The Roberta Expo - August 2003
Ben returned from Latvia and Roberta came with him. She brought good luck. "Mystery Ship" joins "Mystery Factory".
roberta104.jpg Ben is returning to pick up my flashlight. He had forgotten it under the bridge. And so he gave me a good opportunity to show the entrance.

The Harmsenbrug carries the N57 highway between Brielle and Rozenburg. Most probably it's from the 60's.

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The underside of the bridge is accessible by climbing through the railing - thus bypassing a locked gate. Going down the stairs you pass a lot of doors but all are solidly locked. Down below, at the water level there is a kind of shelter. You could sleep there without being seen.
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Here we admired the view, looked at the passing ships and tried to dodge the cobwebs. The spiders have eaten well in this hot summer and they are big and far. But unlike Australia we have no poisonous spiders.
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Ben and Roberta wanted to take a look at the Calandtunnel. I was awaiting my security screening so I didn't want to take any risks. I waited here, looking at the bright lights. I hate to be in this place alone - you are in the middle of nowhere, vulnerable and completely exposed.
roberta108.jpg I watch every car closely. I'm afraid of psycho's looking for a victim. Waiting and doing nothing gets on my nerves. So I start to explore the dark surroundings where I'm invisible and where I feel safe.

Finally Roberta and Ben return. The tunnel is still accessible, but there seems to be a lot of water in it. Ben doesn't think that's normal.

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I tell them that I climbed a fence and that I discovered this enormously long wooden pier. Later I see it's only 400 m on the map. It is difficult to walk over the large lava boulders of the dyke. They're wobbly and slippery. We have to hold on to the fence. Access is possible because of the low water level. It was a hot and dry summer and the river is at its lowest.
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We walk through the dark, ships passing with their ghostly lights. The surface feels like moss. At the end there is a small blinking light with a warning sign. Access forbidden, high tension.
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Then we see the birds. There are tens of them and we disturb them in their sleep. Grudgingly they fly away as we approach. Only one stayed put. And it looked so menacingly that I was afraid it would peck me with it's sharp beak. They looked like vultures but they were cormorants - fish eaters.
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We admire the view and take long exposure shots. "This railing really stinks" says Ben. And I realize that it was not moss that I felt under my feet, but bird-shit!
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We follow the Neckarweg and the Eemsweg towards the "Mystery Factory" and we admire the wide empty spaces, menacing buildings and strange objects. An empty car-train goes to Spain from here.
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The landscape always reminds me of Tarkovski's film - Stalker. And of the original book by the Arkadij & Boris Strugackij - Picnic at the side of the road. It describes the Zone created by a visit by extraterrestrials where the normal laws of physics are not valid anymore. The zone is visited by legal researchers and illegal stalkers - like us. Rotterdam Botlek at night is a zone of it's own.
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We drive through the Zone in the direction of the Mystery Factory. We don't expect any surprises. It's a courtesy visit - to show Roberta one of our favourite sites. She has come all the way from Latvia, so she should see as much as possible. But then we turn the last corner and we see ...
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roberta125.jpg The poor ship Fortuna must have sunk some time ago after a collision. Then someone lifted it from the bottom and parked it here.

It looked like a ghost ship. I was afraid to go inside, I had the feeling it could topple any moment. But Roberta and Ben were less afraid.

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Two young white ladies. It must have been my subconscious speaking when I juxtaposed these two pictures. Probably I'm a dirty old man without really noticing it ...
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"It smelled very strange in there" said Roberta afterwards. "Wet, musty and combined with a thick oil smell. It gave me a headache." Ben said "It felt like one of those diving-films where they enter old shipwrecks."
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The ship could have been 50 - 90 years old. It had a wooden hull, thick oak planks, like the VOC-ships. But it also had a steel cabin and probably a diesel engine. It had a kitchen with a modern coffee machine. Roberta discovered a shelf with books. "Can you hand me some?" I asked. Roberta tried and said "No, they're all wet, soft and spongy - I don't really want to touch them again."
Strange Places
Deserted Buildings
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Petr Kazil

August 2003