Sunday, 31 May 2009

New Academy logo

Do you like the new logo for the Mercy Ships Academy? The kids can wear it on their t-shirts etc. Olly

Libby's recovery

Libby is currently 52 hours post operative. She is being very brave, but is quite uncomfy most of the time and is in a great deal of pain when her painkillers wear off. She has slowed down a bit, but hasn't slept any more than usual (with the exception of the last hour and a half), which is surprising with the amount of anaesthetic still in her tiny frail little body (ha ha). Occasionally she forgets how sensitive her tummy is, and occasionally so do her brother and sister and other friends, when they jump on her etc. Tomorrow she will stay off school; maybe she'll go back on Tuesday. In the meantime, the rest of the family have had a split weekend - Sally has spent most of the weekend watching Libby on the ship whilst I (and Disney Channel) have been trying to keep Noah & Anna entertained all on my own. Aren't I brave? Olly

Friday, 29 May 2009

Octavius update

Octavius, the Liberian diamond smuggler, who I recently was told had died, just phoned me from Nigeria. Now I'm confused. Olly


In 2005 we adopted Libby. Today she became a patient of the Africa Mercy. One of the ship's general surgeons, Dr Bruce, had a cancellation, so he offered to correct Libby's umbilical hernia (below, before surgery). The ten minute procedure was finished by 9.15am and she was back in our cabin by 10am.

Below, ready for surgery.

Below, getting drousy before the anaesthetics are given.

Below, after the surgery.

Below - the finished result - an "inney" instead of an "outey".
More photos later when the dressings are removed.
In the meantime, we have the challenge of restraining a child that is supposed to be sleeping all day, but is actually bouncing off the walls...We are incredibly blessed to be living in a hospital ship crewed by some wonderful and dedicated and loving medical staff. No waiting lists, dodgy hospital food, expensive car parks, MRSA or long journeys for us! Dr Bruce has already been to our cabin to check on Libby. Great. Olly

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Long haired Libby

On Monday Libby sat very still for nearly four hours to have extensions braided into her hair. She is now very proud of her lovely long hair.

Tomorrow she's going to have surgery to make her "outey" an "inney" (ie umbilical hernia repair) in the Africa Mercy's hospital. We are so blessed to have top quality surgeons and anaesthetists living and operating in the same ship as us! Olly

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A safe beach in Benin!

We've found a safe and clean beach in Benin! El Dorado beach (east of Cotonou city) is part of the majestic sounding but horribly run-down El Dorado Beach Club & Hotel, but try not to let the shabbiness and near-abandoned conditions of the "resort " distract you. Both the beach and the water are clean, and the security guard continually pick up any garbage washed ashore. There are concrete huts that give shelter from the sun. We all enjoyed playing in the sand and jumping through the waves - at low tide the sea was quite safe but at high tide there were some very strong waves, although the beach is protected by a stone breakwater which reduces the risk of rip currents. It costs 1500 CFA for adults and 500 CFA for the kids, but that included a free soft drink. Finding the place is not easy - best look at 6°21'22.74"N 2°27'47.96"E on Google Earth. Things to take: toilet paper, beach chairs, and your own food. Watch the toilets though - they are the worst beach toilets I have EVER visited in West Africa! Olly

Friday, 22 May 2009

West African Teddies

There's a daft article on BBC One Minute News entitled "West African Teddies". It shows soppy photos of people in Liberia and their apparently donated teddies, like these...

...but not this one. Can you see this child-soldier's teddy rucksack? Surely one of the saddest things you've ever seen? Olly

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Sally the pharmacist

On Tuesday Sally had her "best day ever!". She travelled with the Sisters of Mercy deep into Benin's countryside, where they ran a medical dispensary. The Sisters identified their patients needs, and Sally made up the prescriptions. She loved it so much that she is going back the week after next. Great!


This is Ibrahim. He almost looks like a normal boy when you view the left side of his face...

...but his right side has been ravaged by a neurofibroma (a bit like the one in the photo below).

He came from Ivory Coast through Ghana and Togo to receive surgery on the ship, although the condition cannot be cured and is likely to grow again. He will be returning to the ship in late July for more surgery.

Sally and Anna visited Ibrahim very regularly during his long stay on the ship - here is Sally with Ibrahim and his mother.

Please pray for Ibrahim. Olly

Friday, 15 May 2009

Octavius - RIP

Remember Octavius with the interesting bowel blockage? I last heard from him on 13th April, when he told me he was about to have an operation to have the diamond removed. Today I heard from a Liberian friend of his, who lived with him at the UNHCR refugee camp at Ouida, outside Cotonou, who said Octavius had died during the operation. The whereabouts of the diamond remains unknown - perhaps it has been buried with him, or perhaps the surgeon stole it. What a terrible and needless waste of life, which only came about because of his own greed. Thus dies one more victim of Liberia's war. Olly

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Aglar Church

As you can see in the photos, the congregation of Aglar Church are very dedicated. The church was planted in 2004 by one of our Ghanaian crewmembers when the Anastasis was in Cotonou, and is still going strong today. Olly

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Today on the dock the hydraulic system of a city garbage truck exploded, showering everything down-wind for 40 feet with black hydraulic fluid, including three Land Rovers and most of the diving team. It took us hours to scrub the oily fluid off all our equipment. In the photo our Deckies have already put down oil-absorbing materials to prevent the fluid from spoiling the cystal clear waters of Cotonou's Port (!?). Olly


Benin, 2004: Alfred was one of Sally's first patients. He came to the Anastasis with a massive tumour on his lower jaw, which was removed through surgery along with most of his lower jaw. Sally gave him exercises so he could begin to swallow and speak again...and four years later he's come back to visit Mercy Ships, and looks like a very happy young man indeed. Olly

Above: You can see one of his teeth sticking out of the tumour on the bottom right.
Above: After his first surgery. At this stage he needed more surgery to tighten the skin, and replace the titanium plate with a bone graft to make a new jaw.

Today. Great! Olly

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Today, on the dock

Every day brings new experiences when I work on the dock. I am usually the only white man there, so every thief and drunk heads my way to try to get a few thousand CFAs out of me. Today Michael came to see me again - he is one of the Nigerian sailors living on an abandoned old freighter moored next to our ship, and has been out of work for months. Apparently he can't afford to pay for transport back into Nigeria, or buy food or clothes, but today he was drunk and smelt really bad (because he can't afford soap). I gave him some soap, which he was delighted with. In fact he was so delighted that he offered to go and get a woman for me - and not just any woman - a beautiful woman! It's really sad that after all this time he still doesn't realise that we Christians on the Africa Mercy are not the same as the average sailor who comes into Cotonou and wants a beautiful woman. So I have more work to do. Olly

Big hair

The ship's hairdresser left about two months ago, so every day is Big Hair Day right now. Olly

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Black-out weekend

Following last Mondays impromptu black-out on the Africa Mercy, our engineers and electricians ran a myriad of tests over the weekend in which they stopped and started our main and emergency generators and switched between them all many times too, which meant our power was on and off a lot...which meant t'internet was down nearly all weekend, so sorry if I haven't emailed you back yet or written any interesting blog entries...Meanwhile, Libby is better now after a day of feeling sorry for herself on Saturday, and has been able to eat perfectly well today. Olly

The thing about Hertz

Hertz is a unit of frequency, defined as the number of cycles per second. In electrical terms, our appliances work on 110 or 220 volts at either 50hz or 60hz. So if you use an radio-alarm clock in the US which was designed to be used in the UK, it will gain time because of the difference in hertz (which controls the speed of the time). Likewise, we gain twenty minutes each day using our radio-alarm clock on the Africa Mercy, because the generators don't produce an even 50 or 60 hertz. It struck me in the middle of the night that this is worthy of blogging about, although in the cold light of day it seems slightly less interesting. Anyway, each night I re-set my alarm clock before I go to sleep, and every morning it goes off ten minutes earlier than it should do. Fascinating. Olly

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Libby's first puke

Aah...Libby had her first ever puke at 3.30am Saturday morning. She had no idea what was happening and said "Mummy, poo is coming out of my mouth". Bless her. I guess she is the third member in our family to fall victim to the stomach bug that is going around the ship. Olly

Friday, 8 May 2009


On Monday one of our main generators cut out, plunging parts of the ship into darkness. Some of our enterprising young crew wrote on the low-level-lighting - which is actually a luminous skirting board which can absorb light - with a small flashlight. And this is what they wrote...(click on image to enlarge). Olly

Torm Alexander - Final Update

Monrovia — The merchant ship Torm Alexandra is again afloat in Monrovia Freeport after a lengthy and complicated salvage operation in the Liberian capital. The ship capsized and sunk on July 25, 2001 after local stevedores, who had little experience with large cargoes, mishandled the ship's two cranes they were using to offload containers. The containers slid towards the port side of the vessel, causing it to heel. The ship sank with all its cargo in about half an hour, according to an account from the owner, the Danish company Fabricius Marine. Removal of the wreckage, which has been blocking one of four berths in the main wharf, will add significantly to the Freeport's operational capacity. The salvage operation was carried out by Buchanan Renewables, a Geneva-based company which is building a 35-megawatt power plant to provide electricity to the capital and surrounding area. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. government agency, is providing U.S. $112 million in financing for the project. The plant will be fueled with wood chips from Liberian rubber trees that are beyond their productive life. The sunken cargo disappeared a long time ago. The ship will be demolished and sold for scrap.

Thanks, Murray, for the photo below from Olly

And thanks Don (one of the salvage team) for the photo above. He said the floated ship stinks like a sewer, but fortunately they've not seen any bodies (of drowned looters) amongst the mud yet. The ship will be towed to the Liberian port of Buchanon, where it will be cut up.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Diving again

This morning, Tracy (my dive-buddy) and I had our most interesting dive yet. We searched for the ship's propellers, which was not easy with underwater visibility reduced to 4 feet by the filthy waters of the port. In the photo you can see the ship's two rudders painted red directly in front of the metal propellers - we followed the rudders down but still could not see the propellers, and a strong current pulled us off course as soon as we let go of them. So we went back up, and then following the propeller's supports - shown at about 45 degrees in the photo - and following them until we found the propellers, both of which had fishing nets wrapped around them from when we first sailed into Cotonou in February. Tracy cut the nets off (which was the purpose of the dive) whilst I tried to illuminate the scene with underwater flashlights, and then we found out the hard way that nets and scuba divers don't go together well - we became quite tangled up on our return trip to the surface. Very rewarding work though. Olly