Broken Blog: ANASTASIS At Alang, PART TWO

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Also From Peter Knego/P.K. Productions:
On The Road To Alang DVD
The World’s Passenger Fleet, VOLUME NINE DVD

These lovely artifacts will return to Trieste to carry on the memory of one of its longest lived ships. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

September 8, 2007, ctd.: We moved onward from the tourist class foyer on aft B Deck up a wood paneled vestibule to the aft mooring area on A Deck and finally to the fantail on Upper Deck (added during the ANASTASIS incarnation). This portion of the ship had been given over to a children’s deck with a wooden play station overlooking the stern. At the emergecy steering station, an empty binnacle and weathered wooden wheel remained. They have been purchased by a brilliant Trieste-based ship historian who will be bringing them back “home” with most of the remaining bridge equipment for preservation in the very near future.

Wood and glass screen with frosted imprints on aft Upper Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The aft deck housing, which originally contained the tourist class playroom, appeared to most recently have been accommodation. The wood and glass screen at its rear featured special glass, imprinted with an abstract pattern that looked like “amoebic” birds or, perhaps, butterflies.

We moved forward past the framework of an awning that once provided shade from the equatorial sun, along Upper Deck to what was originally the tourist class lido. The pool and hold had long ago vanished and the space was now a sports deck with basketball court. The bar area was largely original with its angled shelving resembling some of the fixtures that are still extant on the MS PHILIPPINES (ex AUGUSTUS).

The port promenade, facing forward. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

First class playroom screen. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Continuing upwards, along the sheltered port promenade on Promenade Deck, then up more stairs to the Lido Deck, we visited the officers’ accommodation, lounge, and mess. Much of this part of the ship was refurbished over the years with “Ikea-type” fittings. We worked our way up to Sun Deck and aft through the former first class children’s playroom where a door and a screen contained the same type of frosted glass we saw in the former tourist class playroom. Apparently, Pulitzer did not discriminate between the first and tourist class bambini!

This used to be my playground? Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Over the stern from Lido Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

While on the aft Sun Deck terrace, there was time for me to linger and play with the cameras as the rest of the group took a short break near the former first class pool basin, just below. A brightly colored mural of animals was painted on the bulkheads and the wading pool was filled with discarded toys. Far off to starboard lay the listing, backlit BLUE LADY, mostly exposed by the low tide. Huge dragonflies buzzed around us, which meant my mosquito friends were most probably also hovering in the stifling air. Otherwise, I would have shed a few layers of infernal clothing.

The wheelhouse, facing starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The wheelhouse telegraph will be returned to Mercy Ships in Texas. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Facing aft from the starboard wing. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Dangling davits in despair. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Our next stop was the wheelhouse with its mahogany trim, brass instrument panels, and beautiful vintage instruments. The binnacle and single inside telegraph (with fantastically canted faces) were earmarked to go
back to Mercy Ships office in Texas. The steering station and two identical telegraphs on the bridge wing will go to Trieste.

More Trieste-bound navigation equipment. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Bow to beach. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

For a ship about to be demolished, the ANASTASIS was in fine cosmetic condition. Ironically, she looked better at Alang than she did at Los Angeles two decades prior. I was so thrilled to be able to wander her decks one final time and take all the views I needed. It is such a shame that she could not be preserved but the cold reality is that ship preservation only happens once in a very, very blue moon. At least she will live on in memories and images.

The ANASTASIS’ tripod mast, missing a little bit of its sheltered crow’s nest but otherwise unaltered. Note the original Lloyd Triestino bead welding on the funnel. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Face to face farewell. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

As the workers were releasing all the CO2 stored on the ship, we could not venture inside for the next hour. Everyone headed back to the stern while I continued documenting the outer deck areas and architecture. From the top of the house and its wonderful tripod mast (featured on a wide range of ships such as CARONIA, AUREOL, ORCADES and even the AUSONIA — which is thankfully still in service as AEGEAN TWO) to the long fo’c’sle and its multi-faceted bulwarks, there was so much to capture!

The former first class Verandah Bar with its panels removed. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

When we were finally allowed to go back inside the ship, we began with the Promenade Deck (former first class) public rooms. Starting aft in the Verandah Bar, it was great to see the original “wave” etchings in the glass facing the former lido. The rest of the furnishings of any import were either long since discarded or are on their way to Texas. As I had expected, the carved paneling behind the bar was removed, leaving just the framework behind.

Burled paneling surrounded the stair recesses in the former first class Smoking Room foyer. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Continuing forward in what was the Smoking Room Foyer, there was magnificent paneling on the bulkheads lining the twin stair recesses leading down to Upper Deck. On the port side Verandah, the bowed wooden ceiling overhang was still there, although anonymously painted over. The rest of the room had been neutered completely of its original Italian features. On the starboard side, the Verandah was filled with lifejackets and other gear. It had been given an extensive “Ikea” makeover in recent years.

The forward stairtower vestibule was a study in post-war Deco stylization with its smooth light ash and turquoise melamine surfacing, multifaceted ceiling recesses and the unaltered stairtower railing, with its inset glass panels (framed in anodized aluminum/brass) and moulded mahogany caprailing.

The forward lounge, facing port. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The elliptical (forward) Lounge was the most breathtaking of all the ship’s spaces with its extra ceiling height, burled wood pillars, and honey-colored maple shutters. Water or excessive sun had warped the burled veneer on the ceiling, the exquisite Murano glass sconces were removed in Monrovia and the room was filled with debris. An abandoned brass plaque given to the ship by the Rotary Club was leaning on one pillar but knowing the price of brass these days, I did not inquire about it.

An iconic stairtower, facing port/aft from Upper Deck level. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The former First Class Vestibule, facing starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

We head down the stairtower, our steps echoing through its chambers of linoleum and melamine, past the Upper Deck landing and down to A Deck. A framework of brass and glass bulkheads and doors at the foot of the stairs appeared to have been retrofitted to meet 1997 SOLAS regulations, as I do not recall this feature from past images and visits. Save for a glimmer of daylight from the shell door port holes, the lobby was now in perpetual darkness. The reception area was disheveled, filled with non-essential paperwork and scattered items left behind. Two huge circular ceiling lamps were the only notable remnants in this once very stylish space, now completely stripped of its art panels, sculpture, and furnishings.

Port A Deck passage, facing aft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Port and starboard passages led past former suites and offices to the forward (ex first class) dining room. Original bowed glass display cabinets, more rich wood veneers and enduring marbelized linoleum decking were savored one last time. None of it will
be discarded (except, perhaps, the linoleum) but it will be broken down for its various components and recycled.

The former first class dining room, facing forward from port. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Another truly superb Pulitzer space, the forward dining room was stripped of its art. Subtle (for instance, the sculpted table bases and the framework around the portholes) and not so subtle (gold tilework in the alcove behind the captain’s table) elements of its original grandeur remained. The angular wooden ceiling formations were uniquely 1950s and reminiscent of much of the “Googie” architecture that flourished after the war. Beautiful “polka dot” mirrors still lined the inboard bulkheads surrounding the funnel casing. The private dining room on the forward starboard side had been ransacked and stripped of its painted panels and gorgeous “sun face” ceiling fixture.

The former tourist class dining room, facing aft from port. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

As we continued through the galley to the aft (ex tourist class) dining room, we felt the ship shudder. At first, it sounded like breaking had commenced but that was clearly not possible. We later realized it was the tide intermittently lifting the stern.

Mercy Ships removed all the original art panels on this dining room’s forward bulkheads but the mahogany paneling and cabinetry remained.

The Library, originally the tourist class Card Room, facing aft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

I had forgotten about the exquisite Library on the port side, aft of the second dining room. Its wooden shelves and reading tables (with the same stylized bases seen in the forward dining room) were just marvelous. On the starboard side, the Card Room was less original but did have two beautiful harlequin-patterned wood cabinets. At some point, the card room and library were “switched”, if the original Lloyd Triestino deck plans are accurate.

The aftermost space (the former tourist class lounge) was broken up into what appears to have been a hospital waiting room surrounded by medical offices and operating theaters. We stepped back out onto the mooring deck from there and worked our way up to our “station” on the fantail. I gulped down a liter or two of water and requested permission to return to many of the interior spaces to get further images while everyone ate lunch.

But first, Mr. Ullas Pandit, the breaker’s foreman, wanted to show Kaushal and me his inventory of the ship’s fittings. It was an absolutely astonishing list of everything on board, categorized by deck. On each of some forty pages were hundreds of items with their measurements, material composition, and quantities. Page by page, he read to us what was there. I tried to excuse myself to continue documenting but Kaushal reprimanded me. Although unintended, my actions were disrespectful and rude.

Mr. Pandit left Orissa, one of India’s poorest regions, over a decade ago to find work at a time when Alang was on the rise. Prior to joining Mr. Ashit, he was with the Crown Steel yard (breakers of RIPA — ex OXFORDSHIRE, FAIRSTAR and APOLLO — ex EMPRESS OF CANADA, MARDI GRAS). He remembered being so impressed with RIPA at a time when few large passenger ships had come to Alang.

It’s been an incredible learning experience for me to put names and faces to some of the skilled, tireless, and kind people in this less than kind, overwhelming place.

The engine room, facing forward. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Orders from above? Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

I was allowed to retrace many of my steps to get more footage for the next hour or so, returning from my sojourn for more water and to swallow a protein bar before we all headed down to the machinery spaces. Kaushal needed to have a look at some of the condensers and I wanted to check the various panels and gauges. Until we reached the tops of the cylinders underneath the skylight cavern, our only illumination was a dim flashlight and my camcorder’s accessory light. I held its infrared screen in front of us (taping, of course!) to help avoid any unexpected obstacles. The platforms and railings were covered in oil and grease, apparently from the final surge as ANASTASIS beached at full speed.

The shoes say it all. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

When we emerged, the tender boat was alongside but the sea conditions were too rough for a safe return, so we awaited from our station on the fantail. Of course, I fought my demons to sit still, hating to waste any opportunity to further document or explore but Kaushal insisted I had done enough.

At first, the wind and darkening skies were refreshing. The marooned BLUE LADY was now barely visible, having been blurred out by a monsoonal cel that was heading toward us. A year ago I was standing on her afterdecks watching similar weather.

I wondered what the past year had done to the former F
RANCE’s already mold and mildew-infested innards…

Soon, our shelter was permeated by diagonal pelting.

A former first class cabin on port A Deck, facing forward. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

As we waited by the shell doors on B Deck for the rain and wind to subside (the weather changes by the minute in Alang), I had a chance to inspect some of the cabins. Many of those on forward A Deck had incredible bed frames and cabinetry that I had missed during my first exploration. How wonderful it would have been to be on the chic little VICTORIA as she head to Asia!

Our floating chariot awaits…. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Finally, Mr.Pandit gave us the go-ahead to disembark. With water below, the ladder did not seem so intimidating. I followed Kaushal and Bhagwan, holding tight to the ladder as Mr. Pandit repeated softly, “God bless you. Safe travels! Go slowly, one step at a time.” How unlike past experiences, where people were shouting and literally climbing over me during my descent…

Our mini-monsoon returned for an encore as the boat walloped the side of ANASTASIS. Runoff water from the gutters was pouring down on us as I secured my cameras under layers of plastic. Finally, the sea calmed enough for us to pull away and circle the ship. Mr. Pandit waved as we head toward the stern and around the port side.

Our boatman. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

The sun was starting to emerge as our little tender bounced through the unprotected chop. I manned the cameras and held tight. Behind our assured-looking boatman, ANASTASIS looked as regal as ever, as though she were ready for her next mission.

Disembarking at Alang entails a balancing act and good timing once the craft beaches. You have to position yourself and jump off the bow a second before the waves ebb, and run. A slight delay means getting deluged by an incoming roller, which is exactly what happened to me. At least most of the morning mud was washed off!

Hat of gold at the end of the rainbow. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

After we clambered up the beach, Kaushal shouted, “Look!” I turned around as the brilliant sun cast a glow over the surf. Although the cameras were safely stowed, I dragged them back out for a final view of the ANASTASIS in a milk chocolate sea, a rainbow off her starboard side. It was a perfect way to remember her, still glorious, intact, and enhanced by the heavens.

In the next couple of days, Mr. Ashwin would bring a revered Hindu priest on board with him to bless the ship before the actual dismantling was to begin.

Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Blue Jay way. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

I was surprised when Kaushal pulled to the side of the road during our drive back to Bhavnagar. A lone blue jay sat atop an electrical wire. “Please take a photo of that for me,” he asked. {Mr. K, if you ever read this, this shot’s for you!}

My Indian family, from left to right: Bhagwan, Mrs. Trivedi, Malvika, and Kaushal. Not shown is Mr. Trivedi. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Dinner that night with Kaushal’s wonderful family would be even more jubilant than usual. Although exhausted, I was buoyed from a successful day of documenting. I really needed to see the ANASTASIS that final time and all the planning and effort had paid off. Malvika and Mrs. Trivedi’s authentic Gujarati cooking is an art and his family is a joy to laugh and be with. I have been very fortunate to have their hospitality, encouragement and support.

Blue tanker to BLUE LADY. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Well weathered after a week in Alang. Photo by Kaushal Trivedi, copyright P.K. Productions 2007.

September 9 — 15, 2007: On Tuesday, September 12, the Indian Supreme Court gave its ruling, allowing for the breaking of BLUE LADY. While it was no surprise, it was deeply sobering. So much history has come to an end in this place and she was the most renowned symbol of it all.

The following day, Kaushal and I revisited Alang to inspect some engine parts from a tanker. The yard was near the BLUE LADY’s plot and the foreman was kind enough to allow me a quick photo. As we stood facing her, I was struck by a very vivid memory of standing on top of her forward funnel while she was anchored off St. Thomas. Perhaps it was triggered by my most recent duel with ANASTASIS-induced acrophobia? In any case, the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS was not pull
ing off in the distance and I was not about to climb down to our still very original cabin to clean up for dinner in the then NORWAY’s Windward dining room. About the only thing in common with that August 1995 day was the ship, the heat and humidity.

My bovine femme fatale. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

On our way back to Bhavnagar, we visited a couple of traders skipped the previous week. I encountered a vivacious cow, who actually stopped and posed for me before she and her girlfriend continued their lively stroll down the road.

The Nilambaugh Palace, an oasis of calm in the midst of chaos. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

A Nilambaugh corner. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Green swallotwail spirit in the gardens of Nilambaugh. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Worn by a summer of non-stop travel, the unrelenting heat, and weary of that buggery chikungunya-carrying mosquito, I opted to spend my “down time” at the hotel, the Nilambaugh Palace. One particularly fine morning, I wandered around the former raj’s home to capture its mystique and beauty. Its grounds are visited by peacocks and exotic butterflies and it is truly a sanctuary from the hustle, bustle, and “dustle” just beyond the gates.

Man with stick on the road to worship. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Twilight temple. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

Prayers for Ganesha. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2007.

My final Indian en-cow-nter! Photo by Kaushal Trivedi, copyright P.K. Productions 2007.

One evening, Kaushal and Malvika took me with them to a remote temple in the hills half way between Bhavnagar and Alang. It was an honor to share the experience with them. I was made to feel very welcome while visiting a spectacular new temple in Bhavnagar as celebrations were being held for the popular Hindi deity, Ganesha.

After five trips to Alang, it’s mysteries are still unfolding. These visits have been the most challenging and provocative experiences of my lifetime.

Dedicated with gratitude and appreciation to Kaushal and his family

NEW From Peter Knego/P.K. Productions:
2008 Faces Of Luzzati Desk Calendar
2008 Passenger Ships Desk Calendar
Also From Peter Knego/P.K. Productions:
On The Road To Alang DVD
The World’s Passenger Fleet, VOLUME NINE DVD

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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