My Trip To The Arctic

I do wish to explain how I, a penniless artist, came to make this book. I cherish the day when I can sit in front of a roaring fire on a cold wintery night, with a grandchild on each knee telling this story! The opportunity just fell from heaven. Well actually, it fell into the river.


To make a long story short it all began with King Henry of Portugal, who in 1420 set his kingdom on a course of world exploration. He helped establish Portugal as one of the leading maritime and trading nations of the day. Twenty-six years after he died, Bartolomo Diaz commanded the first ship to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. In 1498 he was followed by Vasco da Gama, the first European to sail to India. He quickly set up trading routes to India and Africa. Within one hundred years the Portuguese had been completely eclipsed by their Spanish neighbors to the east and french to the north. Portugal slunk back to anonymity, but maintained the colonies they had.


For almost 500 years the colonies slept and Portugal slept. Finally in 1960 in Angola armed resistance began by Africans. As time wore on, Portugal was forced to send more and more money and troops to Africa to maintain their rule. The Governments of Salazar and Caetano, and those preceeding they had never really developed the colonies to any extent. So While there was some money flowing to Portugal from Africa, most of it was flowing in the other direction, and causing an economic crisis in Portugal. Caetano refused to end the wars, and on April 25, 1974 he was overthrown. For a whole variety of reasons the ""revolution of the red carnations"" failed to establish a solid government.


By the spring of 1975, a tremendous workers movement was afoot throughout the country, challenging the factory owners, as well as the government. Although it never attracted as much attention as the student movements in 1969 throughout Northern Europe, it was the closest to a genuine communist revolution that Europe had seen since the end of World War I. I was in Portugal in mid 1975 to photograph the power struggle.


On Thursday, September 25 there was another of those ""typical"" demonstrations of 100,000 in Lisbon. At the rally it was announced that two revolutionary soldiers had been jailed for political leafleting. They were being held at Travaria Prison and some 20,000 people immediately hijacked all the busses and trolleys and proceeded to the prison. The prison commander refused to release them and everyone was ready to storm the Bastille all over again when we heard that the Marines were on the way to disperse us. At this, a group of invalid veterans in wheelchairs left to seize the bridge over the Tagus river to prevent the arrival of the Marines. I did manage to reach the bridge before them and was standing off to the side photographing both their approach and that of the Marines. It was like a Hollywood western - the race to the pass.


My back was to the demonstrators when I heard some one shouting in terror-stricken Dutch. When I turned around to see what was going on, I bumped into this frail Dutchman who was attempting to run by. I proceeded to knock him into the river. He was dragged out sputtering like an otter and taken off to dry. Later in the day I was ""informed"" that my presence was ""requested' at the local police station. I went graciously. To my surprise I found myself face to face with the Dutchman. He introduced himself as L. Hendrik Smuts. It turned out that he was one of the most powerful industrialists in the Netherlands, and was in Portugal investigating the stability of his investments. He was out for a stroll when he saw the invalid veterans wheeling down the boulevard towards the bridge. Mr. Smuts, being a little nervous seeing as how he had been thrown out of his shipyards earlier in the day by the workers Commissions, assumed they were invalids from the docks coming for further revenge. He must have been quite senile at the time for he quite honestly believed that I save his life by shoving him in the river. After a few moments of pleasantly he offered me a job to find the most direct sea route from Holland to the arctic oil fields.


These are the photos I took along the way.


This story was written as the introduction to a fictional, hand-bound book of photographs and collages. The book was created in 1977.