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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

FIRST CHAPTERS - The Novel in progress

The initial landing
James Skinner

How wars begin:
James Skinner on the origins of the Falklands Conflict
Scrap Metal

‘Tino searched the horizon for the landmark. His eyes glued to his binoculars. Captain Nestor continued to bellow out the ‘shut down’ orders as the ‘Gaviota’ dropped its anchor and shuddered to a halt. A large water-tank perched atop a rusting iron tower a few yards from the shore soon came into view. ‘There she is,’ he whispered to himself, holding his breath in case the ghostlike vision disappeared. He’d waited for this moment for months.

The sight grew wider. The grey shacks splattered with rust, whistling at his arrival as the Antarctic wind careened through their entrails. The odd window of a broken down building, was still flapping angrily as it sent out its message of frustration after years of abandon. Tino stared into space, paused to wipe his eyes and resumed his review of the landscape. He pictured the days when fishermen and slaughterers sweated their lives away hacking at the products of a plundered sea, whale in and whale out. He felt a million miles away whilst enjoying this precious moment, a reminder of days gone by. Slowly it sank in, the journey had ended but the work, and above all the lucrative business had just begun.

‘Plenty of iron dollars eh, Tino?’ muttered Captain Nestor, breaking the silence. ‘Enough to see you to your grave,’ he added sarcastically. He gave a quick glance at the ship’s chart and returned to his glare. ‘South Georgia is full of it, isn’t it? Guess you’re happy now!’ Tino ignored the remarks and took another sip at his cold coffee. He’d had enough bellyaching from him ever since they set out from the naval base at Puerto Belgrano. They’d bickered and argued throughout the trip. The captain kept insisting on a timescale. He wanted to know how long it would take to dismantle and collect the remains of the old whaling station abandoned since the twenties. ‘What the hell do you care,’ retorted Tino. ‘It’s my money you guys are getting. Shit, until we get there I don’t know.’

Tino never understood the urgency. All he cared about was making sure every ounce of iron was dismantled, catalogued and crated before leaving the site. ‘Why the precise timetable?’ he wondered.
One of the lifeboats was slowly lowered from the ‘Gaviota’. Tino, three of his men and four armed navy ratings were soon making their way towards the shore. His pulse was racing and although suffering from high blood pressure, his ills were soon forgotten as he stepped ashore eager to assess his future fortune. Still standing before him were the magnificent buildings and installations of a historical industry that had eventually been left to rack and ruin. He sighed, yet he still felt uneasy.

The Argentine navy had initially refused the mission to take place despite the lucrative booty at the end. Months of negotiations and bureaucratic paperwork drove Tino mad, until finally, out of the blue orders ‘from the top’ gave the go ahead. When he turned up for the umpteenth time at the War Office just after New Year in 1981, he was greeted with an odd overdue Christmas present. ‘Here you are, all signed, sealed and now my personal delivery.’ General Petroso handed him a folder and then turned and faced a man in a navy uniform. ‘Meet Captain Eduardo Nestor. He’ll make sure you make it safely to South Georgia. Enjoy your trip.’ He smiled, then paused, turned, and, as if he knew, added, ‘I envy you. Good day gentlemen!’ He promptly walked out of the room. The two men looked at each other. No body language was needed to feel that instant animosity was in the air. For a split second, the two glared at each other.

Captain Nestor broke the silence, ‘Mr. Friedberg. My ship, the ‘Gaviota’ will be ready to sail south within one month. Your men and equipment are your responsibility. I have all the information you’ve sent to the War Office regarding your mission.’ He walked towards the window overlooking the park. He paused for a moment. ‘You must understand that this is to be considered a military exercise and I shall be in charge at all times. My orders are paramount and undisputable. Do you have any objections?’
Tino was no fool; he’d dealt with the military before. ‘You shits will never change,’ he thought. He began to move towards the exit door of the office, his eyes scrutinising the folder. He grinned as he recognised the signature and seal of approval from the Ministry. He looked at Captain Nestor, already despising his new shipmate and boss. He waved a sign of approval and walked out.

Tino was still bothered. Something was not right. ‘Why the sudden change? It wasn’t the cash payment. Christ, they were getting their money’s worth out of me,’ the thought kept turning over in his mind. ‘The military must have something up their sleeve. That shit must have other orders. Oh, what the hell!
He sat on a small bench in the park just outside the entrance to the Ministry and once again opened his folder. He kept on skimming through the papers until he found what he was looking for; the letter from the British Embassy in Buenos Aires with the counter signature from the Governor of the Falkland Islands. Permission to land on the South Georgia islands had also been granted. FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES ONLY, was written in unmistakeable language. The ‘Gaviota’ was not a merchant ship; she was a thirty-year-old converted Liberty vessel now belonging to the Argentine navy.

Tino sighed to himself, ‘if the Brits only knew how much money there is down there.’ He chuckled, ‘I’m back in business.’

Constantino Friedberg, part time entrepreneur, sometime engineer had been planning his raid on the South Atlantic scrap iron dump for years. The offspring of an Italian mother and Jewish father, who had fled Italy before the nazi takeover was brought up in the downtrodden Boca district. He was too young to fall foul of the horrors of war yet the backlash of the post war Peronist regime had taught the young ‘Porteno’ the lie of the land. Jews were both outcasts and refugees but also cunning, whilst Italian immigrants exploited the rich spoils inherited from World War II. Tino inherited both traits and thanks to the precarious life and background of the Friedberg family he was born a natural scavenger.

To be continued
© James Skinner September 2003

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