Scandinavian Rowing In South America

The winners of the Cadet Fours in a regatta at the Scandinavian Rowing Club in December 1930. From the left: N. Torgersen (stroke), I. Christophersen, B. Blich (owner of the photo album), S. Sjöstedt, and S. Speyer (cox).

Some weeks ago, the good Tim Koch of London pointed me in the direction of an old photo album that was up for sale at eBay (Thank you, Tim!). The album had, among other things, rowing photographs from the Argentinean rowing club Club Remeros Escandinavos, the Scandinavian Rowing Club, which is located in the town of Tigre on the Paraná Delta, 30 km north of Buenos Aries. The club was founded by some Scandinavians in 1912. I immediately put in a bid, and a couple of days later, I won the album, which has some wonderful black & white photographs, which once belonged to, I believe, a Mr. Nordahl B. Blich (or, Blick?).

The first photograph in the album is from December 1924. It is taken from the deck of the Norwegian vessel S.S. Hanna Skogland. She was built in 1903 for Argo Line in Bremen, and was given the name Alabama. The following year she was bought by the German East Africa Line/Woermann Line and renamed Eduard Woermann. In 1919, she was taken to Great Britain as war reparations and was operated by Union-Castle Mail SS Co., which in 1921 sold her to T.H. Skogland in Norway. Again she was renamed, now to S.S. Hanna Skogland. It is onboard this vessel this photo album begins.

On Christmas Eve in December 1924, S.S. Hanna Skogland crossed the equator on her way to South America. In a photograph King Neptune and members of his court have preformed the traditional crossing-the-line ceremony for the ‘pollywogs’, seamen and passenger who cross the equator for the first time. A little ‘x’ indicates where a boyish-looking Blich is standing (above).

There are no photographs from 1925, but from the following year there are photographs from Montevideo, picnics, and images from the river and delta of Paraná from November 1926, where the oarsmen are lying down in their skiff – “we are taking it easy”. In January 1927, a photograph is showing the outside of a house in Buenos Aires where Mr. Blich is now living. He has turned into a handsome looking fellow, a real gentleman, which we can see in the photograph on the right, taken in January 1928.

In Buenos Aires he takes up competitive rowing. In a photograph from December 1930, we learn that he and his coxed four were the “Winners of the Cadet Fours” in a regatta at the Scandinavian Rowing Club at Tigre (the photograph on the top of the page!). On the back of the photograph is glued a small newspaper clipping saying that it was a 600-metre race “in favourable weather, rain threatened, but held off, so the regatta were rowed promptly and with great enthusiasm.” The winners were S. Sjöstedt, H.B. Blich, I. Christophersen, N. Torgersen, stroke, and S. Speyer, cox.

Three months later, 15 March 1931, B. Blich was back in a winning boat, this time taking the “Cup La Nación” in the Tigre International Regatta. In the photographs above we see the Scandinavian crew: from the left, stroke J.R. Slötebak, F. Johannesen, cox L. Andersen, H.B. Blich, and S. Sjöstedt.

I do not know if this was B. Blich’s last race. Some of the photographs that follow in the album show him and some of his rowing friends going on a rowing tour to Uruguay in March 1932. If the winds allowed they would sail their Thames skiff and camp overnight on the beaches, using the oars as tent poles (see above).

They also visited the rowing club in Colonia, Uruguay (seen above). And then they rowed and sailed home to Tigre (see below).

And there ends my ‘photographic story’ of Nordahl B. Blich. Or, not quite, there are some loose photographs in a pocket of the album showing Blich on a sail boat in the habour of Strömstad on the Swedish east coast in July 1947, and one photograph of an older Blich, wearing a captain’s hat by a sail boat, with the note “Nordahl – 1962”.

I am afraid the photo album does not reveal a lot about Mr. Nordahl B. Blich, or where he came from. He was probably born in the mid-1910s, and maybe he was Norwegian, although all the notes in the photo album and on the back of the photographs are in English. At least he seems to have enjoyed his rowing. And all of us ‘old oarsmen’ know, that if you ever have pulled an oar, you have done something good in life.

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