Saturday, 14 November 2009

Don't Cry For Me Argentina

Cementerio de la Recoleta - Buenos Aires, Argentina

The 'final' resting place

I was out partying again last night, this time at Joy's next door for a bit of cheese and wine. Also dining out this evening, I think I'll do more of this going away as so many people are hoping to say their farewells and Merry Christmas before I leave. The high wind as much as anything else put me off venturing out today, but once again gave me time to continue 'swatting up' for the next trip. Given I spent my whole working life at sea and at sometime or another sailed on all of the worlds oceans, it is surprising where I experienced the most dramatic force of the wind. Not in the Arctic Ocean, where on my first sea going ship HMS Keppel, we had relived our stricken sister ship HMS Russell after sustaining serious structural damage caused by a freak wave well inside the Arctic Circle.

H.M.S. Keppel

That was a year long commission serving on the Fisheries Protection Squadron, on occasion crossing swords with Icelander's. Neither was it during a 4 weeks spell in the Southern Oceans, including Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel, both notorious to mariners as some of the wildest waters in the world. No, it was in fact in the center of beautiful Buenos Aires in 2001. My former boss, Mike Hughes, and I had already cut through Brazil and Paraguay later ending up in the Argentinian capital. Of priority here was the resting place of Eva Peron, who's remains had undergone a turbulent 20 year being moved by the government from secret location to secret location. Amid much controversy she had finally been placed in the Cementerio de la Recoleta, much to the disgust of many (all rich) as no amount of money can secure a resting place in this the most revered site in the land. As we approached the small white church outside of the graveyard, a mighty gale struck and while Mike sought shelter under a parked lorry, I forced myself against the cemetery wall. There was no escape from this mighty blast as it ripped mature bushes from the ground, snapped boughs from trees and even lifted cars off of the road. An experience I will happily forgo in the future.

Two Beefeater's in BA

If you need a bit of 'red meat' after a hard day, this is the place

The greatest missed opportunity this month has to be forgetting my camera on the evening out with Andy Lindsay and Stephen Williams. However, while searching out the photographs above, I came across a few of our previous exploits. Andy and I had visited Steve on a number of occasion when he lived, and operated the Antiques Wine Company from Thorpe Constantine in Staffordshire. On one such visit he had just completed a world wide search for the collation and sale of the world’s largest collection of Chateau d’Yquem at $1.5 million, comprising 135 consecutive vintages between 1860 and 2003. It was indeed a privilege to gaze (and even touch) upon such a collection. Another of Steve's coups, was to supply the 70-year-old vintage wines for the 70th birthday celebrations of former U.S. President George Bush. However, in my opinion his final hour coincided with our last visit before he moved to the South of France.

A jeroboam of Chateau Lascombes

Andy with an Imperial of Laurent Perrier and me with a magnum of Chateau Haut Brion

What became known as the Jönköping Treasure was a far more interesting story, which only unfolded when one day he phoned and asked me for a favour. He had a bottle of wine in the custody of the Caviar House on Piccadilly which he was desperate to get to his home before he took a flight to New York t5he next day. By coincidence I was to visit Andy and assured Stephen that I would pick up this single bottle. Here, it would be best to let the divers take over to give a precis of the story.

Jönköping – "The Champagne Wreck"

By: Peter Lindberg

In 1993 we found the first documents concerning the fate of the Jönköping. Captain Eriksson's protest had been archived in Gävle's courthouse for the past 77 years, just waiting for someone to find it. The cargo of Jönköping was treasure indeed, as the ship had been loaded with 50 cases of champagne (7.5 tons), 17 barrels of wine (5 tons) and 67 barrels of cognac (48 tons), almost all addressed to the tsar of Russia. We did not know then if any of this would still be drinkable or not, or even if the barrels / bottles were intact after all those years at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Experts told us that chances of finding anything still drinkable of that age would be close to zero. However, we decided it would be better to find a pile of wood than make no attempt at all, so we continued our investigation into the fate of Jönköping.

Captain Eriksson's protest told us that Jönköping had been sunk by the German submarine U-22, 4.5 nautical miles off some shallows known as Relanders Grund. The protest also told us about the Swedish steamer Ägir, which had been sunk an hour after Jönköping. In a newspaper from 1916 one of the crew members stated that U-22 left Jönköping sinking, turned south and headed straight towards Ägir. After 15 minutes they caught up with Ägir and stopped her. The protest lodged by Ägir's captain stated their position as 6 nautical miles off an islet named Santakari Båk, which is north-east of Jönköping's stated position.

To cut to the chase, the cargo was salvaged with much of it being drinkable. The full story can be found via this 'link'. Deep Sea Productions

Come home my little treasure

The Champagne particularly had been sampled by a number of Masters of Wine (MW) and being declared drinkable, Stephen was quick to seize the opportunity of being the sole vendor. It was now my job to get this single bottle to him, to be sampled by a potential buy in 'The Apple' during that weekend. As can be seen from both photographs, Steve was delighted by the outcome and went on to sell the find at $5,000 per bottle. For my efforts he kindly donated a 1990 Leoville Barton, which some months later Andy and I enjoyed over a home cooked dinner.

Stephen, Jönköping Champagne and Me

to close today's post, 2 snippets that came my way this morning:- the first, a quote from one of the broadsheets, reporting on the lack of progress generally in reducing carbon emissions one Minister was quoted as saying "we all now live in a Global Village, so by definition there has to be some Global Village Idiots".

and the second comes from the book Wall and Piece by Banksy entitled Love Poem:-

Beyond watching eyes, with sweet and tender kisses
Our souls reach out to each other, in breathless wonder
And when I awoke, from a vast and smiling peace
I found you bathed in morning light, quietly studying
All the messages on my mobile phone