Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mystery at Sea

The big sea story this week was the wreck of the Italian cruise ship and the death of several passengers. That was bad enough, but the true sensation was the bizarre behavior of the captain. There are many questions: why go so close to the shore? Apparently the captain wanted to show off to one of his retired captain friends. From there it gets murky. At the time of the crash, witnesses say the captain was in the dining room in the company of a young off-duty Moldavan crew member. So how could he have steered the ship onto the reef? Other reports say he turned the ship towards the island after it hit the reef which made it possible for people to get off the ship. Yet other reports have him ordering dinner after the crash. After he left the ship, authorities ordered him back on, but how could he have gotten back on the ship when hundreds of people were streaming down the ladders? Cruise ship experts say all sorts of alarms would have been going off on the bridge as the ship neared the reef. Why didn't someone on the bridge countermand the captain's orders? My theory is that after the captain realized the horror of what had happened he simply snapped. His sole instinct was to save himself from the nightmare. And for another strange ship story:

* My dad's brother lives up in Alaska.

** Nome?

* Course I do. He's my uncle.

I'm also intrigued by the recent Russian fuel delivery to Nome. I have many questions about this also. Television news dramatized the story into a life and death struggle against the elements. They provided aerial views of the U.S. icebreaker cutting a path through the ice pack for the tanker. Eventually the ship got to within a half mile of Nome. Would they be able to safely unload the 1.3 million gallons of diesel and gasoline? Yes they would. And when they finished there would be a celebration in town and a basketball game and the crew of the icebreaker would be invited. What about the crew of the Russian ship? Russians like basketball, and celebrations too. And why a Russian ship? News stories described the tanker as being able to handle ice. OK, that makes sense. And Russia is only 200 miles from Nome. Yet this turned into a month long, 5,000 mile odyssey. The ship left Vladivostok in eastern Russia, dropped down to Korea for the million gallons of deisel, then headed up to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians for the gasoline. The tanker then encountered 500 miles of sea ice between it and Nome. That's when the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker headed up from Seattle over 2,000 miles away. If the tanker had not made it, the fuel would have to be flown in which would have added $3-4 to the current price of $6 per gallon in Nome. When the ship started unloading, it froze into the ice which is a good thing. There would be no tugging on the hoses. And who had all these hoses? The Russians I'm guessing. They probably deal with this situation in Siberia all the time. A 100 yard no-go zone was set up around the ship and hoses to keep terrorists at bay. Someone walked the hoses every half hour checking for leaks. I bet he walked with a snowmobile.
Voices from the public said that this crisis was proof that the Coast Guard needed more than one icebreaker. Another voice said that for the price of this operation the fuel could have been flown in to the city. My big question is why the city of Nome hadn't stocked up earlier. This is Alaska you know. Many voices said there were early storms in November that prevented the American fuel barge from getting in. November? Again, this is Alaska. I'd think August would be a good time to stock up. There was a note about compensating the barge company which had loaded up with fuel it could not deliver. There was a darker note about delays on the part of the barge. If I wasn't working full time I would go to Alaska and Vladivostok and dig for the truth. I could sell my story to The New Yorker or to American Bargeman.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ghost Writers in the Sky

Every so often I receive a forwarded e-mail supposedly written by some pundit such as Andy Rooney or Paul Harvey in which he tells us what’s wrong with America. We’ve strayed from our roots it will say, and the blame lies with the welfare state and all the aliens taking over the place. It sounds somewhat like Andy Rooney but a very jerky Andy Rooney.
Checking with I discover these things have been circulating for years on the Internet and are written by say a small town editor in upstate New York or an evangelical pastor in the Ozarks. The authors wisely realize they can get more traction by putting the name of a celebrity at the top of their screed.
This seems dishonest, but it’s been going on forever. You may have written the greatest psalms of all time, but you’re more likely to get them into the Bible if you claim King David wrote them. The Song of Solomon has a nicer ring to it than the Song of Moshe the Benjaminite.