Posted by: adorsk | January 14, 2009

The Rock

The Oceanus arrived at Gibraltar on the afternoon of November 15th.

The Rock of Gibraltar is an awesome sight. It is a single giant rock that juts out from the sea. It reminded me of a giant stone cat waiting to pounce on the ships that milled around it.

The Rock

The Rock

Ships outside Gibraltar

Ships outside Gibraltar

The Rock in profile

The Rock in profile

Gibraltar has a long and storied history. It has bounced around between the Moors, the Spanish, the Dutch, you name it. It has been a British territory for the last three hundred years.

We docked around mid-day. The landscape looked like an El Greco painting with oil tankers pasted in. A strong wind was kicking up whitecaps. Giant clouds roiled above the rock and extended over the Spanish hills beyond. Crowds of ship lay at anchor in the harbor. We passed them all and pulled up to the dock.

Captain DM watching for traffic as we dock

Captain DM watching for traffic as we dock

Making a turn near The Rock

Making a turn near The Rock

Ships at anchor in the Gibraltar harbor

Ships at anchor in the Gibraltar harbor

The fueling crew and ship’s agent were waiting for us at the dock. The fuel guys immediately set to work with the engineers. The agent had all of our paperwork ready to go. The dock service was prompt, accommodating, and friendly. What a nice change after being in Jeddah!

The dock

The dock

The fuel guys

The fuel guys

One of the fuel guys pouring a test sample.  In less scrupulous places, oil companies will cheat by mixing oil with water.  Fortunately Gibraltar is one of the more scrupulous places.

One of the fuel guys pouring a test sample. In less scrupulous places, oil companies will cheat by mixing oil with water. Fortunately Gibraltar is one of the more scrupulous places.

I knew for sure that I wasn’t in the Arabic world anymore when Jesus showed up with the food stores:

Jesus is coming!

Jesus is coming!

What can I say, Jesus delivers. But I don’t remember ordering that many loaves and fishes. Actually, Jesus was just S, the ship’s chandler.

At first we weren’t sure if we would have time go ashore. It would only take a couple of hours to refuel and load food stores. Every hour we spent here would be an hour we lost in St. Thomas. We didn’t know how much weather we would run into during the crossing. But the Captain granted us liberty for the afternoon, just enough time to go into town. A nice treat.

I really enjoyed walking around the town. What an interesting mix of people…I saw Spaniards, Moroccans, Brits, Indians. Cobblestone streets led out from the main plaza into a pedestrian shopping district. Christmas decorations hung between the trees. There were Fish & Chip shops, English pubs, and art galleries all around. The rock towered overhead.

The main square

The main square

A Gibraltar street

A Gibraltar street

I found it very strange to hear the Gibraltans speaking. They switched from very proper, paced British English to running tripping Spanish without missing a beat. A funny juxtaposition.

It was clear that Gibraltar was awash with history. Or at least history written by the British. All around there were statues of Lord Nelson and plaques describing famous battles. There was an old graveyard with tombstones from the 1800s.

Trafalgar Cemetary

Trafalgar Cemetary

A grave from 1804 (photo by JA)

A grave from 1804 (photo by JA)

JA & I decided to take a tour of the rock itself. We found a tour guide who would drive us around. He took us and ‘Los besadores’ two Spanish kids who couldn’t keep their hands off each other, up to the rock.

The trip up the rock was great. The main road wound around the side of the rock giving views of the harbor and Africa beyond. Los Besadores were unimpressed and continued to practice CPR in the backseat.

Ships in the harbor below

Ships in the harbor below

As we got closer to the top there was a gradual crescendo of squawking. Thousands of birds fly were flying around the top. Gibraltar is a prime refueling point not just for ships, but also for migratory birds as they go between Africa and Europe.

Birds

Birds

More birds

More birds

Our first stop was ‘the pillars of hercules’, a look-out point near the top of the rock. Classic legends posit that straits of Gibraltar were carved out by Hercules himself. The Gibraltar tourism has milked this story and created a touristy look-out point on the rock. But it had a nice view. Even Los Besadores got out and took a few pictures.

It also had a truck from my new favorite government office:

Monkey business

Serious monkey business

We then went up to the natural caves of St. Michael’s. This was my favorite part of the whole tour. The caves were natural caves that had been further carved out. Stalactites ran all through cave and made the walls look like mushroom gills. There was one part that had been carved out to form an auditorium. Classical music was playing and the acoustics were excellent. The tour guide told us that the town holds concerts in the cave during the summer. I imagine they play a lot of ‘Rock’ music.

The cavernous auditorium

The cavernous auditorium

JA & I walked through the caves and then waited outside. Los Besadores still hadn’t emerged. We waited some more. Our tour guide eventually had to go in and fetch them. I’m convinced a child was conceived while we waited.

Then we went to the top of the rock. This is where the famed apes of Gibraltar live. Our guide told us about Churchill saying that as long there are apes on the rock, there will be Brits. I guess Churchill took the apes seriously; during WWII the ape supply had a run low and he ordered reinforcement apes to be brought in from Morocco. The apes I saw were rather homely and morose. They took a few pellets of food from our tour guide and hopped around the guard rail. Mostly they sat in the road and gazed out over the city.

View from the top of the Rock

View from the top of the Rock

Apes looking out over the town

Apes looking out over the town

Ape silhouette

Ape silhouette

Our last stop was the ‘Great siege fortress’, a series of tunnels the British had carved into the rock in the late 1700s. The tunnels were amazing. There weren’t any jackhammers back then, just dynamite, pickaxes, and soaked wedges of wood. There were massive steel cannons which the British had somehow lugged up the rock. No wonder the Brits aren’t planning up the rock anytime soon.

JA looks out from the siege tunnels

JA looks out from the siege tunnels

We drove down as the sun was setting. Our guide dropped J & I off near the ship, we stopped at the supermarket for vittles, and then it was time to go. We pulled out of Gibraltar that night and headed into the Atlantic.

Other Pictures

The ship's main mast

The ship's main mast

If you look closely, you will see that that this ship has no glue.

If you look closely, you will see that that this ship has no glue.

The good ship <i>slop</i>, at dock

The good ship slop, at dock

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  1. […] The Rock: Gibraltar […]


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