Nouadhibou means “where the jackals get fat”. It is also where ships go to die. Over 500 abandoned wrecks lie in Nouadhibou Bay, making it the world’s largest ship cemetery.
The ships are originally the vestige of a nationalized fishing industry that found it cheaper to abandon its fleet than service it. Access is difficult and adventuresome. I traveled south by land from Casablanca, Morocco but was accused of espionage at the border.
After a night in a mine field and a brief stint in detention, I returned to Casablanca and managed to fly into Nouakchott. There, with the help of two strangers I met at the airport, I succeeded in traveling north to Nouadhibou.
Mauritania is a difficult place to live if you are black. Slavery was formally re-abolished in 1981, but is still manifest in its most docile form as indentured service. On the shores behind the ships there are miles of shanty towns where illegal immigrants work until they can pay for a smuggled voyage to the Canary Islands.
There are many visual stories to present from Nouadhibou. This one is about the abandoned ships, and finding beauty in what is meant to be forgotten.