Ward Shelley Voyage Logo Voyage Platform Voyage Logo Berlin '99

© Ward Shelley

The Journal (Blog)

Tuesday June 22
When the voyage starts July 2, we will have daily entries here to let you know how it is going down, so to speak. The newest entries will be first, at the top. I am in Berlin now and applying myself directly to the task: getting the materials, cutting and assembling them into the platform, finishing the mail, and trying to figure out what can go wrong in the next 10 days. Things are twice as hard (only twice?) in a strange city, with no vehicle of your own, and not speaking the language. Fortunately, I have the help of a number of nice friends and that goes a long way. Also, the rest of the crew is expected soon.

Monday June 28
It is now 4 days until we go up. But as the polar explorer Scott once said, "Things have not gone as planned." We have been a man short since we got here and we are a bit behind in the building, perhaps forcing us to sacrifice some details of the piece. Casper has been unavoidably detained by personal business; quite an inconvenience to us as he was to be carpenter and provider of tools and many resources. A number of people have rushed in to fill the gap: Mark Stolte, Claudia Schmacke, Linda Nagaoka, Hilde Skowasch, and Anna Lahr, but these are big shoes to fill. Hurry up, Casper! No matter what, we will get up there on Friday; you've got to sail with the tides. And, as Simon said last night, "these inconveniences are what the piece is all about."

Tuesday June 29
Looks like Casper's given up the ghost, or is in the land of the Lotus Eaters. David and I spent a few dark hours wondering if we could possibly move this thing as a duo when we spotted a ship on the horizon. Coming to our rescue, it's Ole Olaussen, our Norwegian mountain climbing friend. The observant among you may recall that he is non other than Ole the Strong One, indispensible original crew member from the first voyage. We are overjoyed, in fact desperate, to welcome Ole aboard. He received our distress call and dropped everything to join us. We are overwhelmed. This thing is beginning to script like a Hollywood buddy movie.

Friday July 2
Today it begins. Nearly everything is ready and we expect to get up on the platform today; on schedule, but not quite so well prepared as the first project in New York. Setbacks earlier in the week forced a hectic pace in our preparations and left me no time to double check our work or contemplate contingencies. Nevertheless, we go up soon and our climb up is a kind of leap of faith in everyone's hard work and dedication.
Our starting point is the southeastern edge of the Mengerzeile no-man's land, still overgrown and unimproved since the wall came down ten years ago when the barriers, barbed wire, and explosive mines were removed. We will follow the direction of the wall northward between these two communities, once separated by political force, now making efforts to overcome the differences the wall symbolizes to me, an outsider.
Enough with the second rate editorial. Back to the nuts and bolts of urban adventure. Crew members are David Brody, Ole M. Olaussen, and Ward Shelley: putting our collective shoulder into it.

Saturday July 3
We finished our preparations late last night and had a nice dinner with friends. When we returned, we threw up our bags, got a last kiss, and climbed up. The night, our first, was quiet but morning came early...about 4:30 am. I managed to sleep late anyway, barely hearing the early dog walkers and shoppers through a sleep that was in all other ways complete. David is a bit more sensitive, even through blindfold and earplugs.
Today is for adjustement and relaxation, plus a few improvements. Ole inaugurated the voyage toilet, so I guess we're all set.

Sunday July 4
It's hot and we are moving slowly. Today is the official exhibition opening as well as Americas birthday. We'll be eating hotdogs (Wurst) and celebrating with all comers. As a crew, we have worked out the routines and know we are competent for the task. Having Ole here makes me miss Bill, but David has mastered all the movements and also cooks mysterious and tasty meals. We are getting lots of visitors from the neighborhoods and have to negotiate language barriers to communicate.

Monday July 5
Today is the scorcher...35' C according to predictions, which is in the upper 90's. We attempted an early start and accomplished a 10 frame movement before retreating to the shady lower platform.
This course is shorter than the Socrates voyage, so we have more leisure time for thinking and talking. Very fortunate for us during this hot weather.
Yesterday was active for our on board post office. We processed 40 postcards. Many more were given out and should be dropped in the box before long.

Tuesday July 6
Yesterday evening the heat wave ended suddenly with storm winds and an approaching cold front. We frantically set up the tents on the top and prepared for the worst. The rains came very early this morning and we eventually began to get wet. Fortunately, the rain let up and we got in our best day of work in the cool weather that followed.
I calculate from looking at the buildings around us that about 1000 people can see us from their windows and probably give us a bit of a notice every day, at least monitoring our progress. I have no idea what they are thinking. A few come by regulary to talk.

Wednesday July 7
The crew seemed stiff and reticent the morning after another night of rain. Yet we accomplished a full nine frame movement (one complete platform lenght) before brunch. This also included the challenging "Fan" manoeuvre, one of the few methods we have for steerung this engine. In the Fan, we lash the corners of two frames, using that point as the radius of a turn, and then build out on a tangent.
All this to avoid some rough terrain approach on the port side. Uneven ground will become our main difficulty in the upcoming movements. Our supplies seem to be holding up.

Thursday July 8
Last night everyone had a chance to aire their grievencess. I was surprised at how many there were. Most grew out of the stress and pressure we experienced during platform preparations. Everyone seems to have had a bad moment or two and we had to talk it out.
Healing seemed to commence during a relaxed breakfast and everyone appears to feel cleansed and closer than before. I hope this is true.
We had an easy day, everything seemed effertless and well. We had visitors and a good session with our photographer. Perfect weather. Excellent dinner. A wee bit of Scotch.

Friday July 9
Everything was fine and mellow today. The visitors are great. By now we have been in all the Berlin papers and we feel good energy from everywhere. It doesn't feel like a full week - this seven days went quickly.
Tomorrow we will reach the other side and begin our 90 degree turn for the final leg. It should be easy.

Saturday July 10
It's dusk and we are in position for our turn which will be our final manoeuvre.
Today has been a journeyman's day, every one doing solid, good work, like they've been doing this for years. Yet, anticipation permeates all our thoughts.
It's always like this at the end.
Our best friends come by to share the feeling.
See you tomorrow for the finali.

Sunday July 11
Sometime during the middle of the afternoon we finished the job and got down. Today was a lot harder than anticipated and cathartic, if that's a word. Suffice to say for now, we made it and we are too beat to write anymore tonight. Check in tomorrow for the story and ruminations.
A special thanks to Comm. E who has been manning the circuits and making these reports possible.

Monday July 12
The day after, and with complaining muscles, we are collecting, cleaning, and disassembling.
The final leg of the voyage was the most stressful and challenging. We decided to do a 90 degree turn and come up between two "cross at your own risk signs, just for the effect and photo potential. This also meant crossing a shallow wide ditch. The platform neither turns nor traverses uneven ground well and we spent 3 hours in the heat in a vortex of chaos. The platform nearly collapsed, minor personal injuries were sustained, and quite a few risky steps had us flirting with disaster. We only made it thanks to the indomitable spirit of the crew and the clever Stolte leg extensions furnished by a friend of the same name.
All the time I was wondering, could this possibly look as hard as it is? Could a bystander have any idea of the danger and stress we were experiencing? Maybe so, because a crowd of strangers gathered to witness these last struggles and then disappeared after we were safe and about to ceremoniously step off the platform.
Which we did. Plus beers and barbeque, and congratulations passed all around. A good trip, many new friends made, and renewed enthusiasm for a next project.

One platform traveled between 2 formerly separated communities, 10 years after the wall came down.

The voyage lasted 207 hours covering 160 meters.

Zero people got hurt.

Our Monday was 37 degrees Celsius, the hottest day in Berlin in 54 years.

The onboard slow Post Office processed and carried 92 postcards.

Windows from more than 300 apartments overlooked the project. We estimate more than 1000 people were keeping an eye on us.

On Saturday, 1.4 million ravers came out for the Love Parade, a couple of km from here.

Three people rode the platform; many others donated the work that made it happen.


Undying gratitude to

Hildegard Skowasch

Alexander Braun
Ken Butler
Eckhard Hammel
Skowasch Hellman family
William R. Kaizen
Paul Klein
Anna Lahr
Linda Nakagoka
Svea Pietschmann
Claudia Schmacke
Steve Smith
Mark and Falk Stolte
Constanze Suhr
Wolfgang Werth
Andrea Zaumseil

Mengerzeiler artists, especially:
Rick Ellis, Yngve Zakarias
and Bernd Boelendorf

and of course, the Voyagers:
David Brody and
Ole Olaussen. It's a Love Thing.

We were fortunate to receive support from Kulturamt Treptow, Kulturamt Neukoelln, and Hoppe-Ritter Kunstfoerderung. And thanks to the tolerant and friendly people of Treptow and Neukoelln, Berlin, for indulging one more occupation.