Chinese Zombie Ships 

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Already I see it as the perfect setting for a zombie invasion. It had the title "The Chinese zombie ships of West Africa" and of course I was intrigued. From Ocean Defenders, the Greenpeace blog:
It's more rust than metal - the ship is rotting away. The foredeck is covered in broken machinery. The fish deck is littered with frayed cables, and the mast lies horizontally, hanging over the starboard side. A large rusty Chinese character hangs on railings above the bridge, facing forward. It reads 'happiness'.
These fishing vessels brought to the coast of poor Guinea cannot, holepunched near the waterline, make the trip back to China and so the fisherman live aboard until relief crews arrive.

Sometimes relief is two years off. The men desalinate water onboard and catch their own fish. Their commercial catch is laundered through legit fishing outfits, eventually making its way to European dinner plates.

Guinea is too poor to patrol their own waters, with some illegal ships coming within two miles of the shore:
In the struggle to compete with illegal industrial trawlers, local fishermen are losing their livelihoods - and in some cases, their lives. Others are forced farther out to sea - we've seen them working more than 100km from the coast, bobbing around in small boats ["most of whom still use small canoes called pirogues"], at the mercy of the elements.
It's one of those annoying problems. Do you punish the fishermen, who have little choice but to participate? How do you get to the real meanies?

Surely somebody can come up with a decent zombie plot out of this. Lonely rusting boats tethered together in the Atlantic, a man pulls himself across from one ship to the other in a small crate. His ship hadn't seen the other's crew for two days now. He makes the twenty minute trip across the water, yells to anyone aboard the other ship. No answer. Something darts across the deck, obscured by rust. He calls again and boards the ship.

Guinea once supplied slaves to the New World: these could be traditional voodoo zombies. Or, in keeping with environmental disasters, the fishermen ingested contaminated fish, plucked from a secret toxic waste dump zone. One crew makes it back to infect everyone at home, unleashing a zombie armageddon in one-billion strong China - or should it be Marseille, that old plague standby, that gets its own twenty-first century undead epidemic?

I am weighing the terror potential of such a story. Would I be more terrified to be a Chinese dude on a ship off an African country, not speaking the language, my passport thousands of miles away, a roving band of zombies on my trail, or would I be even more terrified as an eighteenth century arctic explorer with my ship trapped in the Northwest Passage ice, a roving band of zombies making its way over the floes to my ship, a blizzard swirling about them?

So many questions. I am thankful to Greenpeace for providing me with more fodder for thought.

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