20-Feb-2005 -- On our way from Alexandria (Egypt) to Wilhelmshaven (Germany) with fresh new potatoes today we could visit 37N 14E, a confluence I was waiting for since several years. Many times I was planning to visit it by hiring a boat, but I always dropped the idea as from a small boat you usually do not see much and it is wasted money then, hoping for a chance to visit it with a real ship.
Indeed I did pass the area with my ship several times, but it happened always during night. Today, however, it was finally possible. The confluence is located in a bay in southern Sicily, extending between the small town of Licata and Capo (Cape) Scalambri.
Many interesting things can be seen from this confluence. First of all, today we have the typical weather of winterly Mediterranean. Very cold (only 11°C - 52°F), very windy, very wet, and frequent heavy rainshowers and thunderstorms.
Due to the stirred up sky small whirlwinds were forming.
Let’s get started to look from the confluence towards SE. It is the east coast of the bay, where the small harbor of Scoglitti and Capo Scalambri is located.
Swinging to ENE we see the town of Gela with its port and refineries. A few tankers are waiting for berthing.
Gela stands on the summit and seaward slope of a plateau, about 45 m above sea level. It has about 80,000 inhabitants and is nowadays a busy port for the handling of petroleum products. Every year almost 900 ships with about 10,000,000 tons of cargo visit Gela. Just close to the confluence another tanker, the Russian owned and Liberia-registered “Krasnodar” was crossing our course when approaching Gela.
Not all readers are probably aware of the fact that under the seabed between Sicily and Northern Africa, the so-called “Canale di Sicilia" (Sicilian Channel), there are extensive oil fields. Billions of barrels of oil are waiting to be exploited. And so we are not surprised to find as the closest object an oil platform or more precisely the “Prezioso”-platform, 4.6 km ENE of the confluence.
Oil could one day be, similar to Scotland, the basis of Sicily’s wealth. I have, however, my doubts whether I shall see that within my short remaining lifetime. Oil is exploited full power in many locations worldwide, and alas, not in much of them the earnings and profits are used for the benefit of the local people. I fear it will be the same with Sicily.
The big tycoons in Rome and Milan will bag the money and play their entertaining games with international stock and commodity exchange, instead of using it for the benefit of us poor Sicilian people and shape up this economically anyway very problematic region to a better standard. But maybe a few cents will really seep into the local purses and something good will be done with it. I do not trust in it, but if it will be so, it would be a welcome surprise. But at least we have almost always good weather in Sicily and only nice and friendly people :-)
Let’s now look towards North. There we see the northern coast of the bay, and, having a closer look, another symbol of Sicily’s “wealth”: Citrus farms. “Wealth” I can put unfortunately only between quotation marks, as European Union’s agriculture coordinating technocrats in Brussels in their unpredictable, unesteemable, and unfathomable wisdom do not like Sicilian fruits, which are doubtlessly the best in the world.
They prefer to give money to the farmers in compensation not to harvest them and to let them rot, to be free on the other side to import huge quantities of citrus fruits from Argentina, Uruguay, and South Africa. Those fruits are obviously cheaper. The pesticides, the high amount of water and their stale or alternatively sour taste, however, are certainly absolutely free of charge.
But prior some reader will now lynch me as an enemy of the glorious European Union, I will stop that political bullshit and return fully apolitically to the confluence.
We have two views left, the one to NNE, where the closest town to the confluence is located: Licata. Licata is a small town and fishing port West of the mouth of River Salso. The population is about 45,000. Finally we look towards NW towards the pretty coast west of Licata.