Rikke Lunnemann, 2022, Denmark
In December 1979, The East Asiatic Company’s ship Ms Simba was part of a rescue operation in the South China Sea. Emergency flares from a small boat with Vietnamese refugees were seen and a rescue operation which Simba was a part was launched. I was a little girl at the time and my father Johan Hansen was Chief Officer (later Captain) on the Danish ship. It was he who led the ship’s operation to save what turned out to be 122 children and adults in a fishing boat. Far too small for so many people.
I have carried this memory of the rescue operation with me throughout my life – we never found out what happened to the 122 people after they were taken ashore in Hong Kong and subsequently helped to Denmark. The city in which I grew up is home to several Vietnamese refugees and I have often wondered if they were among the people my father rescued that December night in 1979.
Today my father is 80 years old and retired many years ago. But a few months ago, he was called up by a woman who introduced herself as Simba Hansen. She said she had been looking for him, a “Hansen” for years. Her mother and father as well as her big brother were on the small fishing boat. She also told him that her mother at the time was pregnant with her. She was born in Denmark in March 1980 and was named after the ship that had saved them – “Simba” and after what her father thought was the captain of the ship – namely my father “Hansen” – Simba Hansen.
We have now met Simba and her family. My father has kept all the documentation and photos from that fateful night and especially the logbook of the whole rescue operation that night have been interesting and eerie to read – both for the little Vietnamese family and for my family.
After 40 years, my father – and the rest of our family – have finally found out what happened to the people who were on the boat back then, and Simba Hansen and her family have become good friends of the family.
My “Memories of a Place” jewellery is the story of a Danish ship and 122 boat refugees. It is the tale of a far too small boat, with far too many people, the stormy wind and the big waves that were so close to sinking the boat leaving no human lives to be saved. The small boat is made of 18kt gold and weighs exactly 0.122 gr and in it is 122 small diamonds, one for each person who was on the boat that night. The logbook from the 17th December 1979 is part of the piece and it tells tell exactly what happened that night when 122 gems were rescued from the troubled sea.
Memories arise when human by coincidence cross paths.