Some years ago, on a trip to Alaska with friends, we boarded an excursion boat that would take us out of the fjord and into the open sea; then turn into another fjord.
We would see the beautiful scenery, and once in the open sea, hopefully get a glimpse of some whales and seals.
The tour boat had two levels; a lower level and the observation deck up stairs. Most of the tour group went down. Our small group joined others up deck in the open air.
No sooner had we reached the open sea, and traveled a few miles, when a sudden storm hit. The waves were suddenly about 15 to 20 feet high. The tour boat really was not built for this kind of punishment.
Our young skipper managed to turn around by tacking across the direction of the wind. We rode across the top of the wave and dropped. Then would do the same maneuver over-and-over until we were at the mouth of the primary fjord. The skipper never turned into the wind. And as we tossed around we knew we were in trouble.
It was a ride to remember and every wave dropped us like the plunge of a roller coaster. The group that was in the lower level got nauseated and ill. We, on the top, took deep breaths of the fresh air and stayed focused.
I was reminded of our “little” adventure just lately as I read about
Just lately, El Faro, a large cargo ship sunk in the ocean. Its crew of 33 perished with the ship.
The ship was immense. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcnyoPy5FL8
The boat, if you recall, had mechanical problems and drifted into the eye of the hurricane, Joaquin. The experience had to be akin to the movie, “The Perfect Storm,” where a fishing boat got caught in the same kind of trouble and all on the boat perished.
“It’s incomprehensible with the sophisticated weather routing technology that’s available that an over 700-foot merchant vessel can be caught in the middle of a previously forecasted hurricane,” said a New York city lawyer who handles maritime injury cases.
Having experienced a tiny bit of that adventure, I could feel nothing but total anxiety for what those cargo employees felt. They were all seasoned in their craft and obviously could do nothing in this danger.
Here is what amazes me.
Cargo today is shipped in containers. These steel containers are large, measuring 8-by-20 feet. They can be loaded onto box cars, lifted and transferred, and easily transported from one mode of transportation to another.
Did you know that it’s actually more cost efficient for shipping companies to purchase new containers rather than transport empty ones back to their origin?
And since the United States mostly imports rather than exports, there’s an overflowing abundance of containers piling up. But the architectural world has found a smart new use for these secure, durable and affordable boxes whose modular design makes them perfect for stacking. They can be stacked like Legos. Empty containers can be remodeled to be re-used as hunting shacks, little guest houses, and a myriad of other ideas.
This boat was carrying 391 containers of product. What? 391!
That seems unimaginable to me. But in addition to the containers, El Faro was carrying in its hold 294 trailers and automobiles. Add that to the living quarters for the crew and it seems that such a large ship could not sink.
Yes. And they thought the same thing about the Titanic, Annie!
Figuratively speaking, the ocean swallowed the boat and its crew.
The ocean is a powerful mystery to us all. It both attracts us to it, and drives us from it. It intrigues us and we love it when it is calm . We vacation on it. We play in it. We fish from it.
But, it is ominous and powerful. It is deep and mysterious. It holds tragedy and treasure. It can attack us and it can caress us.
I can’t imagine the exhaustion and fear that those crew members must have felt. But, I know they must have fought hard. But the ocean wins when it is full of fury.
“A Woman’s View” is Judi Tabler’s reflection of her experiences and events. She is a wife, mother, writer, teacher, grandmother, and even a great grandmother.