By Carol Catfish Foss
It was the third time since this cruise began that I found myself wishing that I’d never volunteered. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really give much credence to that old saying of ‘never volunteer’.
This ultra-modern and sophisticated Test Seaview - Series C was a dream to behold, but she wasn’t all that great to serve aboard. At least not so far.
“Ensign!” Cmdr. Morton startled me as soon as I emerged from the Flying Sub hatch and descended into the Control Room.
Morton’s arms were folded across his chest, and he was scowling. It seemed that everybody had been scowling, at me particularly, ever since Admiral Nelson had pioneered a joint program with the Navy to allow women on this cruise. I mean, what the blazes was their problem?
“First you almost run us aground,” he was saying, “ then you scratch the paint on the Flying Sub and I just found out from the Chief that you’ve been complaining about hearing things this entire cruise! What is your problem? Well, answer me!”
I was trying to figure out some kind of response to satisfy him, firmly believing that aground would have been preferable to facing his wrath. It was no rumor that could spend more than twenty minutes or so chastising an errant crewman or Junior Officer without coming up for air. As for the Captain, well, I had yet to have him yell at me, but the mere thought of it was just a bit more menacing for the simple fact that he was the Captain.
And Crane, while publicly backing up the Admiral’s co-educational crew, couldn’t fool me into thinking that he actually liked having women aboard, especially me.
You see, Lee and I had a past. Oh, it had been a long long time ago and the last I’d seen him we’d been flinging snowballs at each other while he waited to take my older sister out.
Oh, how I ’d dreamed that it had been me instead. But he was off to Annapolis next summer, while I was still selling Girl Scout cookies.
So when the Navy requested volunteers to help man Nelson’s test sub for her sea trials, Crane was more surprised than I when I reported for duty. I had only just finished sub school, one of the few female applicants for sub duty in the Navy, so my actual experience in the field was pretty limited.
“Everything okay here, Chip?”
Captain Crane approached
to see what all the fuss was about. “She scratched the paint, and she’s still complaining
about noises to anyone who’ll listen, apparently.”
“She scratched the paint, and she’s still complaining about noises to anyone who’ll listen, apparently.”
“It’s not my imagination,” I butted in, “ no matter what anybody says, sir! I’m sure of it.”
“Settle down Jennifer,” Crane said and hesitated, then he took me aside, “All boats have their little hisses and squeals. It’s not your fault if you can’t acclimate to submarine life.”
Oh gawd, he called me Jennifer. How embarrassing. He only addressed the other five women by rank or last name.
“I’m really sorry about what happened, Lee, er…sorry, Captain. But I know what I’ve heard. It wasn’t Seaview. It was chimes…like a music box or a doorbell.”
“Chip,” he asked the XO, “has Sparks picked anything up, something that might account for that?”
“Not a peep…you don’t seriously believe her, do you? She just wants attention. ”
“Jennie used to claim that she could hear what dogs heard,” Crane said, as Morton raised his eyebrow. “I always thought she was telling tales, but I do remember a few times when she picked up on things long before the dogs did….Chip? Have Sparks do an ultrasonic and inaudible frequency sweep of the area from when she last heard these… chimes.”
“Which was when, Ensign?” Morton asked. “I only have a report from the Chief before your launch.”
“That was the last time sir…”
“Very well,” Morton turned to order Sparks to do what the Captain said.
“Thank you sir,” I told the Captain
“Don’t thank me. If the instruments don’t show anything I may have to agree with Morton that you just want attention.”
“You may return to duty Ensign.”
Well, he was back to calling me Ensign, so he too, was just humoring me and covering all his bases. After all, our boss was a scientist and perhaps there was something out there that would interest his scientific curiosity.
Two hours later Crane, Morton and I met in the Admiral’s cabin.
“I don’t believe this!” Morton hissed, “you take the word of a former playmate that something’s making noise out there when none of our instruments indicate anything?”
“We weren’t playmates,” Crane stressed, “I dated her sister. But there’s something about this whole hearing noises that makes me want to check it out further.”
“ So what do you propose?” Nelson asked.
“Go out on a dive, as soon as she hears the chimes again. Maybe can lead us to whatever it is.”
“There’s nothing out there, Lee!” Morton complained.
“We don’t know that. And we won’t find out if we trust our senses and instruments to always be right.”
“Very well. And Ensign,” Nelson glowered at me, “you had better not be telling tales.”
Later that night, I heard them again and in minutes Crane joined me in the missile room, already donning the new night vision face masks and neon glowing wetsuits.
As we emerged from the hatch, I led him toward where it sounded like the noise was coming from. But there was nothing but the barren sea bed.
That is until it collapsed under the weight of Lee’s foot. Tumbling over and over and falling into the crevasse as the sand beneath us gave way, we heard the men aboard Seaview calling our names.
“Well, Jennie, well done,” Lee told me the next day as he joined me in the lab with Nelson. “I never would have believed it.”
“Look here,” Nelson called me over to look at some of the artifacts teams of divers had brought up from the ancient ruins. It looked odd, cylindrical, and Nelson shook it.
“It’s…it’s a music box!” I exclaimed as the chimes echoed around the room.
“Pretty darn good technology for something this old…what I can’t understand is how you could hear it when we couldn’t. I think I’d like Doc to check it out with an audiogram. I want him to check you out too, Ensign. I think I’d like to know just how big an asset your hearing will be for any future cruises.’
“With Seaview? The real one?” I asked.
“The real one,” Nelson grinned, “Now, why don’t you and Lee go take this to the Control Room and show Mr. Morton.”
It’s been four weeks, two days, and 17 hours that I’ve been aboard Seaview now, the sister C series now a training vessel for the Navy. The men have gotten used to having me aboard, even Morton. But he still gripes when I scratch the paint, like I did Seaview’s this morning. He’s even threatened me with one of the Captain’s little talks as well.
Of course, if push comes to shove, perhaps I could soften both up with that box of Girl Scout Cookies my niece sent me….