Greenland. A stormy night in January 1968, close to Nuuk. Wind-whipped waves, minus 20 degrees Celsius. Five German fishermen in a tender, trying to row from one trawler to another. A hopeless endeavor. „They ended up drifting along the Nuuk fjord, so we took them in“, Sonny Johannesen tells me.
That night, the Faroese skipper shot the black and white photograph in question: The five Germans happily having coffee in the mess of the Faroese trawler Brandur Sigmundarson. An encounter Sonny has kept in mind, for all these years. „I’d really love to talk to these German fishermen again, but I don’t know their names. The only clue I have is this picture.“
Tonight, Sonny intends to head for Greenland again, with a crew of 24, out at sea for black halibut. 1994, he joined the Enniberg as skipper. Stern trawler. Flag: Faroe Islands. Gross tonnage: 2578. Length overall and breadth: 70.01m × 13.83m. Build year: 1990.
Before the Enniberg leaves the harbor of Tórshavn, Sonny gives me a tour. Deck, mess, staffroom, kitchen, supplies, locker room, fillet machines, freezer, bridge. Sonny has established his treadmill directly behind the captain’s chair: „I need to get some exercise once in a while.“ In his cabin, on one of the walls: a framed verse from the Bible. Romans 11:36 – For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Sonny's favorite fishing ground: The Barents Sea. Average working time on the Enniberg: 12 hours a day. 6 hours on, 6 hours off. And so on and so forth. Sonny’s family: Saltwater running through veins, in a metaphorical sense. Father, grandfather, uncles: all fishermen, many of them successful skippers as well.
Hard to believe, but true: Sonny used to get seasick at the time when he started being a fisherman. On a regular basis, as a matter of fact. „No one in the whole wide world has ever been more seasick than me“, Sonny laughs. „My father already started to think of me as a carpenter. But I kept putting out to sea. That’s what I wanted to do, nothing else. At some point, I didn’t get seasick anymore. I still have no idea why.“
Stories told on the trawler Enniberg, bringing back memories, creating images of the beauty and the danger of the seas, just like the one from 1968 about five Germans drifting along the Nuuk fjord, a huge and intricate water system packed with islands and inlets.
„They spoke little English“, Sonny remembers. „Most of the time, our operator Arne was talking to them, he knew some German. Because of the storm, they had to stay on board overnight. Next morning, they got back to their trawler.“ Ready for another round of hard work: Fishing in the far north.