Rough life on the Gulf of Aden

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By PENG YIN­ING

On good days, the wa­ter in the Gulf of Aden is as flat as a mir­ror. Schools of dol­phins leap as they chase fly­ing fish, which try to es­cape over the wa­ter, while breezes carry the fresh smell of the ocean.

But most of the time, the wind brings sand­storms from the desert that reaches to the shore, and the wa­ter in the area is rough, ac­cord­ing to Yang Guo­jun, a 31-year-old sol­dier who de­ployed on a Chi­nese naval es­cort mis­sion in 2009 and 2011. High waves break on the ship decks and cause it to roll hard.

Yang said some­times it wasn’t pos­si­ble to even cook on­board as liq­uids would spill out of the pans.

“Many peo­ple had a hard time get­ting to sleep be­cause of the rolling and sea­sick­ness,” Yang said. “I of­ten felt I would be thrown out of my bunk bed, and a cou­ple of times, I slept on a chair hold­ing on to a post.”

In the day­time, the deck was heated by the trop­i­cal sun­light to more than 60 C. “I had to put a wet towel on me­tal han­dles be­fore hold­ing them,” he said.

Another chal­lenge for those on the es­cort mis­sion was be­ing away from land for a long time, said Cap­tain Li Ji­hui, who took part in a 274-day mis­sion in 2009, the long­est in the PLA navy’s his­tory.

Dur­ing that mis­sion, Li said, ev­ery month the crew had about five days on land when the ship moored to take on sup­plies, but the rest of the time they lived on the ship with­out ac­cess to mo­bile phones, tele­vi­sion or the In­ter­net.

There was hardly any pri­vacy as peo­ple shared ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing cab­ins and bath­room fa­cil­i­ties. The rear deck, the big­gest open space on the frigate, was only about half the size of a ten­nis court.

“The hard­est part was be­ing apart from our fam­i­lies. We waited for two hours in a line and called them for five min­utes ev­ery week,” he said. “Many of us missed the births of our chil­dren or the funer­als of our par­ents.”

Liv­ing in hot hu­mid weather in a limited space for such a long time is a big chal­lenge for any­one, ac­cord­ing to Guo Yong, a psy­chol­o­gist with the Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal of the PLA navy.

“Dur­ing the de­ploy­ments,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.