26-Jul-2004 -- This incomplete represents two days and three distinct attempts to get to this confluence. In the end, when the confluence was successfully visited (I know, I gave away the ending), it was the quickest confluence hunt of my career, yet the most physically demanding. There was a lot of frustration in trying to get there--which this narrative is about.
I was in Zhenjiang nearing the end of a two-month expedition on the Yangtze River with Slovene professional swimmer, Martin Strel. We had stopped early in the day and I noticed this confluence--not because of it's proximity at 35 kilometers, but because of its location. My GPS map showed it to be very near the shore of the Yangtze. Who could be better prepared for this confluence than a river expedition?
I alerted my teammate, Corrado Filipponi, and we went with our interpreter to the Chinese crewman who pilots the small raft which we use to escort Martin in the water. After a short explanation and promise to pay for fuel, he was willing to go. Corrado and I went to our cabins to get ready.
When we returned a few minutes later, already wearing our life vests, the interpreter had bad news. We weren't allowed to go. Despite our crew being on a professional river expedition which was on the water every day, someone (it was never determined who) decided it was too dangerous. We weren't allowed. End of story. Go back to our rooms, our interpreter advised. "This is China," he said.
Early the next morning, I was scheduled to go in the raft (yes, the same raft) with our boat pilot (yes, the same boat pilot) out on the river (yes, the same river) to escort Martin as he continued his bid for a new world distance swimming record. I held hope that we would pass close enough for success, or at least close enough for me to observe the terrain at the confluence. As I said, we couldn't tell from the maps whether this confluence was on land or water.
At 8:32am, the raft made its closest approach to the confluece, 1.66 kilometers to the north, on the left. We were close to the right bank, and through the fog there was no way I could see the confluence and still no way to tell if it were on land or water. There was heavy boat traffic on the river around us. The attached photographs were made during this approach. I could only gaze in the direction of the confluece as Martin continued his swim, the raft staying close to his side.
We met the rest of the team about twenty kilometers downstream. I gave Corrado my inconclusive report. We decided it was worth one more last ditch effort, so we turned our sights on the China Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) boat which accompanies the raft on the river. Mustering all the charisma we could, we asked the MSA crew if they wouldn't like to take us for a ride on the river for some pictures. I showed them my handheld GPS and compared it to the one in in the pilothouse. Corrado told them about the confluence of latitude and longitude and suggested we go there, adding, "It's good luck," playing on Chinese superstition. I thought we had them, really, but then they said no.
We went back to our boat to consider our options. Happily, you can read the ending to this story as the first successful visit to this confluence.