The photo below came into my in-box a few days ago. My husband sent it to me, and it made me stop to think, and marvel, – not just at the beauty of the colourful sunrise scene, but most of all at the technologies that made it possible for him to share this with me.
My husband is a fisherman on the high seas, – has been ever since he was out of school, – and during summer holidays when still in school. In former years they were often fishing around the Western Isles and west of Ireland, some times around Iceland, Greenland, and for a short period even on the other side of the globe; off the coast of South Africa and into the Indian Ocean. These days they are most often just off the coast of Norway, or into the Barent Sea. The time they stay out at sea varies, – from 4 to 7-8 weeks depending on various things.
This year we have been married for 35 years.
In the beginning we communicated over the radio, – the kind where you had to say “over” as a signal for the other person to speak, and then “over and out” when you were finished. On the radio on board he contacted a land based radio station, where they put the call through the telephone to me. So even though I was speaking on the phone, I still had to say “over”, which took some getting used to. Also, everyone else with a radio receiver could listen in on the conversations, so you had to be careful with what you said. When they were far away, there would be days and days, even weeks, when they could not get through to the land based stations. If this lasted too long, he would sometimes call via land stations abroad, which was rather expensive.
Often the radio conditions were better during the night, so when we built our house, we had an extra phone outlet installed in the bedroom. For several years, when my parents were visiting, they used to jump when the phone rang late at night. It took some getting used to that a midnight call did not signal a major crisis of some kind. (My mother’s parents had the only phone in the area when she was growing up, and one of her tasks was to run and get the neighbours when they were wanted on the phone. Midnight calls were always emergencies only, even when I was growing up. My mother is now 82 and is active on Facebook)
After a few years, the VHF radios took over, so we could skip the “over” stuff. Also, normal radio receivers did not pick up the signals, so only other VHFs could listen in, – not every housewife along the coast. (Earlier some women, – and men, – were notorious, – the radio was on in the kitchen all day, listening to the menfolk on board the boats talking, picking up information about the catch each boat were getting, – along with other tidbits. It used to amaze me how much some people knew about the goings on up and down the coast).
Still, if conditions were bad, or if the boat was far out, it was back to the old radio.
Then mobile phones came around, but they were not good for long distances. However, when travelling close to the coast, it was, and is, possible to use them. The first ones were not very “mobile”, by the way, – rather heavy contraptions that had to be mounted on the wall.
Our first stint at communicating via computers, was by some kind of telex-email. We could write or copy text into a special software program which telexed the message to and from the boat via a satellite antennae. The program was never upgraded beyond Windows 98, and we still have a computer running Win98 that we “saved” for using this program.
However, satellite phones appeared big time a few years back, so the telex is out. Now he calls me every day on the satellite phone when they are too far out for the mobiles. They can now send and receive email, surf the internet, keep their Facebook profiles updated, and follow their children and grandchildren via blogs, emails, and online photo albums, – things we did not even dream about only ten-fifteen years ago.
So this is how he came to share this photo with me, – taken off the coast of North Norway at 05.20 in the morning on the 29th of April 2009.