Two Aircraft Carriers Into A SunsetTuesday, April 14, 2009
HMCS Warrior: Colossus class light carrier in service in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1946 to 1948; return to Royal Navy and sold to Argentine Navy as ARA Independencia (V-1)
ARA Independencia (V-1): Colossus class light carrier in service from 1959 to 1969; scrapped 1971
NAeL Minas Gerais: Colossus class carrier in service from 1960 to 2001. Retired.
In 1958 the Argentine Navy purchased an aircraft carrier from the Dutch. The small carrier had been around the block. It was HMCS Warrior which had been in service with the Canadian Navy (see above) until 1948. The Royal Navy had then sold it and a sister ship to the Dutch Navy. In the 60s, as now, Argentina and Brazil were out to prove who the military power in the Southern Hemisphere was. As soon as the Argentine Navy had its carrier the Brazilians could not be left behind. They wanted one just like the Argentine one so they approached the Dutch Navy and purchased a Colossus class carrier and named it the Minas Gerais (look on the left side of the first picture or below left). The Brazilians had a problem.
When the Argentines bought their carrier they immediately created a naval air arm. They then made arrangements to get Douglas Skyhawks which were aging but still excellent carrier borne jets. The Brazilians had no naval air arm. Their navy argued that the planes on the carrier would be their jurisdiction. The Brazilian Air Force pointed out that since the navy had no airplanes they (the Brazilian Air Force) would have command of the planes on the carrier. They argued back for years. In 1966 when I took this picture the argument was still in full force and the ship was rusting on Guanabara Bay off Rio de Janeiro.
Not having any planes did not stop the Brazilians from showing off their purchase. I was in the Argentine Navy in 1965 when the Brazilians decided to make a port of call with the Minas Gerais in Buenos Aires. I will never know the exact truth. Perhaps the Argentine Rivert Plate pilots gave the Brazilians the wrong information. The carrier ran aground coming into Buenos Aires and leaving it. The River Plate has to be constantly dredged as silt quickly settles on the access channels for sea-going vessels. It was most embarrasing for the Brazilian Navy. I remember that we made fun of the Brazilian's uniforms particularly those of the officers. They had huge 19th century style epaulettes and the colour combinations were jaring.
Shortly after I remember going to a Santos of Brazil soccer match with the Argentine side, River Plate. Santos dressed in dazzling white uniforms (in impeccable taste) soundly defeated the Argentines in their own turf. Santos had Pelé when he was playing in his prime. One of the only perks of being in the Argentine Navy was that I could go to football matches for free if I wore my uniform. It was during this match that Pelé was met by a couple of overly enthusiastic Argentine defenders. Pelé kicked the ball forward (with his back heel) high into the air. He jumped over one of the defenders and ran around the other and when the ball came down he was alone with the goal in front of him. He deftly, and gently, tapped the ball in for the best goal I have ever seen. In retrospect I think that Pelé somehow made ammends for his navy's poor seamanship.
During my voyage from Buenos Aires to Veracruz in the Argentine Merchant Navy Victory Ship Río Aguapey I had the run of the ship as the only passenger. After my stint as a conscript the Argentine Navy I had swung a repatriation passage to Mexico (where I lived) from a friendly Argentine admiral. Besides reading Spengler I decided to photograph every sunset we had. Not too many of those sunsets have survived storage in my files all these years (since 196) but here are three off the coast of Brazil that did.
In 1985 I saw Terry Gilliam's Brazil at the Park on Cambie with science fiction writer William Gibson. I saw the film again today. After the film I went into my files and looked for Brazil. I found the sunsets.
One of my favourite books of all time is Lawrence Norfolk's The Pope's Rhinoceros (1996) which is a novel on how both the Portuguese and the Spaniards attempted to bribe Pope Leo X with a mysterious and yet unseen rhinoceros so that he would divide the "New World" to their favour. It would seem that somehow the Spaniards lost out.
The Treaty of Tordesillas, which had been ratified in 1494 by Pope Alexander VI, with its line of demarcation gave the Eastern bulge of South America (a future Brazil) to the Portuguese. The Spaniards had lobbied and kept lobbying to change this but the country became a Portuguese-speaking Brazil. It is just as strange, as that rusting aircraft carrier, that an African/Indian mammal, the rhino, would affect the future of the New World.