This is the story of my life so far: 67 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France
After we left Rio de Janeiro, we went to Montevideo, the capital and largest city of Uruguay, officially the "República Oriental del Uruguay" (Oriental Republic of Uruguay). We arrived there on November 27th.
I don't remember anything special about Montevideo or Uruguay, except that we would have preferred to go to Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. Both cities are on the Río de la Plata basin, Montevideo close to the Atlantic Ocean, Buenos Aires back near the two rivers that form the Rio de la Plata, the Uruguay and the Paraná rivers.
Puerto Belgrano Naval Base, Argentina
We still went to Argentina, but to a naval base: Puerto Belgrano, where we arrived on December 3rd.
It is the largest naval base of the Argentine Navy, situated near Bahía Blanca, about 700 km south of Buenos Aires.
Puerto Belgrano Naval Base
One day, during our stay at Puerto Belgrano, I was part of a group designated to visit the base and its arsenal. We were not enthusiast for this visit, as we knew it would be boring, but we had to go.
And yes, it was boring, at least in the beginning. We visited large halls with machine tools, one Argentinian ship (a ship is a ship).
The, at the end, we were told that we would be spectators to security exercise. Really? We thought we knew what a security exercise was. We were wrong.
The exercise took place in a large hall, with a slice of ship in the middle and bleachers for us to sit.
When the exercise started, we were surprised that they played on loudspeakers noises that seemed to be from a battle at sea. In France, there is no sound added to security exercise.
A small group of five men were setting fires, splashing diesel fuel everywhere, including just on the feet of another larger group who tried to extinguish the fires. The small group also were opening taps that simulated leaks in the hull of the ship, and the other group had to close the leaks.
But the best part was the wounded people. The large group had to put them securely on stretchers and to extract them out of the ship through ladders and manholes.
At the end of the exercise, they stopped the noise and we were invited to see the wounded people on their stretchers, Some of them had simulated open guts and were complaining as if they were really wounded. Some of my comrades had to leave outside, otherwise they would have fainted.
In conclusion, this security exercise was definitely not boring!
Cape Horn and Channels of Patagonia
En route to Chile, we went south of the Cape Horn, one of the southernmost place of South America (the most southerly point is in the Diego Ramírez Islands).
I was hoping that we would have rough sea when at the Cape Horn, like in the novels I was reading as a teenager, but unfortunately, the weather was nice and the sea was like the picture above.
We went through some of the channels of Patagonia, en route to Valparaiso. Unfortunately, I was sick at this time and lying in the infirmary, so I see very little of these channels. I was told that it was spectacular.
Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, Chile
Then, we arrived in Valparaiso in Chile, on December 8th. Actually, we were not docked in Valparaiso, but in Viña del Mar, that is just north on Vaparaiso and were is located the Las Salinas Naval Base.
Viña del Mar
One day while we were in Viña del Mar in was my turn to act as the aide-de-camp of the Commanding Officer of the Jeanne d'Arc.
So, I followed the CO in his visits, including a demonstration by professional gauchos.
At the end of the day, we went to the closing ceremony of the Chilean Naval Academy.
At the École Navale in France, this ceremony is very low key: just the cadets, the administration and the instructors participate, and it lasts less than an hour.
In Chile, it took place in a stadium with 15,000 spectators and there were very spectacular demonstrations and parades by the Chilean cadets.
The President of Chile at this time, Salvador Allende was present at the ceremony, and there was the possibility of a meeting between the President and our CO. But it did not occur, as the President was too busy.
This was a good day for me; I was on duty, but instead of stating on board the ship, I was entertained all day.
In Valparaiso, I bought this machete with a horn handle and this gaucho leather hat, that I still have after all these years.
Go West, Young Man
After Valparaiso/Viña del Mar, we went west to visit several islands in the Pacific ocean.
Continue to Part 31
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Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8
Part 9 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15 - Part 16
Part 17 - Part 18 - Part 19 - Part 20 - Part 21 - Part 22 - Part 23 - Part 24
Part 25 - Part 26 - Part 27 - Part 28 - Part 29