Sunday, February 15, 2015

Alferez Campora

About 60 years ago, a group of four young naval ensigns (Messrs. Costa, Nader, Firpo and Campora) started planning for a trip around the world in a small vessel. In 1958 they got their boat - a seaworthy yacht, the "Achernar", built in Holland back in the 1930s. They refurbished the boat and started living on board, in order to train themselves.

Before the trip, they decided to have their appendix removed, as a precaution. Unfortunately, one of them, Mr. Campora, died from the operation. The boat got his name - "Alferez Campora", "Alferez" being our equivalent to "Ensign", i.e. the initial step in the career of a naval officer.

The other three sailed on in 1960 and came back in 1962, after completing the trip as close to the Equator as practicable. A lot of fuss was rightly made in the press at the time. You can read their whole story in Spanish in the quaint site made by the Uruguayan Navy. Most remarkable, one of them (Mr. Firpo) was the boat photographer. I must find out what equipment he took around the world. Maybe his pictures are still around somewhere!

Why do I write about this? As a child, I remember reading the news about the "Alferez Campora" stopping all over the world. The name was a household word. And later I got to see the three sailors in person in school- the Navy made them tour the country and talk to children, a good PR idea. Now, only the bow remains from the boat. It is displayed just outside the Naval Museum.

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A bronze plate nearby tells people why that bow is there.

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The "Alferez Campora" started and arrived from Buceo Harbor, one of my favorite places in the city - this is how I noticed the bow there, some years ago. The boat had been parked in the harbor already in the late 1950s, when it was bought for the trip.

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Maybe some of those yachts in the background have done similar trips. But the first one to carry the flag around the world is still watching them.

Technical: Konica III, Fuji 200 film.

1 comment:

  1. Nice story. I don't recall seeing anything about it before. Such epic journeys were a common source of inspiration for young guys in those days. I wonder if they got their inspiration partly from the story of the Kon-Tiki. At the same time those three were headed up toward the Panama Canal I was navigating on the Amazon and some of its tributaries in river launches and canoes, living out a fantasy of exploration which had been nurtured by the stories of 19th and early-20th Century adventurers.
    The recently completed balloon voyage across the Pacific is reminiscent of many of those earlier quests. It seems, though, that young people these days are more inclined to look for thrills and fulfillment in the pursuit of extreme sports. I suppose that is partly because there are few areas of the world that have not been thoroughly explored and are now on regular tourist routes.