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Monday, September 30th 2019, 12:38am

Iquitos, 18 June1949

Felix Wankel breathed a sigh of relief when he received the telegram advising him that the next supply ship bearing the necessary materials for the next phase of work on the floating dry dock had arrived at the Brazilian river port of Manaus. It was customary for freighters arriving from Europe to call there to off-load cargo before ascending the river to enter the upper Amazon. Freed of some of their cargo, the ships would ride higher in the water which guarded against grounding. The telegram also advised him that in addition to the pontoons and structural steel for the next phase of construction on the dry dock the supply ship was bearing additional workmen to help assure that the project remained on schedule; this last point he did appreciate, for with more skilled workmen on the scene there would be time enough for the supplemental tasks his team were always being asked to tackle. Based upon past experience, Wankel expected the supply ship to arrive within a week, ten days at the outside. He started making notes to discuss with his foremen in the morning.


Wednesday, October 2nd 2019, 6:35pm

Gran Hotel Bolivar, Lima, 20 June 1949

Robinson had returned to his hotel after a long day of meetings with representatives of the many facets of Peruvian bureaucracy involved in developing the mineral wealth of the country. He mixed himself a whiskey and soda and loosened his tie, and sat down to review the day’s progress before dining with Ambassador Pawley.

Thanks to Pawley’s cogent advice Robinson had managed to avoid some of the pitfalls that might have derailed his mission at the outset; as it was, he had at least interested the principal decision-makers in the project for which he sought backing. More than ten years ago a survey team had discovered exploitable deposits of copper and molybdenum near Haquira, in the Apurimac Region, but the report had been filed when the Andean War had broken out and in the subsequent disruptions it had been forgotten. Had he not rediscovered the report during the research for his Masters’ degree, it would have remained so.

Copper was sufficiently abundant around the globe that it alone would not have drawn him to South America, but Utah Construction and Mining was very aware of the important role molybdenum played in modern metallurgy and, if the old survey findings were correct, the ore at Haquira was particularly rich in that mineral. Sipping his drink, Robinson counseled himself that patience was required to deal with the proud Peruvians, whose caution in embracing the Yankee dollar was readily apparent; but Robinson as an individual, and Utah Construction as a firm, were willing to play for the long game.


Friday, October 4th 2019, 6:19pm

Iquitos, 25 June 1949

The arrival of the freighter Imtraut Cords not only brought relief to Felix Wankel and his construction crew but pleased the merchants of Iquitos who were able to receive the goods ordered months ago. The rising tide of prosperity that had lifted Iquitos out of the commercial doldrums and returned her to her rightful place as the commercial center of the Tres Fronteras, but this depended upon the continued flow of consumer goods brought upriver and the export of primary products to the wider world – products that now waited their turn in riverside warehouses.

Wankel’s pontoons, which were carried on the freighter’s fore and after-decks were the first items to be off-loaded; they had to be in order to clear the ship’s hatchways. Once these encumbrances were dealt with the ship’s crew and the local dock workers took to bringing up the goods that would keep the economic life of the city going. The Imtraut Cords carried bales of textiles and ready-made clothing, shoes, boots, and leather goods; machinery and metals to be fabricated into the machetes and other tools that would clear the jungle and make way for new plantations; cases of bottled beverages and spirits destined for the many cantinas of the city; bricks, boards, cable, and wire – to keep the pace of construction up to the mark. Unloading the ship would take several days – after which she would take on a return cargo of rubber, timber, and other forest products.


Monday, October 7th 2019, 3:15am

Diario Oficial El Peruano (Lima), 29 June 1949

The transport ships Bambas and Matagaga were launched today at the Mollendo-Matarani dockyard of the Servicios Industriales de la Marina. The second pair of Corongo-class vessels to be constructed for the Armada they are due to be completed by early December. The lead ship, Corongo, and her sister Parcartambo, are expected to complete next month and enter service before the end of the year. Their arrival is expected to significantly increase the ability of the Armada to support regional development and communication along the nation’s lengthy coastline.


Wednesday, October 30th 2019, 8:39pm

Peruvian News and Events, July 1949

The Peruvian Times (Lima), 2 July 1949

Yesterday in the Callao naval shipyard keels were laid for five new vessels for the Peruvian Navy – the destroyers Bolognesi and Garcia, the corvettes Ayabaca and Chulucanas, and the salvage tug Morales. The two destroyers are the first ordered to replace those vessels sold abroad to China and Japan, or otherwise disposed of. The corvettes, of the Huancabamba class, are the latest of six vessels built or building, and are intended to protect offshore economic resources. The Morales is expected to fulfill the Peruvian Navy’s need for modern support services afloat.


Saturday, November 2nd 2019, 6:01pm

Puno, Puno Region, 5 July 1949

The notes of the last bars of the Himno Nacional faded in the wind whipping off the lake; the commissioning ceremony for the Ipari was complete, Lieutenant Díaz unfolded the document containing his orders and read them aloud to the assembled crew – and a few curious onlookers ashore. He was now officially the ship’s master and commander – a status he had despite all the string-pulling and favor-cashing he could exert. He had little choice to make the best of his situation.

At least the Navy had provided him with a good crew, including some native to the lake region and who spoke the local Puno Quechua dialect, and the rail connection with the outside world eased the problems of outfitting his ship and laying in the necessary supplies – which, given the Iparia’s social action purposes, included such diverse items as notebooks and pencils, bandages and analgesics, seeds, schoolbooks, and missals. The latter had been insisted upon by the ship’s chaplain, Father Alfredo Lescano.

In three days, once the last of her supplies arrived, the Ipari would cast off for her first mission, a short jaunt across the waters of the lake, to Taquile Island.


Friday, November 8th 2019, 6:25pm

Gran Hotel Bolivar, Lima, 8 July 1949

Robinson reflected upon the difficulties of developing mining properties in a nation lacking a decent transportation infrastructure. Through dint of careful negotiation he had managed to convince the hydra-headed Peruvian bureaucracy of the desirability of developing the Haquira mine project. The Office of Mines and Mineral Development stood squarely behind the scheme – the prospect of adding molybdenum to Peru’s treasure trove appealed to them; the General Directorate of Resource Management was amenable, but did have concerns about over-production of copper that might hurt existing operations elsewhere; and the State Committee for Economic Development saw opportunities for the entire district and had quickly begun to lay out plans to meet its goals. And therein lay the root of Robinson’s present dilemma – money – or more to the point, who was going to pay for the general economic overhead associated with the project.

There was no town per se in the vicinity; scattered mountain villages, but no concentration of potential labor – it would cost to hire, recruit, transport, and maintain them. There were no railroads in the area, no rivers or navigable streams, and no real roads – some means of getting men, equipment, and supplies in and the ore out would have to be devised. And the Peruvians looked to Robinson and his company to provide the funding for all the social costs. Oh they would contribute towards it, each of the departments had assured him of that – but he and his partners were being asked to lay out large sums up front before they could turn over a spade’s-worth of ore.

That evening he sent a cablegram to his home office in Los Angeles outlining the situation and requesting that the firm’s chief accountant fly down to join him. Maybe they could sharpen their pencils sufficiently to salvage something of the venture.


Tuesday, November 12th 2019, 3:19pm

Puerto Chilcano, Taquile Island, 11 July 1949

The Ipari lay in the open roadstead of the village of Huillanopampa, the largest village on the sparsely populated island; the mountains that comprised much of the island gave some protection to the winds. The ship lay moored close to shore – the waters of Lake Titicaca shelved rapidly to deep water on this side of the island – and a gangway had been laid from the Ipari’s deck to the shore to facilitate the comings and goings of the crew and her visitors.

Since her arrival two days ago Díaz had watched the island’s inhabitants – Taquileños – following their quiet, ancient traditions. Contrary to his expectations, the Ipari had not been mobbed by natives seeking anything and everything the ship had to offer. A delegation of village elders had come aboard inquiring as to the purpose of the Ipari’s visit, and listened gravely to Díaz’s explanation through the facility of an interpreter. Informed that the ship had a doctor and medical facilities aboard, the elders informed him that those requiring medical assistance would be sent – and a number of serious cases had been brought to the ship. When apprised that the ship had carpenters and tools available, they asked for assistance to help carry out repairs to the local church – a task Díaz was happy to undertake – it would look good on his report. Little interest was shown by the locals in education – and this Díaz could comprehend; the village had no school and the traditional way of life of the Taquileños did not demand books. The elders had listened to the suggestion that they build a permanent school building, and agreed that it would be useful, but they wished the church to be repaired first.

The Ipari would remain several more days before sailing to her next destination. Díaz arranged with the elders to have a survey made of Huillanopampa against the day when more infrastructure might be built there.