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At Anchor Today in Stumptown

Tied up next to the Steel Bridge is the first ship I've seen there in months. Its name is Golden Venture, a very shiny Panamax bulk carrier so new that the grain pouring into its massive hatches this morning was probably harvested before the ship left the Chengxi Shipyard at Jiangyin, China.

Jiangyin is the name of the backwater planet in Firefly where the locals kidnap useful people like Doctor Tam from their ships and put them to work.

In real life, Jiangyin is a small city in Jiangsu province and home of one end of a very long, very beautiful suspension bridge across the Yangtze. Jiangyin is just upstream from Shanghai--whose name, interestingly, still has some currency as a verb in English, meaning, basically, to kidnap useful people and put them to work on their ships.

Well, I'm sorry to say that this Golden Venture, being on its first voyage and all, has accumulated no stories. But it seems to be named after a notoriously awful ancestor.

In 1993, an earlier Golden Venture ran aground on Rockaway Beach, near Queens, New York because all its crew mutinied and nobody was driving the ship. The hold was occupied by 286 illegal immigrants from China, some of them minors. Many were near starvation, having traveled for months under inhumane conditions.

Ten people died in the wreck and ensuing attempts to flee to shore. The survivors were imprisoned while applying for political asylum. It seems that many were eventually deported. Fifty-two of them remained in prison for five years until President Clinton let 'em go. Only 20 or so were granted asylum. One recent New York Times article, however, says that a "great majority" of them are now living and working in the US.

There's a 2006 documentary called "Golden Venture" by Peter Cohn, in which one of the smuggled immigrants remembers thinking that if only he and his friends could get to shore in the United States, they would become like Superman.

The massive trafficking operation exposed by this shipwreck was run out of New York City under the leadership of one Cheng Chui Ping, also known as Sister Ping. She was eventually arrested in Hong Kong, extradited to the US, and sentenced to 35 years in the slammer. Her new address is the same federal prison at Danbury Connecticut where Martha Stewart did her time, so I'm guessing it's somewhat nicer there than in the holds of her smuggling ships. Does that seem right to you?

The rusty and ruined Golden Venture was eventually scuttled off the coast of Florida.

What I'd like to know is why anyone would ever name another ship Golden Venture after that. Ships roll off the lines in shipyards all over the world, day after day, and I'm sure that naming them is an onerous business. But still, how hard could it be not to choose the name of a doomed ship of criminality, desperation and death? Why not Golden Bough? Golden Mean? Golden Rule? Golden Years? Golden Girl? Golden Hind? Golden Door? Hell, Golden Showers would be better than this.

The only thing going into its hold here in Stumptown today is a whole lot of golden grain. Let's hope it stays that way forever.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
i'd been wondering if any interesting ships had docked recently :)

very interesting and i agree that they could have come up with something better although "golden showers" made me giggle madly!

i second that "only grains" request...
Aug. 13th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
I realized in posting this that it's been a year since my last "At Anchor". There were a few ships over last winter, but sometimes no amount of imagination can create a story out of the available data. In this instance today, as soon as I googled "Golden Venture" and saw "ran aground" I knew I'd hit the ship-story jackpot.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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