Joe asked whether Dick, or
I ever encounted a tsumani. Maybe Joe can put all the addees in this message in
his address book so we'll all be in on his interesting stories. Anywho...yes,
once off the Virginia Capes.It was aboard the USNS Gilliss, an AGOR, or oceanographic
research vessel of 210 feet in length. We were working with the USNS Lynch,
another of the same type, and dimensions doing underwater sound
experiments/studies. The Lynch towed a 350 foot by 15 foot "tube"
called the SPAR ( Seagoing Platform for Acoustical Research ).
Working cross Gulf Stream,
the Lynch on the West side, Gilliss to the East, the SPAR would be
"sunk" erect to where only fifty-feet would remain above water. The
other three-hundred below, all the while the Lynch remaining tethered. At the
bottom of the SPAR were numerous hydrophone arrays for receiving sound. The
Gilliss as the sound "source" ship would launch SUS (Signal Underwater
Sound ) charges at different depths. Knowing the position of each ship either by
radar, visually, or navigation system ( at that time Loran C ), the deflections
of the sound under water could be noted, and recorded for study.
Whatever the results for
this study were, they are probably still today "classified" if some
Army Colonel hasn't gotten to them, or the "Walker" boys. Ha
It's use being obvious, we
won't get into that, the interesting thing here is the story to
Whenever we could, we
would knock off for the night - those explosions of two-pounds of whatever could
ruin one's sleep. If the weather was nice - we'd kill the main engines. This was
one such night - beautiful weather, and calm seas. We lay about twenty or so
miles from the Lynch, who also was just "drifting". "Fishing
time" - the dolphin bitin' like crazy, many of the crew were on the stern
watching the guys fishing. As usual, on the bridge it was BS time.
It was about 2200 when the
third mate, after taking a gander at the radar - mainly for traffic, mentioned a
line about fifteen miles to the east on the scope. As straight a a rule, from
scope rim to scope rim was this illuminated contact. "Hummmmmm" I
commented as I viewed it.
"Sound the signal for
Fire, and Emergency - hit the General Alarm! Announce all hands outside to get
inside - everyone stay inside, and stand-by.' I ordered the Third, and followed
"Never mind...I'll make the announcement, you
tell the engine
room to start warming up the main engines. '
"Yes sir!' came the
reply in the dark.
"This is not a drill, we have a large wave heading
this way, get off the decks, and stay inside. Man your assigned stations, zone
area commanders make your reports to the bridge. Close all water tight, and fire
screen doors. This is not a drill.'
"That's a killer
wave. Start the steering motors.' I said, addressing the helmsman, and Third
speed...will ya.' I told the mate, now off the phone.
"Lynch, this is Gilliss on thirteen...ya copy?' I
thought I'd better tip off the Lynch, and anyone else in the vicinity using the
"Gillis, this is Lynch...what's
"We hold a return on the radar for a large swell
coming our way. We're powering up to meet it. Let your skipper know...got
"Geeeeeeeeez! Yes...we got it. Lynch
"Good grief! It'll be
here in ten minutes!' said the Third.
I grabbed the phone, and
called the engine room myself - "Give me both main engines now! ' and hung up.
Inside a minute we had
green lights for steering, and the main engines on the
"Full Ahead, Hard
Left Rudder...give me a heading straight on into that line.' I
I remember all this like
it was yesterday. I had read plenty about tsunamies, and rogue swells in texts,
and stories, but never encountered one. This was before the movie "Posiedon
Adventure", which did a great job of depicting one. Fortunate to have the
time, and weather to detect this monster, I am still here able to talk about
Those assigned to the bridge area for Fire, and Emergency
started to fill the spaces. The helmsman I had, I told to stay put, his relief
to grab the binoculars, and scan ahead with the others on
Like in a nightmare, time started to drag, the line getting
closer, myself scanning the horizon ahead. The phone ringing as crew started
reporting their stations manned.
There was no moon, but the stars were bright down to the
"Stars are going out ahead.' reported one
They were setting instead
"Zero Six Five....Zero Six Five.' said the Mate
"Come to Zero Six Five.' I said.
Spinning the wheel to check 'er up, the helmsman, almost
there, answered: "Zero Six Five...aye.'
"Steady on Zero Six Five Suh.' he next
"Half Ahead.' I ordered...not wanting too much speed,
but enough to hold her head.
it is.' came a cry from the bridge wing.
Yes...there it was, shiny in the starlight, but black as
spades...not a show of white though, or combing. The relief was awesome.
"Here it comes....Hold on. Pass the word on the PA
system, and phones for all hands to hang on.'
Up, up, up we went, bow to this gigantic swell, up, up
Seemingly like forever, but then a slow
levelling...hanging, hanging, and then down, down, down...ever so gently. Not a
drop on deck, not a sound...nothing crashing, no one falling, even
see anthing else on the radar?' I asked.
"Nothing Cap...not a ripple.' came the
"Can you beat that? Slow ahead. We'll just continue on
this heading for a while in case there's anymore coming. Tell all stations it's
passed, but we're giving it time.'
"How's the coffee?' I asked.
"Well...it's still there Cap...want me to make some
well, while we wait. I'll call the Lynch.'
As fickle as nature is, the night passed without any
incidents. The Lynch never felt, nor saw it, which for them was really good,
being tethered to that SPAR might have been disasterous, and also being on the
continental shelf west of the gulf stream, that swell would be getting ready to
tumble, and comb. Never heard any reports from other ships, nor shore...strange.
"Coffee's ready Cap.'
"Thanks. Stop 'er, rudder amidships, dismiss from
"Hey Cap...how'd you stay so calm through all
"Aah...nothin' too it Mr. Mate! Let me tell you about
the maelstrom in the Loften Islands. Here we were getting ready to be sucked
down into this gigantic whirlpool....'