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Terra Firma :: Mike Henning

Mike Henning

When I was a design student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Minor White began the photography program there, and I was able to take courses with him for several years. Minorís emphasis was always about the photograph as metaphor and symbol. He was equally concerned about teaching people to look at photographs as well as make photographs- in both cases, seeing what was there literally and what might also be there metaphorically. If this was Minorís basic lesson, then I am a shy believer.

Even though so much is possible in the art and craft of photography, I still admire most a photograph that is well seen and has a sense of engagement and wonder. It is like learning something.

I am a teacher of mathematics and photography at Saint Mary's College High School in Berkeley, California, where I head the mathematics department. I have been a teacher for twenty-four years.

About Terra Firma:
the transition of the Alameda Navy Base into "Alameda Landing"

There is a piece of land near where I live that used to be one kind of place and is going to become something else. It has a specific history, and a contract has been awarded to a master developer who specializes in the redevelopment of old military sites and unused airports.

The place is filled with many forms that no longer function; but the current tenants are going concerns that operate tugboats along the pier and use some of the old Fleet Industrial Supply Center warehouses to receive, store, and ship quantities of things that arrive and leave by truck. It used to be the FISC for the Navy. It is supposed to become Alameda Landing -- a mixed-use development of offices, stores, houses, and waterfront access. Right now, although the rate of change seems uncertain, change accumulates in the form of broken water pipes and corroded pilings and a new chain link fence along the unused portion of the pier. The fence was installed to discourage others from mooring unauthorized or derelict vessels to city property. The Faithful was expensive enough.

--Mike Henning

From the Oakland Tribune, 2/28/08

Built in a prestigious Hamburg shipyard in 1955, the luxury cruise ship Xanadu led a remarkable life, first shuttling passengers around Germany and later cruising the waters around Alaska and the North Pacific.

Fifty years later, long after its glory days, and after being renamed the MV Faithful, it was taken to the northern waterfront of Alameda. In the early morning hours of Feb. 17, two tugboats dragged the boat to a marina in the Solano County city of Rio Vista, where it will spend the remainder of its years, possibly to be reincarnated as a restaurant.

That's the ongoing saga of the Faithful, which became the subject of some public interest after the City Council voted in January to have the boat towed for $200,000 by longtime boat salvager Kurt Lind. more →

-- Alan Lopez, Oakland Tribune
photo courtesy of Alameda Landing

mike henning

Terra Firma
June 27 to August 8, 2009
Artist's Reception
Saturday, June 27th     6 to 8pm

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The Faithful

The Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority authorized the expenditure of $200,000 to remove an unregistered 293-foot vessel moored and abandoned at the former Fleet Industrial Supply Center. It was considered the least expensive and most timely alternative compared to salvaging or scuttling the ship.

The Faithful was built in 1955 by Steinwerder Industrie AG in Hamburg Germany as the Wappen Von Hamburg. It was their first post war seagoing passenger vessel and was intended for day cruise service sailing from Hamburg with a capacity of 1,600 passengers. (Chronology data from Maritime Matters.)

  • In 1960, the Wappen Von Hamburg was renamed Delos and was sold to Nomikos Lines of Greece. She was refitted with a swimming pool, air conditioning, and cabins for 186 passengers and maintained service to Aegean ports until 1967.
  • In 1967, the Delos was bought by Westours and renamed Polar Star. The Polar Star cruised to Alaska, Mexico, and Tahiti.
  • In 1970, the Polar Star was transferred to West Lines and renamed Pacific Star.
  • In 1972, the Pacific Star was sold to Xanadu Cruises of Panama and renamed Xanadu. The Xanadu had style and sophistication, but the energy crisis of the 1970ís ended her cruise line career.
  • In the mid-1980ís, Xanadu was sold for use as an exhibition and trade fair vessel and brought to Los Angeles with the name Expex. Expex was neglected and vandalized.
  • In 1991, Expex was sold to Friendships and renamed Faithful to be restored and used as a missionary and relief vessel. The Faithful was moved to San Pedro in 1994 for continued renovation including a large meeting room. The work was never completed, and the Faithful was returned to Los Angeles.
  • In 2003, The Faithful was sold to Dr. James Mitchell to be rebuilt into a hospital ship to be called Xanadu 2.
  • In 2005, the Faithful/ Xanadu 2 was towed from Los Angeles to Alameda to be rebuilt into a luxury yacht.

Finally in 2008, the City of Alameda attempted to negotiate with the Delaware Corporation that owned the Faithful for lease payments or removal of the vessel. Negotiations were not successful, and no reliable buyer could be found to remove the ship in a timely manner. Estimates for salvaging the ship ($1,000,000) or scuttling the ship ($250,000) were more expensive than having it prepared for towing and removed to a mooring point near Rio Vista.

--Mike Henning

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