An Interlude

An Interlude

While I’m not publishing articles on energy issues during the COVID-19 crisis, you may be interested in one of my books to pass the time.

The current issue of the USNI Proceedings magazine discussed the Navy’s lack of mine warfare capability. The use of mines was a pivotal moment in my book Crisis in the Mideast. Our lack of ability to effectively clear a large minefield weighed heavily in the plot of Crisis in the Mideast.

It’s a capability we will need if we ever need to confront China’s Area Denial strategy, based on the islands that are choke points for entering the South and East China Seas.

Here is the last part of the first chapter of Crisis in the Mideast, where a cruise ship is off the coast of Venezuela.

From Chapter 1

“As the pilot boat grew closer, the second mate started waving the boat away.

The Majestic Seas was nearly dead in the water, so the pilot boat had little difficulty in making its approach. Some passengers, who lined the railing, were amused by the apparent stupidity of the pilot boat’s crew. The second mate waved and kept yelling for the boat to go around to the starboard side.

As the pilot boat continued towards the Majestic Seas, the second mate realized the pilot boat was deliberately trying to come alongside. An image of the Cole flashed across his eyes … but that was in the Middle East? 

Even so, he was not taking any chances and grabbed the engine controls, pushing them hard ahead. 

The ship’s diesel-electric propulsion system responded instantly, but a ship as large as the Majestic Seas takes time to get underway. It shuddered slightly as the screws bit into the water.

The pilot boat eased alongside, scraping against the hull just forward of the windows lining the dining room.

A deafening roar and hellish flame engulfed the Majestic Seas. The explosion rocked the ship, tearing a gaping hole into the dining area and the crews quarters in the deck below. 

The explosion tore through the crew’s compartment and into the engine room, exposing the diesel engines and other equipment to the seawater that rushed into the ship. The compartments immediately forward of the engine room were also torn open and exposed to the sea.

The reddish-yellow ball of fire engulfed the passengers who were lining the rail, killing many of them instantly.

Captain Manning was knocked to his knees while the second mate was thrown sideways, hitting his head against the bulkhead and losing consciousness. Ambassador Li was thrown against the door to the bridge.

Glass windows and mirrors lining the dining room shattered, unleashing glass shards that tore across the room, slashing people eating breakfast. Flesh hung from the bloodied faces of many who were not killed outright.

The ship lost power. Only the emergency diesel generators located on an upper deck remained in service.

Emergency lights cut through the murky, smoke-filled passageways. Some passengers who were still in their cabins were trapped when the force of the explosion jammed their cabin doors so they could not be opened. 

Passengers stood kicking at their cabin doors in vain attempts to get them open.

Captain Manning struggled to his feet and instinctively reached for the PA system. 

Speaking calmly he said, “This is the Captain. We have suffered severe damage from an explosion. All passengers and crew should go immediately to their muster stations.

“Bring your life jacket. Go to your muster station.”

In a matter of minutes, the ship listed 20 degrees.

Oily smoke poured from the engine room and into the passageways. Passengers couldn’t breathe because of the smoke. Many crawled along the passageway decks to escape the swirling, choking smoke.

Lifeboats on the port side were nearly all destroyed while many of  those on the starboard side were rendered useless by the sudden list of the ship. Members of the crew released some of the partially filled starboard lifeboats from their davits and they slid, bumping down the ship’s side, a few overturning as they caught on deck railings.

Passengers ran along the decks, desperately seeking direction.

Passengers who remembered their lifeboat drills grabbed life jackets and put them on. Parents helped their children as best they could in the milling, frightened mob.

Captain Manning looked at the clinometer and saw the ship had quickly listed to 30 degrees. The list was becoming more ominous with each passing minute. He was incredulous at how rapidly the ship was settling.

He thought, My God, what’s happening?

The main deck on the port side was already awash.

The chief engineer had been killed, and Captain Manning was receiving sporadic and incomplete reports on the damage, but he knew the ship couldn’t survive.

There wasn’t time for people to go to their muster stations.

He switched on the main speaker system and said, “This is the captain speaking. Abandon ship. Go to your lifeboat stations and abandon ship.”

Passengers jumped overboard from the decks on the port side where the distance to the water was quickly being reduced by the listing ship. Others slid and scrambled down the starboard side of the ship.

A few passengers who jumped from the upper decks broke their necks as their life preservers were thrust upward into their jaws by the force of hitting the water, yanking their heads as would a hangman’s noose.

The explosion could be seen from shore, and it was quickly evident a terrible disaster was unfolding. La Guaira residents with boats moored in various marinas formed a small armada of pleasure craft heading toward the rapidly sinking Majestic Seas.

It took precious time for the first of the pleasure craft to arrive and start hauling people from the water. Heroic efforts were made to rescue passengers who were swimming or remaining afloat by grasping debris.

After those who could be rescued had been brought ashore, the terrible toll was evident. It would take several days before the survivors could be verified against the ship’s manifest, but it was clear the death toll would be enormous.

Initial news reports quickly focused on a terrorist attack. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell five percent.”

* * *

With that introduction I hope you will follow the story as it moves to Saudi Arabia and Iran.

 

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