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April 23 1979

 DEATH OF A MARINER

Anna Bergman, who lives on a farm near Kerikeri, remembers Andy Svedlund, who rowed solo 4400 miles across the Indian Ocean in 1971 and 6000miles across the Pacific in 1974. He died, aged 51, on Friday, April 20 in the kitchen of his lonely flat in Auckland.
Dear Andy, - We were most profoundly shocked when we read about your sudden death. You know, lately we seldom spoke of you. But on Monday night I was about to ask whether anyone had heard of you, when we found the pathetic little story in the paper "Ocean Rower Dies in Kitchen". It was accompanied by an equally pathetic little photo. Only then someone said that they had met you in Queen Street last Friday at about 5.OOpm when you were on your way home.
They were possibly the last people you spoke to.

Many things come to mind now. We should have kept you on the farm a little longer and should have listened to you a bit more attentively. What does it mean that it was some of us you spoke to last'? Did you need someone to remember you and your stupendous achievement that you rowed, ROWED, 10,400 miles across the Pacific and the Indian Oceans? That you measured the earth against the muscles of your own body, against the flame of your will? While most of us, for sinister reasons, have hardly a flame left at all, not even muscles worth mentioning.

I've even a feeling that not many people noticed your death (wonder who buried you and where) or even know who you are. You were an introverted man, you see. You didn't write a diary, a book "as you should have". You had such unbending reservations, or just couldn't feel at home in "the fallen world".
You were great at shaking your head and muttering to yourself. At times you were embarrassed, bewildered: "No, I can't drive, never wanted to, I'd lose my sense of direction." Laughter. Or you were bitter, felt that people were more than half ruined by an "incomprehensibly stupid way of life", motivated by "the devil knows what", "not for me, thanks". And the kindling would rapidly fall away from the axe you so skilfully handled, and the fire would blaze as if fanned from some special source of oxygen you had access to. I've warmed myself by this fire. We all have. And we know very well that you don't need us to remember you: it's us who are in need of this memory.
You know, at night when l lie in my caravan, I marvel at the thought that the hands which rowed across those oceans were the very hands, which painted the ceiling' above my head. I never asked you to do it. One certain morning you just did it. Characteristically with not the minutest splash, just the way you rowed.

And, don't laugh, but I've fixed the needle of an old compass against that ceiling. It kind of looks like a little boat cruising along steadily.

Goodbye from us all. And thank you again for calling at our farm.

Anna


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