Friday, 29 April 2011

The Royal Wedding

I understand that Royal Wedding fever has been consuming the UK for the past few weeks or even months. Here on the Africa Mercy we were only vaguely aware of the event as it slowly approached, but we managed to get sorted today and everyone stopped to watch the wedding ceremony this morning. It was very kind of Will & Kate to plan it for during our morning break time. Even the kids were able to join us for a bit.

Long live the Queen. Long live Will & Kate. Etc etc. Olly

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Noah's work experience

Another photo of Noah in the Navigation class:


Badly burnt boy

I've seen some bad burns in my time with Mercy Ships, but today I saw the worst yet. Eight year old Ibrahim Kamara was burnt in a farm fire on Sunday, and was brought to the ship today seeking help. I saw the boy at the gate, on a cardboard stretcher, wrapped up in dry sheets with his mother fanning him. He was unconscious and covered in dry blackened cooked flesh from his face to his knees, much like the guy in the photo below...

One of our nurses took a look at him, but he is beyond even our help. I got one of our drivers to take him to the childrens hospital around the corner, where he will most likely die. It will be a miracle if he survives; if he does he will be badly scarred and need numerous skin grafts and operations to free contractures. Who knows, maybe we'll see him back here in a few months for those surgeries if he pulls through. Please pray for him. Olly

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Happy 50th, Sierra Leone

50 years ago today, the red white & blue of the Union Jack came down and the blue, green and white of the Republic of Sierra Leone went up. Happy Birthday, land of the free. Olly
PS I got bored with the depressing black and greys on this blog's background so changed it to this lovely summer blue.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


A film crew from the Oprah Winfrey Network were here last week, filming a pilot. Here they are being driven round town by our own bearded photographer, Tom Bradley. Olly

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter

He is risen.

RIP Chris Hondros

In 2007 I was emailing this guy about his work in Liberia. He replied a couple of times, and even recommended a Nigerian electrician to me. He took some incredible photos of the last Liberian war in 2003 - see - in fact here he is photoed in Waterside, Monrovia...

...and here is one of his world famous photos:

Since the late 1990s he has covered conflicts in Kosovo, Angola, Sierra Leone, the Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the West Bank, Iraq, Liberia, Libya and more. He was one of four photographers killed in Libya four days ago. Olly

Friday, 22 April 2011

Chimp Reserve

We're having a bit of an Anastasis reunion on the the Africa Mercy at the moment. The Blackburns have joined us for 3 months from Texas, and the Chapmans have joined us for 3 weeks from Liberia. Today Brian organised us to go to Tagugama Chimpanzee Reserve for the morning - about an hour's drive from the ship. The place exists for chimps rescued from homes in Sierra Leone - chimps that have been living with humans after being orphaned and captured by hunters as babies etc. Many starving West Africans would be very happy to eat chimp meat if they could, so the reserve is am important place for rehabilitation of chimps back to the bush, and education of locals about the impact they are having on wildlife as they hunt and eat "bush meat".

A lovely day out. Olly

Tesco in Freetown?

Tesco is a global grocery and general merchandising retailer headquartered in the UK. It is the 3rd largest retailer in the world measured by revenues after Walmart and Carrefour, and the 2nd largest measured by profits after Walmart. It has stores in 14 countries across Asia, Europe and North America...and apparently also Sierra Leone. Today we drove past a Tesco petrol station on the edge of Freetown.

If you look closely at the photo (click on it to enlarge) you can plainly see the whole place is hand-painted to look like a Tescos. But of course it isn't one. Hah. Another example of West African ingenuity? Olly

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sally at work

Here is a lovely photo of Sally with Mariama, one of her patients... Olly

Diarrhoea of a Wimpy Kid

There is always someone on the Africa Mercy with diarrhoea. It's part of life, and something we all learn to live with. So imagine our mirth when Libby picked up Anna's book "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and read out-loud "Diarrhoea of a Wimpy Kid". How we all laughed! Olly

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Grande Congo

This evening I visited the neighbouring ship, Grimaldi line's Grande Congo, which is only 6 months old and still in immaculate condition. Built by Hyundai in Korea, it is nearly 4 times the size of the Africa Mercy, can carry up to 1000 cars and trucks and 300 containers, and has only 26 crew of Italian officers and Filipino...err...non-officers.

Some of the cars on Deck 12 destined for Lagos, Nigeria:

Some of the containers on the forward deck, taken from the bridge:

The ultra-modern bridge:

The Africa Mercy, taken from deck 12:

Engine control room, Deck 1:

The main engine. Only one engine; one propeller shaft and one propeller. Two bow thrusters and one stern thrusters. Three generators.

She sails between the UK, Holland, Germany and Belgium, picking up cars and trucks and containers, and then calling at Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana before heading back to Europe. Another fascinating blog entry (with a cool photo of the Africa Mercy) by Olly.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Noah's work experience

This week the Academy's Junior High and High School kids did 3 days of work experience around the ship. Noah chose to work with our Deck Officers, and shadowed them as they were on duty, and he assisted them in boat operations, the paint locker inventory, and then learnt all about navigation. Here he is in his issued gloves, safety boots, glasses and hat.

He assisted me yesterday when I dived: he was our safety watcher, and stayed on the dock ready to assist me if necessary. Good job Noah! Olly


Today we drove across the Freetown peninsula to the beautiful beach at Bureh Town, a tiny village of no more than a handful of mud huts with this view:

Paradise, eh? Sadly, this is the very same beach that our friends Ruth and Keith drowned at in 2004. Olly

Friday, 15 April 2011

Rainy season begins

In Liberia, 15th April is the first day of rainy season. Just a few hundred miles away in neighbouring Sierra Leone, my friends tell me that rainy season starts "soon". Either way, today is the first dry day of rainy season, just as yesterday was the last dry day of dry season (as, I suppose, if it had been raining it would have been the last wet day of dry season, and so on). Since we arrived here on 27th February, there has not been one drop of rain - in fact, this is the driest dry season I have ever come across. We can't wait for the rains to come to wash the dust away and clear some of the drains of clogged garbage (into the...err...sea, I suppose). Olly

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Fab new book

I bought this book during our last days in South Africa in January and gave it to Sally on her birthday on Tuesday. It is lovely, and a great reminder of our time living on the East Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Mouth watering recipes, lovely photos, and many reviews of places we spent many happy hours: Ballito, Salt Rock, Dunkirk, Gateway, uShaka...

Buy it if you can. Olly

Diving photos

I borrowed an underwater camera on Monday and took these photos. Blow, chicken-wire baskets have been made to cover the cooling water intakes, in the hope that they will keep garbage out of the intakes. What you can see if the basket covered in plastic bags, so it is working to a degree - we now need to dive to clean the basket (not the intakes themselves)...

Below, an intake without a basket, covered in garbage which restricts the flow of water and will cause the machinery that needs that water to cool to overheat.

Below, Dan Bergman picks garbage off the intake.


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

(Slightly less of a) water shortage

Every other day we load maybe 200 tonnes of water. Each day we use up to 90 tonnes, so it's important we don't miss a day for loading, or we'll suddenly find ourselves short, and that's what happened at the weekend. Captain Tim...

(Captain Tim)

...managed the crises very well, and we were able to muddle through for a couple of days without cancelling any surgeries, by closing the laundry... (the laundry)

...going onto disposable dinner-ware, cease washing decks and vehicles, and restrict showers to one short cold shower a day. Water trucks brought us water all weekend, and we were able to load with city water on Monday and Wednesday too, so last night the laundry reopened (one load per person per week), and today we went back onto proper dinner-ware. I have found an alternate source of water for washing the vehicles thus saving 500 liters a day, and the showers are still cold (to take away the temptation for a long shower - it's amazing how quickly people can shower if the water is cold!). (preparing ourselves for a cold shower)

Meanwhile, the water level in our wave pool may get lower and lower... (the wave pool when the level is high)

Slowly our reserves are building, and hopefully we'll be back to normal soon. Thank you for praying for us. Olly

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Water shortage

During the last few days our water consumption has increased, despite more and more restrictions. Maybe there is a leak somewhere, but the end result is that we are consuming more water than can be pumped aboard. Today the Captain made the decision to turn off the ship's water - which meant no running water or even flushing toilets for a while...

...but later in the day the water was turned on again, although we still can't shower. Everyone returned hot and sweaty from their day in the city, and must remain so until we have enough water. So PLEASE PRAY! That we get plenty of water from ashore; that our consumption goes down, and that the restrictions will be lifted very soon. Thanks. Olly

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Libby visa - update

Today we had our interview at the British High Commission in Freetown. It went very well. It only took 45 minutes to get there, and all the staff were chatty and nice; we were whisked through the waiting area and into the application centre with not a queue in sight, and the actual application and payment process went without a hitch. We have to return on 17th May to collect the decision - 6 weeks sooner than we expected. Please pray specifically that our paperwork will travel safely to Ghana where it will be processed, and that the Entry Clearance Officers will not hesitate to contact us should they have any questions that need clearing up. And for a successful outcome! Amen to that. Olly

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Hope Centre

Our Hospitality Centre is literally 5 minutes walk from the ship. In fact, you can sit in the Centre's yard and hear the ship's generators rumbling. This year the Centre has been renamed the Hope Centre, but it's function remains the same - it provides accommodation for patients and their carers before and after surgery. Sally, Anna, Libby and I spent a delightful afternoon there today - the girls went off to play with patients, whilst I helped the cooks by peeling and chopping onions and carrots. It was delightful because of the sea breeze constantly blowing over us and keeping us cool. The best location yet! Olly