I Found the SS Good News!

Me, with a section of the SS Good News. Reading this week:

  • Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples, arranged for one volume by Henry Steele Commager

Today my efforts to find the SS Good News finally met with success. I set off on my expedition at about 0600. I overpacked; I brought enough food along with camping equipment to spend a night out in the bush, but I wound up making the whole trip in one day. From my hut I followed some bush paths and then a rather nice dirt road to Kituta Bay, where a guidebook to Zambian National Monuments said I would find the Good News. Kituta Bay is gorgeous. It’s the next bay over to the east of Mpulungu harbor, and the valley opens up into this (today anyways) sun-dappled valley surrounded by mountains. I started wandering the valley, looking for what I assumed would be a fairly obvious, 50 ft long metal hull sitting out in the open. This wasn’t a terrible assumption, based on this picture from a 1991 guidebook to Zambia’s National Monuments: Sorry it’s a terrible picture. As I was wandering around a dude asked me where I was going and I said I was looking for the Good News. He pointed me to a clump of trees and I head that way, thinking the ship had been overgrown in the intervening years. I dragged my bike towards the shore until my feet were submerged and put it up against a tree, and continued wandering around looking for the ship. Eventually, to my surprise, some kid called my name. Turns out he’s the brother of one of my neighbors, and knew about me. I tried to ask him about the boat, but he didn’t know, so I continued tramping through a marsh, supported at times just by floating mats of grass. Eventually the kid brought a slightly older guy around, and I showed him the picture I had (the same one above) of the boat. He asked me if it was the Good News and when I was like hell yeah and that I would follow him. He lead me over to a clump of tall grass and as I looked around for a hull he started digging. A chunk of the SS Good News. Turns out in the 30 or so years since the picture was taken for that guidebook, the ship has apparently fallen over and been buried. We dug up several portions of the boat. As far as I can tell, it is indeed the ship and not a 50 gallon drum or anything. I assume there’s not a whole lot of metal ships laying around anyways, and the whole area seemed big enough to match the ship and the parts looked like riveted ship hull sections. I was very happy to have finally sighted the ship but a little dissapointed there wasn’t more to look at. But I can say for sure that, despite what you read on other websites, the SS Good News is buried at the very center of the bay, but you’ll have to ask around to find it. Loaded up in the boat, paddling out to the bay. At this point, I asked the dude showing me around if it was possible for him to take me to Mpulungu. I didn’t want to bike the 2500m of vertical elevation change back up to my site, and was hoping to catch a minibus out of Mpulungu. He offered to take me for K100 which I thought was a pretty good deal. So we found a boat, loaded up my bike, and started paddling across the bay. I had imagined paddling all the way around to Mpulungu, but after paddling across the bay the dudes taking me concluded it would be easier to walk over the hill separating Kituta Bay and Mpulungu. I am glad we did. We walked through a gorgeous village (named Kipata, I think) which had massive trees, a really nice bridge over a small river, and a waterfall. I am glad I got to see that. Once we got to the hill, the dudes split the load and one dude shouldered my bike and we hiked over the hill like that. At this point I realized I had accidentally hired porters, colonial-style, and I didn’t know how to feel about that. But it was pretty cool. After hiking over the hill, the guys deposited me on the road to Mpulungu and I biked the rest of the way in. Despite it being Sunday I found an open bar and rewarded myself with a beer.After my beers I caught a minibus to Mbala and biked home. It was a great adventure and I was super excited to have laid eyes on the hulk of the SS Good News. Hopefully the next person looking for the boat has an easier time than I did!