THIRTY YEARS A MARINER IN THE FAR EAST – 1907-1937: The Memoirs of Peter Mender, a Standard Oil Ship Captain on China’s Yangtze RiverPosted: August 18th, 2012 | No Comments »
An interesting memoir of a Standard Oil ship captain on the Yangtze that’s popped up on Kindle (there’s a lot of these semi or wholly self-published memoirs on Kindle now – some worthless and others, like this with the odd gems in them for the researcher)….
Peter Mender was born into an Estonian seafaring family on a Baltic Sea island. He began working on ships at age 15 and left home at 18 to work on sailing ships around the world. In 1907, after qualifying as a captain or Master Mariner, he ventured to the Far East and worked out of Vladivostok for 12 years, sailing to places including Japan, China, French Indo-China and the Russian Far Eastern coast. Hired by Standard Oil in 1919, Mender moved to Shanghai and spent 14 years working on the scenic but hazardous Upper Yangtze River, most of which is now submerged under the Three Gorges Dam reservoir. With some protection provided by American and other western gunboats, Mender’s ships survived ongoing attacks by bandits, frequent skirmishes between Chinese warlords, and nearly annual Sino-Japanese conflicts. His planned retirement from Standard Oil, after almost 19 years of service in China, coincided with the bombing and sinking of his ship Mei Ping on the Yangtze River during the U.S.S. Panay convoy incident of December 12, 1937. Mender was awarded the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Medal for his service during this incident.
After retiring, Mender returned home to Estonia and wrote his memoirs. During WWII, he and his family were able to escape the invading Soviets and made their way to settle in the United States. Mender’s memoirs describe a nautical life of a bygone era, in a region of the world still subject to instability.