A young woman is being led off the Ocean Viking during disembarkation in Taranto

Onboard the Ocean Viking – Guillaume’s Journal: “Day comes. And at last, the Gulf of Taranto.”

Guillaume is an SOS MEDITERRANEE rescuer currently onboard the Ocean Viking for his second mission. He tells us about his daily life and work on board.

 

24/12/2019

“The winter and its westerly winds pushed us into the sheltered waters east of Sicily. We were one hour from Catania (Sicily) when we requested medical evacuation for one of the 162 survivors aboard the Ocean Viking. In 40 knots of wind, during a night that was starting to be rough, we had to proceed by helicopter. The lady was evacuated together with her baby and her sister.

The maritime world is changing, it’s falling apart. The ports are closed for these men, women and children. That same evening, after 2 days of waiting we finally learn that we can disembark in Taranto (Puglia). During 18 hours of transit, passing Calabria from the South, we will no longer be protected by Sicily. And the wind continues to increase.

Every night we take turns together with the Médecins sans Frontières team to keep watch on deck for two hours in pairs. The survivors who are lying in the men’s shelter occupy every square meter. There are only two doors. One is closed because it is too exposed to the waves. At the other door, when going to the bathroom is absolutely necessary, we clutch the person’s arms firmly while crossing the few meters to the lavatory. The men’s shelter is not entirely sealed off from the reach of the sea, its arms find tiny passages to creep in from above and below.

There are coughs in the humid atmosphere, I step over bodies to reach those who become seasick and distribute bags and/or pills to them. Waves hitting the container sound like mountains crumbling. The eyes of those who cannot sleep meet mine to see if I’m still calm. Outside, the deck is flooding. At 4 in the morning, Alessandro and Massimo take over for Pablo and me. To brave the rest of the night in its 50 knots of wind raising waves of 5 meters.

Day comes. And at last, the Gulf of Taranto. The Ocean Viking moors alongside a quay. Customs, Coast Guard, police, they’re all there. The Red Cross and a medical team from the Italian Ministry of Health as well. They’ve got paper masks on their faces, just in case. They also have shoes to donate. The procedure and goodbyes take a few hours and then the ship is silent.

Later us teams leave the ship for a drink. I walk on the quay, which is not yet deserted because the transfer of the survivors by bus to a shelter has not yet been completed. The last ones are waiting in small groups behind fences, survival blankets on their backs. I walk on this quay with the clothes I like, my warm jacket, my passport in my pocket. No one stops me. No one controls me. I walk past them and greet them one last time. I cannot help but feel ashamed.”

 

Read the complete diary.

Photo by Laurence Bondard/SOS MEDITERRANEE

 

About Guillaume

Guillaume is a 33-year-old French member of the SOS MEDITERRANEE team onboard the Ocean Viking. Before becoming a seafarer, Guillaume worked in paramedical centres for rehabilitation through sports for physically or mentally ill people. He believes this experience gave him the opportunity to get close to people in need, to feel their sensitivities, understand and help them. In the past two years he has been a seafarer and a skipper working on charter boats and delivering sailing boats across the Atlantic. Aside from this, he also had different professional fishing experiences as well as sailing traditional ringing sailing boats in Brittany and Normandy, which he did until he joined SOS MEDITERRANEE in 2019. Guillaume became part of the Search and Rescue team on the fourth mission of the Ocean Viking in November 2019.