Saturday, 31 August 2013

Anecdote Saturday - Marco Polo

My uncle John and aunt Louise, had a scary experience at sea on a modern cruise liner, the Marco Polo.  This just goes to show how the forces of nature and oceans can conspire against the most sophisticated and modern of ocean going vessels.

"John and I are talking from experience.  In early 1996, we took a cruise from Auckland to Sydney, thus crossing the roaring 40's.  On the evening after leaving Milford Sound we were caught in a typhoon for 3 days and experienced 60 foot waves with an interval of 120 feet between swells.  

We lost all the deck chairs, several life boats and the 2 pianos on board were destroyed.  On the last day before limping into port (Devonport, Tasmania) we were eating on paper plates and only cold food was provided (most of the china had been destroyed and the kitchen crew previously burnt attempting to provide warm meals).  

We were not able to veer off course due to the nature of the storm and on the last evening when finally the typhoon seemed to be weakening the captain advised us that around 3 am he would attempt to change our course.  

We were told to stay in our stateroom and to expect quite a ride.  Well it happened as he said, the ship after turning caught a wave from the side and for a moment which seemed an eternity we were on our side.  So much so that from were I was John was at least a foot lower than me.  We held that position for about 30-40 seconds and we could hear the creaking of the metal as the ship was fighting to right itself.  

When it finally did, the water that the ship scooped up started flooding the corridors and shortly an army of workers were attempting to suck the water out of the area.  It felt like The Poseidon Adventure.  Horrible feeling!

Arriving in port in Tasmania we stayed the day for ship repairs and several people had to be treated for sprains and broken bones.  The Australian papers were carrying our story on the front page:  'Ship in Peril at Sea'.  It did cure me of ever wanting to cruise in the lower Southern Hemisphere."

This anecdote is graphic and reminds us how vulnerable we are at sea.  I am very grateful that no harm came to my uncle and aunt and thank them for their story.


My book 'Waratah Revisited' will be available by 12 December, via Amazon. I explore the human aspect of the tragedy and take a closer look at the Inquiry into the loss of the Waratah. Revelations abound. Don't miss it!

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