How Can Birds Remind You of the Airlift in Berlin?

Fishermen in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador (©photocoen)I can’t remember the name of the book but it was a fiction novel about Germany right after the war. In high school, World War II had been a major topic in our history classes so I thought I knew quite a bit about it, yet when reading this novel a couple of years later, it was the first time I heard about the Airlift in Berlin.

Few times have I been as impressed as by what mankind is capable of. For who isn’t familiar with it, in a nutshell: in 1948 the Soviet Union blocked eastern Germany in an attempt to force the Western Allied Forces out of Berlin. The United States and Britain supplied Berlin by air for 11 months.If I remember correctly an airplane had to land every single minute in order to secure the food supply for the city. If a plane didn’t succeed landing, it had to turn around and wait in line behind all other planes circling around in the air before trying again. What a feat it was.

If I remember correctly an airplane had to land every single minute in order to secure the food supply for the city. If a plane didn’t succeed landing, it had to turn around and wait in line behind all other planes circling around in the air before trying again. What a feat it was.

Fast forward. Recently we visited the fish market at Puerto Lopez, in Ecuador. And birds reminded me of that book. Why and how?

Fish Market in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador (©photocoen)

Each morning fishermen bring a new supply of fish to the shore. I don’t recognize many types of fish but that didn’t stop me from being mind-boggled by the size, and quantity of them.

Truth be said, the sight was a somewhat unsettling. This is just a small market and how much fish is unloaded here, day after day, 365 days a year? It’s nothing compared to what the big ships bring in major harbors or but this amount of fish here was disturbing. Are we all together really eating that much fish?

Fish Market in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador (©photocoen)

Anyway, Coen had the time of his life, of course, photographing all this. For a long time my attention was captured by a blue-footed booby that descended on the canvas roof of a food stall and refused to move.The owner wasn’t pleased, trying to push it off by hitting it from underneath with a stick – the bird would just move an inch. Then the man tried throwing water over the creature but

The owner wasn’t pleased, trying to push it off by hitting it from underneath with a stick – the bird would just move an inch. Then the man tried throwing water over the creature but it sat there undisturbed, taking in the scene from a safe height.

Blue-footed booby in Ecuador (©photocoen)

Only when it decided it was time to come down it did so and continued to stroll about the beach as if it was going on a pleasant Sunday afternoon walk, totally undisturbed by the number of people surrounding it. I loved it.

Suddenly I had to dive. A bird appeared to be attacking me. However, I wasn’t its target at all, but the man running right passed me was. The crate on his shoulder was filled with small fishes and he was running as fast as possible to the truck to safeguard his purchase.

Game is on!

Game is on!

Going for the fish...

Going for the fish….

Got it!

Got it!

This is where the airlift image came in. These birds arrived in large numbers and one after the other, no more than a second in between, dove down and picked a fish from the crate. It was an absolutely mesmerizing sight. If they missed they flew on, turned around to the group, and tried again. The man lost at least ten fish during each run between the boat and his car.

Weird resemblance? Well, I guess it is. Still, the scene did bring back that story and it did make me wonder though if a similar sight of birds was what might have triggered that one person to have come up with the solution what made the airlift successful.

Initially, the airlift didn’t work because planes took second or third turns to land while others waited, so not enough planes landed to secure the food supply for the city. Until this one man calculated that one landing per minute was needed; couldn’t you land, fly on and get back in line.

Fish Market in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador (©photocoen)

Fish Market in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador (©photocoen)

Fish Market in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador (©photocoen)Additional Reading

All photos by Coen Wubbels. Follow him on Instagram here and here.

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One thought on “How Can Birds Remind You of the Airlift in Berlin?

  1. What a parallel – and it’s true, what you describe. For me the worst part of such experiences (airlifts), as I have seen them on TV or film is the desperation of the people on the ground. The excitement and frenzy of feeding birds expresses some of that same emotion. Food is elemental.
    Thanks for the story.

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