my own line of thought, and second, because I found the story of this Belgium clerk inspiring and the connection gave me an excuse to share it. I fear most of us, unlike this clerk, see things under our very noses and do not draw the obvious conclusions, perhaps for fear of having to do something about it, or in fear of having to acknowledge our silent complicity in the evils which surround us. Such clerks are indeed rare.
All is well.