A Difficult Birth


By Kay H.



Seaview had just finished a survey for the Conservation International’s (CI’s) marine Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) and was heading for Pearl Harbor.  They were to put ashore an international group of marine scientists who had joined them to explore an area near Recife Domain and New Caledonia’s Northern Province reefs off Mount Panié.


While they were in Hawaii, Admiral Nelson was planning on joining the scientists in a few days of informal meetings to discuss their findings and write a joint report for the Indonesian government and the UN.


Captain Lee Crane was still recovering from injuries acquired while wreck diving off Wai Island when some reef-shattering explosions occurred in the vicinity. He, Seamen Patterson, and Kowalski were inside a wreck when the explosion occurred from a boat that was bomb-fishing in the area. He was seriously injured requiring 20 stitches in his leg and a moderate concussion.


Doctor Will Jamieson was on duty as usual when he decided to stopped by Lee’s cabin and check on his most reluctant patient who had better be resting or else!  He had just released Lee from sickbay after lunch.  He softly knocked on the door and stuck his head in, before the Admiral could answer.  He looked at the Admiral with a raised eyebrow.  Nelson quickly gets up and walks to the door and motioned the Doctor into the hallway.  “He just fell asleep.”


Jamie was glad that he was finally yielding to his body’s need to rest.  “That’s great Admiral, I won’t disturb him right now.  I will stop by later to check on him.  Maybe he will be awake for dinner, if not I will try and wake him.  He really ought to eat.”  


Jamie stopped back around dinnertime.  Lee was still a sleep but woke up when he felt a hand on his shoulder.  Slowly he opened his eyes and looked up at Jamie.  “Hi Jamie, what time is it?” 


“Dinner time Skipper.  Are you hungry?  Do you feel like going to the wardroom or would you rather have a tray here?”


Lee sighed heavily, “No, Jamie, I’m not hungry.  Just sleepy, leave me alone.”


Jamie looked a little concerned and quickly checked Lee’s pupil reactions and pulse. Satisfied that both were normal he decided that it was more important for Lee to rest at this point.  His appetite wasn’t the best even when he was fine. And it didn’t take make for him to loose his appetite.  “Okay Skipper, just go back to sleep, I will check on you later.  Maybe you will be hungry then.” 


Jamie was up early and made his way to Lee’s cabin.  Jamie knew Lee slept through the night, because he had his Corpsmen check on him regularly.  Lee really needed the rest, but Jamie was concerned that after missing dinner last night he did not neglect breakfast. He simply could not afford to overlook another meal.


Jamie knocked once and quickly entered the cabin. He saw Lee was just beginning to stir and walked across to the bunk. “Good morning Captain. How do we feel today?” He asked in his best bedside manner.


Lee looked at him and grimaced. What right did the CMO have looking so cheerful when he felt battered and bruised? “I don’t know how you feel, Doctor but I feel fine!” He said irritably.


Jamie grinned and placed the stethoscope he was carrying around his neck and took Lee’s right wrist as he felt for his pulse. “Sure you do, but how about humoring me and allowing me to find that out for myself?”


Jamie proceeded to give Lee a quite thorough examination and then nodded as he looked at his CO and said, “Lee, I want you to rest in your cabin after you eat.  I will not clear you for even light duty so don’t even ask.  You are still showing effects of the concussion.  I had better not catch you outside of your cabin wandering around the boat.  You leg does not need the strain on your stitches and I will not be happy if you pull them out. Now how about making Cookie happy and eating a hearty breakfast?”


Lee frowned as he heard the determination in Jamie’s voice and reluctantly nodded as he rose and got ready.


After Lee had showered and dressed under Jamieson’s supervision they walked to the wardroom.  As they approached they met Admiral Nelson who was just arriving. 


Nelson looked at Jamieson “Where did you find him?” and smiled warmly as he looked at Lee.  “Good morning Lee, rest well last night?”


Jamieson shook his head and laughed. “Admiral thanks to your help reading him a dull report yesterday I didn’t need to resort to my usual methods. As you know I do have my own techniques on how to get Lee to rest after an injury but maybe I can just add you to my repertoire. Think of all the money you would save on tranquilizers and sedatives, as well as the wear and tear on your CMO.  He was only just waking up when I called by to check on him.” 


Nelson laughed as he walked on.


Chip was already seated and just starting to eat breakfast, when he saw the Admiral enter the room and stood up.  He did not see Lee and Jamie right behind him.


“Good morning Chip,” The Admiral gestured to the two figures following him.   “Look who I found out and about.” 


Chip grinned at Lee, “Looking better buddy. I was going to check on you after breakfast.”


Lee laughed as he saw the plated heaped with food, “I wouldn’t want to keep you from missing a meal.” 


Chip smiled and sat back down, “Did Jamie let you escape?”


Jamieson chuckled as he listened to the friendly banter.  He was glad to see everyone so relaxed after the last few days,   “Only as far as his cabin to rest after he eats a good breakfast.” 


Lee frowns, “I’m right here.  You don’t have to talk about me like I wasn’t.”


The Admiral grinned, “Lee you know the CMO is required to report crew status to the acting Captain and myself.”


Lee just groaned and headed toward the selection of breakfast items that Cookie had laid out.  After lightly filling his plate, he started to get a cup of coffee.   Doc cleared his throat loudly.  Lee glanced at him.  “Skipper, no coffee yet, I want you to stick with juice for now.  No caffeine until you’re clear of symptoms from the concussion for 24 hours.”


Lee scowled at Jamie and moaned under his breath. “It’s going to be a long 24 hours,” but complied and got some apple juice then sat down.


Jamie smirked as he warned the captain softly, “I heard that.”  Lee glanced bashfully at Jamie as everyone laughed.


Chip teased Lee in his best stage whisper. “You’re slipping.”


Jamie looked directly at the Admiral and asked bluntly, “How long are we going to be docked at Pearl?” 


Before answering Nelson addressed Chip, “Mr. Morton, schedule shore leave for the crew and restock supplies while we’re at Pearl. By rotating shifts everyone should be able to spend several days enjoying the sights.”  Then he turned to Jamieson and asked boldly, “Does that answer your question, Doctor?”


Jamie nodded his head and smiled as he ventured, “Hopefully that means the command staff will be taking time off?”


The Admiral grinned, “I am taking a nice relaxed working shore leave. I’ll be meeting with the scientists to finalize the report on the survey.  The meetings are being held at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel at Waikiki Beach, so we can relax and enjoy the beach when our work is done.  When do you plan on releasing Lee for duty?”


Concentrating on his breakfast, Jamie avoided the direct gazes from the three officers as he said firmly. “Admiral, Chip, I’m sure this will affect your leave schedules, but I am not planning on releasing Lee until after we leave Pearl.”  Jamie quickly raised his hand before anyone could say anything and looked at the simmering annoyance of his captain.  “Lee, I know you are going to protest, so I won’t keep you in sickbay or admit you into the hospital as long as you take it easy.  That means no swimming, diving, hiking or strenuous activity.”


Lee just glared angrily at Jamie, and then sighed in resignation.  “Well if you’re going to be that way, I will just see about visiting friends on Niihau.”


Jamieson looked perplexed and asked, “Where and what is Niihau?”


Lee looked thoughtfully at Jamison and smiled as he explained “Let me tell you about Niihau also known as the "Forbidden Island”.  Until recently, Niihau was off-limits to all but relatives of the island’s owner and the original inhabitants, US Navy personnel, government officials and specially invited guests. It is the most westerly of the main eight Hawaiian Islands located closest to Kauai. It is the smallest and the oldest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands.   The population has always been small due to the island’s small size, dry climate, and lack of fresh water and has long maintained close economic and political ties with Kauai.”


Chip smiled as he recalled his own knowledge of the island retreat.  “If I remember correctly, Lee, it is privately owned by the Robinson family who purchased it from the Kingdom of Hawaii in1864.” The exec looked at Jamieson and continued with enthusiasm.  For over 200 hundred years, visitors were not accepted unless they were shipwrecked.” He looked at his friend and enquired, “Didn’t the terms of the purchase contract require the owner to help preserve Hawaiian culture and tradition? Even now no money is used on the island.” Lee nodded and allowed Chip to carry on. “Jamie did you know, it’s the only one of the Hawaiian Islands on which the Hawaiian language is still the primary form of communication. The children are taught both Hawaiian and English in school. It helps to keep the language alive along with the Hawaiian traditions. In fact the Robinson’s closed the island to most outside visitors; even relatives of the inhabitants can only visit by special permission?”


Will Jamieson looked thoughtful as he digested what he heard. “I never heard about Niihau and I didn’t know any of the Hawaiian Islands were privately owned.”  Suddenly Jamie looked at Lee.  “How can you visit friends if the island doesn’t accept visitors?” He saw Lee’s confident smile, as he shyly looked up from his plate.  You could tell that he is remembering a fun time.   “You’ve been there before.  When?” 

Lee glanced at the Admiral, who began to smirk.  “Lee you eat.  Jamie, remember that US Navy personnel are one of the groups allowed.  Lee and Chip both have been there during training exercises.  Nihau still remains extraordinarily isolated.  It is home to less than 200 native Hawaiians and includes wild boars and wild sheep. The people work for the Robinson’s and live in houses without running water or indoor plumbing. Only the main house and the elementary school in the main village have electricity.  The children must go to Kauai to continue their high school education.  There are no radios, telephones or televisions and only a few cars. Until recently communication with the outside world was by carrier pigeons. The people are mainly agricultural workers and generally lead a rural, low-tech life. Niihau is also known for the tiny seashells that residents gather off the beaches and string into beautiful "jeweled" leis. In fact to an outsider it might be considered the perfect getaway from it all retreat!”

Chip finished his breakfast then took a sip of his coffee. “Lee, what have workers been doing since the ranch closed down?”  He stopped for a minute to think. “You know it was still operating the last time I was there.  I know the Robinson’s family ranch has always been the sole employer on the island.  It must be hard to find a way to support the island’s economy, and not erode the relative isolation that residents have enjoyed for more than a century.”

Lee scowled, as he watched Chip sip his coffee.  He pushed his own plate away no longer hungry, and answered slowly. “Well, recently they have allowed people to fly to the island in a helicopter owned by the island of Niihau. Visitors are allowed to tour the beach, but only for few hours.  Contact though is not allowed with the inhabitants. Sometime the natives wander over and will sell “Jeweled Leis”, but the visitors must pay the pilot.  The pilot will then buy goods and distribute them among the native population, Tourists can swim, dive, snorkel and hike along the beach looking for seashells.”  

Jamieson smiled broadly, this sounded wonderful.  “I might like to take the tour myself, but Lee I don’t like the idea of you staying there out of contact and in such an isolated place.  Plus I know that you would want to dive, swim or even hike, none of which you are currently allowed to do.  I really would prefer that you stay on the main island close to medical care, in case you have any problems.  Remember you are still recovering from some serious injuries.”

Chip noted the expression on Lee’s face.  He is not happy at all, he thought. 


The Admiral also recognized Lee’s stubborn expression.  He quickly decided to change the topic, before Lee could say anything to set off Jamie.  He knew Chip was just as afraid as he that the CMO and Skipper would get in one of their famous battles, resulting in Lee being confined to Sickbay or the hospital.  Chip glanced at the Admiral, then his watch and quickly stood up as he said, “Come on Lee, let’s go. You can walk with me as far as your cabin, since I need to take the conn.”  Slyly he nudged the captain, “I might even give you a short status report on the way. Be grateful you’re at least released to rest in your cabin.  So let’s go before Jamie changes his mind.”


As Lee and Chip leave the wardroom heading for the control room, Admiral Nelson looked up. “Lee, I will stop by shortly.  There are some proposals that I want to discuss with you and maybe you can help me finish the report, since you fell asleep on me last night.”

Lee nodded apologetically as he remembered becoming drowsy during Nelson’s evening visit. “I’ll be there, Sir.”


Jamieson glared at the Exec. “I heard that, Mr. Morton. Remember the Captain is still on medical leave and he better not be anywhere but his cabin.  No side visits through the control room will be permitted.”


“But of course Doctor, would we dare break your rules?” Morton answered properly as he and Lee left quickly to the sound of the admiral’s subdued laughter.




Seaview docked at Pearl Harbor the next day and the crew were given shore leave in a preset roster pattern as Mr. Morton arranged for the re-supplying of Seaview’s stores.  The first wave of crewmen scattered to enjoy their favorite recreations.  Kowalski, Patterson and Riley took off for the beach to get in some surfing and serious girl watching.  The Admiral left for his conference while the doctor looked for the Skipper before he left.  He wanted a quick final check on the Captain and to make sure he was going to rest and take it easy while he was on sick leave.    He finally located Lee in the observation nose along with Chip going over the duty rosters for Seaview while she was in port.


Jamieson cleared his throat forcibly, “Commander Crane, just what part of medical leave did you not understand.  I have not cleared you for duty yet!” 


Surprised, Lee jumped up.  The sudden movement caused him to become dizzy, suddenly he be came pale and he began to waver.  Chip, alarmed grabbed his arm to steady him and help him sit down. 


Chip turned and glared at Jamieson, “See what you did.  You of all people should know better than to startle a patient with a concussion causing them jump like that.  What’s your problem?  He was just sitting here quietly while waiting for me to finish releasing the crew.  As soon as I finished we were going to leave.”


Jamieson looked suitably chastised by Chip’s outburst, but quickly recovered and said, “I’m sorry Skipper, but it looked like you and Mr. Morton were conferring over some reports.”


Lee angrily glanced up, “Did you need something Doctor?”  His tone was harsh and unforgiving.


Jamieson nodded his head and said uncomfortably, “Yes, Captain, I only wanted to check on your plans for shore leave and make sure that you were staying in the area.”


Lee sighed and looked self-consciously at the CMO. He knew Jamie was only trying to protect his most recalcitrant patient and he hadn’t always made that easy for the dedicated doctor. Softly, he explained, “Well Jamie, Chip and I are going to spend some time on a nice quite beach near Laie.  We‘ve rented a bungalow right on the beach.  I can lie on the sand, while Chip spends time snorkeling.  I know that you forbid me from staying on Niihau, but we scheduled a day to fly to Kauai and take the helicopter tour over for an afternoon.  We will visit with our friends, and then we will take the boat back to Kauai and spend the night, before heading back to Seaview.  The medical facilities on Kauai should not present a problem to you and by scheduling it at the end of our leave it gives me more time to recover before we travel.   What are your plans for shore leave?  I know you were interested in the tour of Niihau, if your plans allow, would you like to join Chip and me?  You will get to see more of Niihau than on a public tour.”


Jamie looked thoughtful “I really haven’t made any specific plans.  That does sound inviting.  Your story about the “Forbidden Island” really interested me. Maybe there is another bungalow available where you are staying.”


Chip smiled at Lee and then turned to Jamie, “Why don’t you stay with us?  It has 3 bedrooms, so there is plenty of room.  Laie is near the North Shore, but on the windward side of Oahu.  This area should be quieter than the North Shore, but is still very beautiful.  I know you would feel better if you could keep and eye on Lee. Then you can join us on the trip to Niihau.”


Since the Seaview was planning on being docked for a week at Pearl while the Admiral attended the conference, Chip had scheduled to take 4 days off.  He would then return to the Seaview to relieve the duty watch and make sure that all of the re-stocking had been completed.  By taking off the first rotation this would keep Lee off Seaview, but under supervision while on medical leave.  Lee was hoping after taking 4 days off, Jamie would clear him for light duty when he and Chip returned to the boat.


“If you’re both sure you don’t mind I would enjoy that very much.” Jamie replied warmly.




Chip and Jamie enjoyed snorkeling during the first 2 days of their leave indulging themselves, while Lee relaxed on the beach.  By the second day Lee was tired of resting, so Chip decided a visit to the Ka'ena Point Lighthouse was in order.  Lee had heard about this lighthouse was interested in observing its condition, since it was on the Doomsday List of endangered lighthouses.   Everyone was disappointed to discover that it had fallen over and now lies in ruins.   On the morning of the third day they all flew to Kauai to catch a helicopter over to Niihau.  They spent the afternoon touring the island with friends who served as local guides.  After a relaxing visit they took the boat from the dolphin tour back to Kauai, where they planned on spending the night before returning to Oahu.


Jamieson was sitting in the front of the bow alone thinking about what he had seen on Niihau.  Lee was resting against the side of the boat when he got a sudden idea and leaned over toward Chip and whispered, “Chip, instead of staying on Kauai tonight, why don’t we fly to straight to Lanai?  We can walk the Munro Trail for a few hours and fly over the Island of Kaho'olawe before returning to Oahu.  There is still plenty of time to be back before your next watch and you know how beautiful it is.  It would be nice to see how clean-up efforts are going since the island has been turned over to the state of Hawaii. I understand that strong efforts have been made to replant native vegetation and restore important historic sites even though the island will never be completely rid of the military ordnance dropped there. I bet it will be quite impressive to see.”


Chip shook his head, “I know you’re getting bored with doing nothing, but you know that Jamie is not going to approve of you hiking the Munro Trail.”


Lee glanced warily at Jamieson to make sure that he had not been overheard.  “You know it’s kind of been fun having Jamie along, when he wasn’t fussing over me.”


Just at that moment Jamie looked back toward Lee and Chip.  He saw Lee’s mischievous look and their guilty expressions.  He started wondering what they were up to now.  “Skipper, what are you and your XO plotting now?”   


“Nothing Jamie, we were just discussing where to stay tonight. We should dock in Kauai around 1600.  We could fly on out tonight and be back on Seaview by 2000 or we could fly to Lanai and spend the night there.”


Jamieson looked perplexed, “I thought the plans were to spend the night on Kauai.”


Lee grinned, “Well we could, but you really haven’t spent much time in Hawaii except on Oahu.  I thought that we could broaden your horizons and see some of the other islands.”


Jamieson looked suspicious, “Skipper, I know you and your XO are up to something.  I’m not sure what you are plotting. I still prefer we stay on the larger islands with good medical facilities even though you are recovering well.   If you don’t want to stay on Kauai tonight we can fly back to Oahu and return to the boat.   Just remember that you’re still on medical leave even when we get back.”


Chips looked over at Lee and laughed, “See what you did now.  You got Jamie all riled up, you just couldn’t resist could you?”




Meanwhile, Admiral Nelson was meeting with members of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program.  After everyone had investigated the coffee, tea and pastries on the sideboard and returned to the table.  Harry took charge of the meeting. He wanted to guide the various scientists to produce a concise focused report for the CI to present to the UN.


“Gentlemen, let’s get started.  Let me introduce everyone.  I think that most of you know each other, but have not met Dr. Ketut Yana of the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs' Conservation Department.  Dr. Ketut Yana please allow me to introduce the other members of our panel.  “He turned to the man on his right.  “Dr. Steve Bennett was part of the team which surveyed the virgin wilderness of the Foja Mountain.  His team discovered a virtual "lost world" of new species of birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife.  Steve stood up to shake Dr. Yana’s hand.  “Next to him is Dr Philippe Francois, who has detected threats to the seas from stun bombing and cyanide fishing.” 


Dr. Yana nodded to him in acknowledgement and asked “Dr. Francois, I hope we can arrange a private meeting sometime in the next few days.  My government is very concerned about the bomb fishing, coral bleaching and other hazards in this area.  We are committed to working closely with both the national and local Papuan governments to help them manage this globally significant asset for the benefit of future generations.” 


Admiral Nelson thought for a minute.  “Don’t worry Doctor’s; there should be plenty of time for you to arrange a private meeting over the next few days.  Next is Dr. Bjorn Swenson from Sweden, who is a world-renowned expert on rare marine species.  Dr. Anthony de Beers’ from the USGS was part of the group that surveyed the hard coral and found the highest diversity of hard corals ever recorded.  I think you know everyone else Dr. Yana.” Each man had nodded slightly as Nelson made the introductions and Dr. Ketut Yana smiled at each in turn. 


Nelson looked directly at Dr. Bennett, “Steve, I know Dr. Yana would also like a private meeting to discuss the Foja Mountains areas, while they are not showing signs of human impact yet it has important problems.  They are as important in their own way as the various problems in the marine regions.  It is not the purpose of this meeting, but he would like to get your recommendation on what possible course of actions will need to be taken possibly over dinner this evening?”


“Of course Harry,” responded Dr. De Bennett and looked confidently at Dr. Yana.   “I will be happy to meet you for dinner.  Since I know the point of these meetings is to examine the effect of the human impact which is already being seen on these reefs but not yet in the mountain area of the island.”



As everyone gets settled Dr Philippe Francois spoke up, “Harry how is Captain Crane?  I understand that he was injured while diving when some boats were bomb fishing in the area.” 


Nelson turned to Dr. Francois and grinned, “He will be fine.  You know Lee; he is already driving Jamie to distraction trying to get back to work.”


Dr Francois just shook his head. “You know that is what I always admired about your Captain; nothing can keep him down for long.  We heard reef-shattering explosions in the vicinity on several of our survey dives.”


Dr Swenson frowned, “Unfortunately Indonesia doesn’t have the manpower to cover this area.  Only 11 percent of the seascape is currently protected.  Hopefully with the results of the surveys, it will help focus Indonesian and world government’s attention to the Bird's Head Seascape and its incredible marine biodiversity.”  He turned to Dr. Yana, “Would it be possible to meet when finish with this session?” After receiving an affirmative nod, Bjorn Swenson turned back to Nelson. “Harry maybe you would care to join us on the beach for a while.  I really think that we should spend some time discussing the variety of species unique to this area, which are threatened by illegal fishing practices.  While the coral reefs remain in relatively good shape, we also cannot forget the mining and logging in nearby coastal regions which threaten to degrade water quality.  This is even causing an increase in the destructive crown of thorns starfish population, which as you know will that kill the native hard corals.”


After several hours the group broke for lunch but the talk all through the meal was still concentrated on their morning subject matter.  After lunch they broke into smaller working groups to discuss specific topics, which would later be reported to the full conference and included in the final report.  


Admiral Nelson, Dr. Swenson and Dr. Yana decided to hold their working group on the beach, since Dr. Swenson didn’t often have a chance to enjoy the beaches of the Pacific.  The lounging chairs and beach umbrellas supplied by the hotel made it the perfect way to relax on the beautiful white sandy beach.  You could sit in the shade of the umbrella or in the direct sunlight depending upon your personal preference, Yana, relaxed in the shade as he talked intensely to his companions.  “We are now closely examining the previous survey recommendations.  I hope that the recent survey will help lend support to the development of a network of fishery reserves in the region to safeguard this priceless national heritage.”   He shook his head and asked excitedly, “Have either of you really seen a shark that uses their pectoral fins to walk across the seafloor?  I also heard about double ended Pipefish that looked like an unusual seahorse.”


Nelson and Swenson both enthusiastically nodded their heads.  Bjorn said, “I don’t know about you Harry but while diving I saw the double ended Pipefish.  It clung to the sea grass and had the exactly the same color and body as sea grass and a head like a seahorse.  It was absolutely amazing.  I have never seen anything like it.” 


Nelson smiled, briefly fondly remembering one of his favorite dives of this mission.  “I think that the most exciting and unusual thing I saw was the sharks walking along the sea floor.  Also I have never before seen so many new or different species of reef fishes, mantis shrimp, or species of coral.  You know my Captain and XO took a working vacation in this area several weeks before our mission. ** They spent a couple of weeks in the area.  I remember them telling me about how impressed they were with the local Kanak people. It seemed this group protected some reefs by designating them as “taboo” sites, along with a ban on fishing or collecting marine creatures in the restricted area.”


Dr, Yana looked very pleased “Yes, without their help I am afraid that there would be a great deal more damage.”  He smiled “Did they have any specific sites that they like?  I know your crew has dived all over the world.  How does our area compare with what they have seen in other places?”


Admiral Nelson looked thoughtful, “I remember when Captain Crane and Mr. Morton first returned from their vacation all they could talk about were the beautiful and amazing things that they had seen.  They were surprised by size of the giant Queensland Groupers.  Also they were shocked by a giant clam located near the top of the reef which was large enough to swallow a child.  The clams were embedded in the reef and covered with soft corals, tunicates and sponges so thick they can barely close their shells.”


After relaxing for another hour on the beach, they all returned to their individual rooms to get ready for dinner.  Dr Yana remembered he was planning to meet with Dr. Bennett to discuss the new species of birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife found in the Foja Mountain. 


Dr Swenson, tired from his recent busy schedule, was going to have quite evening in his room relaxing. While Admiral Nelson was planning on enjoying dinner with his old friend, Dr de Beers; hopefully they would discuss a future project between the Nelson Institute and the USGS.  The future project concerned possibly upgrading of some of the sensors, which monitored the volcanic activity on the Pacific Rim.  Recently there had been a number of failures of the sensor in some very remote areas and especially the sensors at the greater depths.


After several days of meetings, finally the last day had arrived and members were meeting for the final time when the door to the conference room suddenly opened and the hotel manager, entered.  He quickly walked over to Admiral Nelson.  “Gentlemen I am sorry for the interruption, but I have an urgent private message for Admiral Nelson to call his office.”


Nelson thanked him and excused himself to call his office.


At NIMR the phone rang and Lynn Bryant answered respectfully.  “Admiral Nelson’s office, this is Lynn Bryant, Admiral Nelson’s secretary, may I help you?” 


Lynn, it’s Nelson, I had a message to call you.” 


“Yes, Admiral the U.S. Geological Survey contacted NIMR and needs to speak with you urgently about the sensors monitoring the volcanic rim in the Western Pacific.  The monitoring system has picked up some unusual activity and then several of the sensors just quit reporting.  USGS would like you to contact them and request that you and Seaview investigate.  They aren’t sure whether the sensor failed due to natural forces or if something else is going on.  The satellites did not pick up any abnormalities in the area.”


“Thanks Lynn, I will contact USGS and then Seaview.  Dr. Anthony de Beers’ from the USGS is here at the conference, so I will get together with him.  We will keep the institute informed about our plans.”  Nelson hung up and re-entered the conference room.  “Gentlemen, I’m sorry but I need to leave.  However, I think that we were just about finished anyway.  Is there anything else that we need to cover or can we conclude this meeting and issue a final report?”


Everyone glanced at each other, and then Dr. Swenson said, “Harry, I think Steve and I can finish the report and submit it.  I will send you a copy of the draft when it’s finalized.  You look slightly upset.  I hope everything is okay.”


Nelson glanced around at his friends and colleagues, “Everything is fine. The USGS just wants me to check out some sensors that failed while monitoring the Western Pacific.  Anthony would you like to join me on Seaview?”


Dr. de Beers responded warmly with enthusiasm. “Certainly, Admiral Nelson this may relate to what we were discussing at dinner the other night.”


Dr de Beers and the Admiral hurriedly left the meeting after Nelson had contacted the Seaview and ordered that preparations be made for immediate sailing. Nelson then arranged for a car and driver to be called while he and Tony packed.  After checking out of the hotel they headed for Pearl. While on route, Nelson explained his plans. “Tony, after we reach Seaview, I will contact the USGS for additional information.” 


Dr. de Beers nodded agreement and turned to his friend, “Harry when we will be able to depart?”


“Most of the crew should be back from shore leave and the remainder will be back in time for Seaview to sail on the afternoon tide.  Then we will see if we can find out what the problem is and resolve it.”





The final crew rotations were returning from shore leave, rested and eager for their next mission and the sound of happy chattering started to fill the boat once again.


Chip, Lee and Jamie had returned to the Seaview several days before in order to allow some of the duty officers to have a few days leave.  Jamieson checked Lee after their return and had been pleased with his general condition and had released him to return to light duties. Both were busy making the final preparations.


Down below Kowalski spotted the Chief entering the crew’s quarters and cheerfully greeted him.  “Hi Chief, how was your leave?  Hey, do you know where we’re headed next?”


Sharkey turned to Ski slightly irritated by the question, since he didn’t know what the Seaview’s schedule was and he did not like being kept in the dark.  Chief Sharkey, always felt it was part of his duty to be in the know.  He felt that it was only right and proper that he should be well informed, since he was the COB and besides, he wanted to know as well! To hide his lack of knowledge, he assumed a superior manner.  “Now, Kowalski, when are you gonna learn? When the Skipper or XO want you to know where we are going they will tell you.” Then turned and hurriedly left before he could be questioned further.


The shore watches saw the Admiral’s car approaching and notified the control room.

Lee looked at Chip and grinned boyishly, “Well, Mr. Morton let’s go meet the Admiral and find out what our orders are.” 


As the Admiral got out of the car he smiled as he saw Lee and Chip waiting for him on deck.   He and Dr. de Beers walked across the gangplank to meet the Captain and XO. “It looks like you got Jamie to release you for duty Lee.  How are you?  Did you have a restful leave?  Are you sure you’re fully recovered?”


Lee just smiled “I’m fine Admiral.  Did the conference go well?”


Harry recognized Lee’s familiar avoidance tactics regarding his health and glanced at Chip.


Chip Morton grinned back. “Its okay, Admiral.  Doc valued his own sanity too much and released him for light duty this morning.”


At this Lee glared at his first officer and said with menacing calm. “How would you like to go swimming off this deck in full uniform, Mr. Morton?”


Chip merely smiled impudently but took one pace away from his friend, just in case.


Nelson shook his head at the antics of his command team then turned to his guest. “Tony, please allow me to introduce Commander Lee Crane, Seaview’s Captain and our first officer Lt. Commander Chip Morton.”  Then as they all shook hands Harry said to his officers. “Gentlemen, Dr. Anthony de Beers.  Dr. de Beers is a member of USGS and will be joining us for our mission to the Pacific Rim and the damaged sensor site.”


“Doctor, welcome aboard.  We hope you will be comfortable.  Mr. Morton has assigned you guest cabin C and your bags will be taken there for you.”  Lee turned and nodded to Patterson who came forward and took the small bag and attaché case that de Beers carried. 


Patterson then turned to Admiral Nelson,   “Admiral, Sir, allow me to take your bag.”


The Admiral handed out his travel bag and briefcase, “Thanks, Pat.” 


After collecting both the Admiral’s and Dr. de Beers’s bag, he left the deck.


“Thank you Captain. I’m sure I will be fine. Please call me Tony by the way. I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be able to sail with you. Seaview and her crew have quite a reputation.” Tony de Beer smiled warmly.


Lee and Chip smiled as they glanced at each other. This was not an unusual reaction from their passengers but it was always a pleasure to receive compliments.


Harry watched and felt the same satisfaction for his creation but then turned his thoughts to business.  “When is the crew due back, Lee?”


“Admiral, the majority of the crew is already back and the remainder should be here by 1200. We have already loaded all of the supplies so we should be ready to leave on the tide, 1430.”


Nelson nodded and the party moved into the conning tower hatch then climbed down into the control room.  After they reached the control room the Admiral continued, “Okay, Lee.  Go ahead and finish the preparations.  I need to consult with the USGS about some possible volcanic sensor failures in the Western Pacific.  I will let you know the specific co-ordinates after talking with them.  Have the stores checked to make sure we have replacement sensors available.”


Lee nodded and watched as   Nelson walked over to the radio shack and asked Sparks to put a call through to the USGS.  Sparks, when you complete the call, pipe it through to the main screen in the control room.”


“Aye, sir,” the radio operator affirmed.


Lee turned to the COB who was standing near the chart table in the control room.  “Chief, you and Patterson check the stores for the new earthquake sensors the Admiral developed and report back.”


“Right away, Skipper.” And Sharkey bustled off, feeling better that he at least had some idea of the mission details now.


 Sparks connected the call with USGS, and then contacted Admiral Nelson on the intercom.  “Admiral I have Robert Benson at the USGS.  I am transferring it to the main screen now.”


The Admiral reached forward and switched on the giant screen.   Benson’s image was soon before them. “Admiral Nelson, hello.  Thank you for agreeing to make Seaview available to us. As you are in the immediate vicinity, your response time will be quicker than anything we can do.  The sensors in the area of the Tonga’s Late Island have quit sending.  They gave an unusual reading right before we lost the signal.  We requested a satellite pass over the area and did not find anything.  How fast can you get there?”


Nelson just smiled at the man’s enthusiasm and held up his hand.  “Robert, calm down and breathe. Tony de Beers is here with me.  Send us a copy of all of the readings and the satellite photos we will review them. Seaview will be ready to leave Pearl in a few hours.”  Nelson glances over at Lee and raises his eyebrow.  Lee started calculating their course as soon as Benson indicated the general area. 


Lee stepped over to the Admiral.  “Sir, we should be in the area in approximately eighteen hours.”


Nelson resumed his conservation with Benson,   “Robert, you heard Lee, we will contact you as soon as we reach the area.  Seaview out.”  Nelson then turned to Lee, “Let me know when the data comes in.  We will be in the observation nose.”


Lee and Chip continued preparing for departure when Chief Sharkey reported over the intercom. “Skipper, we have twenty of the sensors in stock.  Does the Admiral need them in the lab or should we leave them in the storage lockers?”


“Hold on Chief, I’ll check.” Lee walked to the nose and reported to Nelson and then asked his superior, “Do you need to make any adjustments to them?”


“No Lee, they can stay in the lockers right now.  We won’t know exactly what we will need until we find the problem.” 


Lee nodded and relayed the orders to Sharkey.


After all of the crew reported back and preparations were complete, Seaview left on the afternoon tide.  Lee stood in the nose watching the Seaview leave Pearl Harbor as the Exec took them out.   When they were safely at sea and everything was proceeding normally, Chip turned to Lt. Sampson, “Brian you have the Conn.  I will be in the wardroom.”  He walked to the nose and tapped his friend and CO on the shoulder, “Come on Lee, its past lunch time.  Let’s get some food before Jaime gets after you and before you upset Cookie.”


They left the nose by the circular stairway.  On the way to the wardroom; they meet up with Tony and the Admiral.  Jamie was already enjoying a thick roast beef sandwich along with tomato basil soup.  Jamieson looked up and saw the group entering.  “Captain, it is nice to see you present for lunch.  I expect you to spend sometime resting in your cabin this afternoon.  Remember you are only released for light duty, not full duty yet.  This does not mean spending the whole afternoon working on reports then wandering the boat this evening doing one of your normal walk thorough.”


Lee sighed slightly as he sat down and caught Jamie’s grin towards him and smiled ruefully in return. How well the CMO knew him!  The Admiral, Dr. de Beers and Mr. Morton joined them at the table.  The stewards started to bring out soup for each person along with small bowls of fresh fruit.  Sandwiches makings were already on the table with heavily loaded platters. There are thick slices of ham and roast beef, along with a variety of cheeses.  Also on the table were baskets filled with a variety of fresh breads and rolls, along with a wide selection of condiments.    Since they had just left port there was also fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onions.  Everything looked so good they immediately started to eat.  Even the captain, who normally did not each much, was enjoying the fresh fruit along with a thick ham sandwich.  Of course, this was nothing compared to Chip, who already had two heavily loaded sandwiches on his plate. 


After Chip finished fixing his sandwiches, Lee started teasing Chip about the amount of food on his plate.  “Tony, be careful if you are late for meals around hear, your selection maybe limited.  Mr. Morton takes his food seriously.”



Chip rolled his eyes before taking his first bite; he smiled at Lee, and then devilishly glanced at the doctor.  “I completed all the reports after we got back from leave and we haven’t been at sea long enough to generate any new ones.  So Jamie, he doesn’t have any excuse for not resting, unless the Admiral has given him some work which isn’t likely since he just returned.”


Jamieson scowled at the Admiral, “He better not have.”


Nelson shakes his head and starts laughing.  “Mr. Morton, you might want to remember your captain believes in paybacks.”


“Yes sir, but he is still on sick call, so I don’t have to worry until we dock.” laughed Chip.


Lee looked up from his plate through his eyelashes and grinned.  “Down Doc, the Admiral hasn’t had a chance to give me any new projects yet,” Exacerbated he shook his head.  “And you know good and well that you both cleaned out my desk when you released me from sickbay.” 


Dr. de Beers looked at Nelson and was obviously puzzled so the Admiral said, “Tony, don’t worry, it’s a private joke.  Lee is a workaholic and it is always a challenge to make him allow time to heal after an injury.  I wouldn’t want him any other way, because he is the best at what he does, but it does frustrate those of us who care about him.”


Lee glanced bashfully at the Admiral. “Understood sir.  I will rest this afternoon.”


As everyone finished lunch the Admiral said, “Chip, Dr. de Beers and I will be in the lab going over the data from the USGS.  Please notify me immediately if anything else comes in.”


Jamieson rose and said, “Captain, if you have finished why I don’t walk you to your cabin.  I want to give you a quick once over.  Then you can rest until dinner.”


Lee was not happy with Jamieson spoiling his plans.  He had been hoping to do a quick walk around the boat, visiting with some of the crew about their shore leave before returning to his cabin.  That way he could kill a few hours, then go and sit in the nose and observe what was going on and still remain on what he considered light duty. 


Chip rose quickly and walked out with the Admiral and Dr. de Beers. He recognized Lee’s expression, and didn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity of the wardroom if Lee exploded.


Jamison quickly put his hand up.  “Skipper, settle down now.  You will rest this afternoon one way or another.  Now wouldn’t you rather it is voluntary, than me arranging it with my trusty syringe?”


Lee could see he was not going to win this one so decided to give in gracefully…there would be other opportunities to fight!




As the Seaview reached the Tongan waters sailing toward Fiji they started picking up strange hydrophone readings.  The Delta watch under the command of Lt. Bruce Casey is on duty.  He immediately notifies the captain.  “Captain Crane, please report to the control room.”


Lee woke up immediately and responds “Captain here.  I’m on my way.”  Lee quickly dressed.  The XO and Admiral both hurriedly got dressed and left their cabins only to meet Lee in the corridor when they too heard the call. He looked at both of them with a grin.  “What are you both doing up as if I didn’t know?”


The Admiral just grins and rolls his eyes.  “Let’s go see what Lt. Casey has found.” 


Suddenly the Seaview dipped and rocked like on a roller coaster from undersea tremors and falling rock.  The command staff rapidly entered the control room and Lt. Casey looked relieved to see the Skipper.  “Captain, we are picking up strange readings from the hydrophones and are detecting strong undersea tremors.  I slowed down to one-quarter speed.  It seems like something is right in front of us and all around us.” 


Suddenly, the sound of heavy objects hitting the hull reverberates through the boat. Seaview dipped downward again, knocking unsecured personnel and equipment around and abruptly stops all forward momentum.  Lee and Chip were both knocked to the floor.  Lee grabbed the periscope island and held on.  He tried to reach out and catch Chip while the boat continued to shake, because the engines were still running producing power trying to move the boat forward.  Lee missed Chip who cannoned into the chart table hard.  Lee struggled as he reached for the mike on the periscope island and called, “Engineering this is the Captain. Stop All Engines.”  As he scrambled to his feet he quickly did a visual check on all stations.


As the crew began to pick themselves up and resume their posts.  Lee looked for Chip and found him unconscious on the deck,   He immediately clicked the mike, “Sickbay, this is the Captain, we have injuries in the control room.  Damage Control this is the Captain report condition immediately.”


The Admiral clung to that back of the hydrophone operator’s chair while reaching for the spare headset. He picked it up and listened carefully. “Turn on the front lights; maybe we can see the problem.” 


“Damage Control, Lt. Crosby reporting, Skipper, we have seepage from the hull in section A-42.   Repair crew is welding a plate to seal it at the moment.  Water tight doors are holding.”


One of the Corpsman arrived in the control room, while the Captain was taking reports from the Damage Control Officer.  He glanced at the Corpsman and pointed to the XO.


Chief Sharkey came in quickly after being awakened by the shaking of the boat and set to helping the Corpsman get the exec on the stretcher.  He then helped carry the XO to sickbay. 


Lt. Casey approached the Captain, “Skipper, shall I take over compiling the damage control reports for you?” 


Lee nodded and to started checking the stations to see if he could determine what Seaview had hit.


Lt. Casey continued to take reports from the various areas of the ship and after compiling all of the information he turned toward the Captain. “Skipper, everything else is tight and dry.  We were mainly shaken up.  Doc reported a few injuries from sprains and bruises. Mr. Morton was the most seriously hurt and he has a slight concussion and a broken arm.”


About a hundred yards in front of Seaview; they saw what looked like a vertical wall of pumice heading towards the surface. Lee looked shocked.  “Admiral what is it?


 “I’m not completely sure. “ Nelson said, “Lee, lets follow this up slowly and see where it goes to the surface then we can come back and take some samples.”


Lee walked back into the control room and gave the order to surface.  When the Seaview reached 90 feet the Captain raised the periscope and checked the surface to make sure the area was clear.  He suddenly called out to the Admiral, “Sir, you might want to see this.”

 Lee ordered the helm, “All Stop.”


The Admiral moved quickly to the periscope island and took his place at the periscope and studied the view intensely then stepped back.   


Lee thought for a moment, “Admiral, let’s surface just enough for the conning tower broach the surface.  We can use the sail camera to get a better look.  I don’t want to take a chance and fully surface, until we have a better idea of what is going on. The area in the front looked like a wide belt of densely packed pumice.”  


Nelson nodded agreement. “Lee as soon as the tower broaches the surface get a lookout up and turn on all of the cameras.  This should give us a better idea of the extent of the stone field.”


Everyone watched the camera views, when Lee motioned the Admiral.  “Sir, I’m going to back up the Seaview about 500 yards otherwise we will be surrounded by this substance. I don’t want to take the Seaview into that”


Radioman Bill Moore contacted the control room.  “Captain, I am receiving a news report about a yacht sailing out of Vanai toward Fiji which motored into a strange obstruction.  They are calling it a sea of stone.”


The Admiral looked excited and grabbed the mike, “Moore, it’s the Admiral. Did you make a copy of the news report?”


“Yes sir, as standard procedure requires.” reported Moore. 


The Admiral ordered, “Transfer it to the control room main screen.”


Lee stepped up and switched on the main screen.  Suddenly the news announcer came on and reported a story about a yacht sailing toward Fiji that ran into something they called a sea of stone.   According to the report from the yacht it appeared to be a wide belt of densely packed rock, which stretches for many miles.   The Admiral motioned for the Captain to shut off the monitor. Nelson tilted his head and looked thoughtful. “Captain, go ahead and surface.  Then put the zodiac out to collect some samples of the pumice and the water.  I don’t want to take Seaview anywhere close to this field of stone.  We can’t afford to foul the inlet filters.  After we get some photographs and water samples, plot a course around the pumice.  I want to see how far it extends.”


Lee was still concerned about Chip even though he had received another detailed medical report on his injuries from Chief Sharkey. He wouldn’t be comfortable until he had seen him for himself.   But until the Seaview was secure and the cause of the problem was determined he could not leave the control room.   The Seaview surfaced and preparations were made to take samples and photographs.  Dr. de Beers reached the control room; the captain briefed him on what they had found so far including the news report.  He immediately climbed up the ladder to the sail, where Lee had told him the Admiral was making visual observations.


“Harry do you think this could be the reason for the sensor failures?  I wonder why the satellites’ photos did not show the wide bands of rocks floating in this area.”


“Tony, I don’t know, but maybe it was the beginning of a volcanic eruption and everything was still under water during the time frame the area was photographed,” speculated the Admiral.  “We might be the first people in centuries to see the formation of a new island.” 


After several hours the Seaview had completely circled the expanse of stone.  The size corresponded to the area of the state of Rhode Island.  The Admiral and Dr. de Beers left the conning tower, climbing down the ladder into the control room.  “Lee lets dive to 90 feet and monitor the area.  You can take frequent periscope readings.  I think about every 30 minutes should be okay.  Let me know if anything changes.  Tony and I will be in the lab analyzing the samples. And have Patterson develop the pictures that were taken and bring them to the lab as soon as they are finished.”



Nelson and Dr. de Beers walked towards the aft hatch, heading for the lab, but before leaving the control room the admiral stopped.  Lee had turned to Lt. Casey and confirmed the Admiral’s orders and called out to Lee, “Captain, this doesn’t mean that you will take the readings personally.  Remember you have some fine Junior Officers; be careful and utilize them as much as possible.  I know you need to be in the control, but you are still on limited duty and need to take it easy.  I am not going to have the doctor on my six.  My physical is coming up in a few months and I definitely don’t want him mad at me.  How is Chip, Lee?” 


Lee just shook his head, “Okay according to the Chief.  He was awake and protesting by the time they got him to sickbay.  When the Chief left he was already yelling at Jamie, that he was fine and need to get back to the control room. 


Nelson rolled his eyes, “Why don’t you stop by sickbay and check on Chip, perhaps you could take some of the heat off your already frustrated CMO.”  


Several of the crew in the control room snickered and glanced around at the Skipper when they hear the Admiral’s comments.  Lt. Casey quickly bent down to study the charts on the table, so he could hide his smile from the Skipper.


Lee looked at the Admiral through his eyelashes and said with resignation, “Understood, sir.  I’ll behave.  I wouldn’t want Jamie to give you a hard time.  I’m sure he already has enough ammunition at your physical without me adding more to it.”





Seaview resumed her normal duty schedule through the night.  Periscope readings were continued as long as the light allowed.


The next morning the Skipper rose at his usual time of 0530 and got dressed.  Lee figured that he could make a quick check through the control room before heading to check on Chip in sickbay.  It should be late enough by then, so Jamie would not start harassing him.  He knew that the duty watch would have contacted him if anything unusual had occurred overnight, but he really liked to make a check of all of the stations just to make sure.  He could always get his first cup of coffee from the carafe that was in the observation nose and chat with the delta watch.  Then he could later join the Admiral for breakfast in the wardroom.  As he left his cabin he ran into the Admiral leaving his cabin.  His eyes lifted and he said, “Admiral, aren’t you up early?”


The Admiral just grinned at this Lee, “So are you Captain?  You must be hungry, since you didn’t eat much last night.  Your watch is not for another hour, so let’s get some coffee and make Cookie happy by you eating a nice breakfast.  Remember you are still recovering yourself.”


After finishing breakfast they left the wardroom together.  Lee was going to stop by sickbay and check on Chip before going to the control room.  The Admiral stopped by his lab before heading to the control room.  Sparks was ready to take his watch as deck officer and was standing talking with Lt. Casey when the Captain entered the control room


Lee turned and nodded, “Sparks, take us up.  Surface.”  The Seaview gently broke through and the Admiral and Lee climbed up the ladder to the conning tower.  The first thing they see is an active volcano close to Home Reef.  They had sailed within two miles of the new island’s location.  All the reports confirmed it was one mile in diameter and with four peaks and a central crater smoking with steam. Once in a while an outburst high in the sky with lava and ash.


“Lee, I think we're the first ones out here to see this.  It is not everyday that you can say you were present for the birth of a new island,” They study the island for some time and then Harry turns to Lee.  “How was Chip this morning?” 


Lee laughed, “It’s not too serious only a mild concussion, but he also broke his arm which will make things awkward for him.  I definitely think that the CMO should take as detailed care of the exec as he always does me.


Nelson laughed “I did warn him that you always got even, but do you think it's quite fair to set Jamie on him.   This wouldn't be revenge would it Lee?”


Lee laughed, “Not at all sir, just ensuring the welfare of all the crew.”


They turned their attention back to the smoking volcano and spent a long while in companionable silence, just looking at the marvel of nature. “Well Captain, I think it’s time to move on. Let’s go below, I need to report the sighting to the USGS. Then you can head us for home, this job is finished.”  Harry commented softly.








Author Notes: Many thanks to both my beta’s Lillian H. and Sue K. for all of their hard work and their story input and story ideas.  Parts of this story are referred to in my earlier stories * A Fantastic Voyage and ** Working Vacation.