An Eerie Encounter


Kay H.



Harriman Nelson and his command staff are having a meeting to make preparations for Seaview’s next mission. They were undertaking an important scientific mission examining the Antarctic Circumpolar current looking for effects of global warming and evidence of climate change in the Southern Ocean.

“Admiral, I have never heard this term.  What exactly is the Antarctic Circumpolar Current?” asked Lee. 


“Well Lee, the Circumpolar Current results from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans merging.  It carries water volumes up to150 times the water flowing in rivers through out the world.”


The Admiral lapsed into a lecturing mode as he explained; “Gentlemen from the few measurements taken in the past it seems to indicate that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current strongly influences both regional and global climate changes by carrying vast amounts of water and heat across the oceans.”


He looked thoughtful then asked,  Lee, remember the request from the group of Australian Scientist?  Weren’t they requesting to use Seaview to study sea mounts along the Macquarie Ridge early this year?”


Lee replied, “Yes sir, if I remember correctly, their proposal request the use of Seaview for 2 weeks.  If you remember Admiral with our heavily scheduled commitments there was no way that we could accommodate them?  I thought you were trying to fit them in next year’s schedule.”


Nelson nodded his head at Lee indicating that he was correct.  “You know the Circumpolar Current is in the general area of the Macquarie Ridge.  What if we extend the cruise by 10 days? We have some flexibility in Seaview’s schedule this way could combine 2 paying trips into one and accommodate the seamount study sooner.  I have always been curious about these “oceanic oases”.  They are unique in the fact they stand proud of the surrounding seabed and tend to concentrate water currents and they can have their own localized tides and eddies. The diversity and exceptionally localized distribution of species living in these unique communities are acknowledged and some of these species may be extremely long-lived some maybe more than 100 years.   As the cold, nutrient-rich, deepwater moves up along the steep sides of the seamount specialized hotspots of marine life develop in the vast realms of the open ocean.”


Lee glanced at Chip  Admiral do you have a copy of their mission proposal.  I vaguely remember they wanted to collect a number of samples.  I would like to double check the number and type for diving purposes.  Aren’t the seamounts at different depths?  We would probably need to use the Mini-sub and the FS-1 depending on the type of sample collection and depths.  For the shallower collections we can use divers, but I need to determine how many extra dives we need to carry out this mission.  Do we need to plan for any mapping and or photography of the seamount region?”


Nelson thought for a minute and picked up his phone to call Angie on the intercom.  “Angie, please bring me the file on The Australian Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) group proposal.”


A few minutes later Angie knocks on the door and enters.  “Admiral here is the file you requested.  Do you need anything else?”


Nelson took the file and smiled at Angie “No, thanks this is all I need.”

As Angie walked out the door Nelson turned and joined Lee and Chip at the conference table. 


“Lee give me a minute to review their proposal.  Seaview is scheduled to sail in 10 days, Dr. Rafaela of National Oceanographic Partnership Program affiliated with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School   and his team should be arriving by the end of the week.  Chip that will allow you plenty of time to perform security checks on any equipment they are bringing.  It will also give me time to check with Dr. Wilkerson of the DEW.”


Nelson picked up his phone and called Angie again.  "Angie, please setup a teleconference with Dr. Wilkerson of The Australian Department of the Environment and Water Resources for me.  Please indicate to him the teleconference will be to discuss the availability of Seaview within the next several months for their seamount project and request he have whoever he needs on his staff, present for the call. Check my schedule for available times; also check Lee and Chip's schedules as well.  Due to the differences in time zones from Australia you may need to schedule it either late in the evening or a very early morning." 


After Nelson hung up he looked at Lee and Chip, ”Gentlemen please review the seamount proposal and prepare any questions that you have about the project.  We can get any answers during the teleconference.  Their party will probably include some scientists with experience in underwater photography as well as some certified divers.  We can use their divers along with Seaview divers for the sample collections.  All of the Circumpolar Current measurements and sample collections should be covered by the flying sub, the mini-sub or though Seaview collection ports.   Even if something unexpected arises a lot of the seamounts are in the same area, so we could combine the sample collections if necessary."

Lee thought for a minute.  "Chip; please make sure to schedule a competency check of their divers after they come on board.  Also let Jamie know, so he can schedule a physical for them.  We should have several days to complete these requirements after we pick them up before we reach the seamount region.  Admiral, are you going to need any additional personnel on board, since the usual personnel operating the collections with the FS-1, mini-sub and the Seaview collection ports generally do a lot of the diving?  Is their anyone specifically from the Institute staff or the backup crew that you want included?"

"Let me think about it, Lee.  I may want to add some people, but let's wait until after the teleconference to see how many people Dr. Wilkerson is bringing.  I also need to check with Drs. Abernathy and Rafaela to see if they need to bring any staff with them for the Circumpolar Current portion of the mission.  By combining the two missions we may run into space problems depending on the amount of equipment and the number of people each group needs.  I am hoping that our crew can handle the majority of their needs.”

Seaview sailed on the tide 10 days later with Dr. Mari Rafaela from National Oceanographic Partnership Program and Dr. Cedric Abernathy from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School on board.  The admiral had arranged for one of the extra labs to be setup for their use during the mission.  Seaview was to start collecting samples concerning the Circumpolar Current at its southern most point and then proceed to Australia where it would pick up Drs. Wilkerson and Abernathy's team.  The remainder of the mission would follow the seamounts along the Circumpolar Current that ran fairly close to the Macquarie Ridge.


Admiral Nelson requested Cookie to serve dinner in the nose the first night out to welcome the scientist aboard.  Seview’s command staff including Dr. Jamieson joined the admiral along with Drs. Abernathy, Rafaela, Wilkerson and their staff for a fantastic dinner of pork tenderloin, served with a brown rice walnut stuffing and a Santa Fe Corn Casserole.  For dessert everyone enjoyed cherry pie topped with French vanilla ice cream.




Several days later they reached the area of the smokers and suddenly the ocean became very cloudy with sediment as a new chimney was forming.  Seaman Ed Chang, who was stationed as lookout in the observation nose suddenly, called out “Mr. Morton, I see a ship dead ahead.” 


Lee who was working at the chart table mapping out the next planned course changes tracking the seamounts called out, “Helmsman all stop.”


The helm responded. “Aye, Aye, sir. All Stop.”


Chip glanced at Lee then asked, “Kowalski anything on sonar?


Ski turned his head and looked at the Captain and XO, “No sir, the scope is clear.”


Lee turned to Patterson on the hydrophones, “Pat did anything show up on your scope.”


Pat looked up and responded.  “No sir.”


Lee called out to the lookout.  “Chang, do you still see the ship?”


“No sir, I just saw it for a minute then it just disappeared.  It was strange, sir.  It just appeared for a second then it was gone.’’


Lee glanced at Chip and looked back at Ski and Pat.  “Did you notice anything unusual at all?”  Ski and Pat both shake their heads.  Ski starts to say something as they hear footsteps coming down the stairwell.


Lee recognizes the footstep and turns toward the stairs as Nelson steps off the last stair he asked, “Lee why are we stopped?  Is there a problem?” 


“I am not sure, sir.  The nose lookout reported seeing a ship, but nothing showed up on sonar or the hydrophones.”


Nelson walked over to sonar.  “Kowalski are you sure nothing showed up on the scope?”


“Yes sir, as I started to tell the Skipper, they only thing I saw was the pattern we see with the debris as the smoker chimney begins to form.’


Nelson nodded his head and turned to Lee. “That’s why I came forward.  Dr. Abernathy informed me that they had picked up the formation of a new chimney just a few minutes ago and wanted to know if we could stop and spend a few minutes mapping the area and collecting some water samples.”


“Chip you take the con. Since we’re stopped assign a team to start collecting water samples from the area.  Admiral let’s go talk with Seaman Chang.”


Nelson and Lee walk over to the observation “Okay Ed, can you describe what you saw?” Lee asked softly.


Seaman Chang shakes his head. “Skipper, I’m not sure anymore.  Maybe I imagined it, nothing makes sense.”


“Take you time Ed, just describe whatever you remember seeing”, encouraged Lee.


“Well sir it was eerie.  It reminded me of an old sailing ship, you know like a Clipper ship with sails.  The sails were unfurled like it had a strong wind blowing behind it.  It just showed up suddenly then disappeared.  I thought we were going to hit it when I called out.  It was right in front of us.  Skipper, I must have imagined it, because that type of ship wouldn’t be underwater.  It should be on the surface.  What’s happening to me?”


“Ed, settle down, we will figure it out.”  said the captain.


Nelson motions to Lee, “I have an idea.”  He walked over toward the control room and motions Chip over.  “Mr. Morton have Chief Sharkey go to my cabin and bring me the book on my desk.”


Chip nods his head and walked over to the Chief who was standing near the sonar.  “Chief go to the Admiral’s cabin and pick up the book from his desk and take it to him.”


A few minutes later Sharkey comes down the spiral staircase into the nose “Admiral here’s the book you wanted.  Is there anything else, sir?” asked Sharkey.  He was hoping to hang around and find out what was going on.  Sharkey definitely did not like be left out of the loop.  He always wanted to know what was going on.


Nelson waves the Chief away. “No thanks, Chief return to your duties.”  He knew the Chief was curious about what was going on. While he appreciated how tight a ship the Chief ran he wasn’t about to let him stay around for this discussion.  


After Sharkey had left Lee glanced at the title of the book and raised and eyebrow.  “Sea Stories, Myths and Legends, sir.”


Nelson chuckled.  “I know Lee, but there are some beautiful pictures of some classical paintings in here.”  He opens the book to a specific page and asked “Seaman Chang, take a look at the photograph.  Does the ship you saw look anything like the painting shown in the photograph/”


Chang studied the photograph of the painting. “Yes sir, that’s exactly what I saw.  Skipper what’s happening to me.”


Lee gently stated, “Ed, I would like to go the sickbay and have Doc check you out.  Maybe something in the chimney formation caused you to see something, we will figure it out so don’t worry about it.”


Nelson smiled.  “I thought you would have figured it out Lee.  The photograph is of a paining by Albert Ryder, which hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum of the ghost ship the Flying Dutchman You know there have been many reported sightings of the Flying Dutchman on the high seas in the 19th and 20th centuries, but I have never heard of one underwater in fact there have been many different stories regarding superstitions for the supposed phantom which was called the Flying Dutchman.  It has been sighted in many different areas mainly during violent storms from Holland to Java, but the majority are reported from the area around of the Cape of Good Hope.  If I remember correctly one of the most famous sightings reported was by Prince George of Wales during his late adolescence, in 1880, along with his elder brother Prince Albert Victor of Wales.  They were on a three-year-long voyage with their tutor Dalton aboard the 4000-tonne corvette HMS Bacchante. Off the coast of Australia, between Melbourne and Sydney, when they and thirteen persons altogether saw her...”


Nelson smiled as he asked, “Do you remember what the movie was last night Lee?”


“Yes sir, I think it was a Gregory Peck movie called the Flying Dutchman.”


“Lee, this is what I think happened, some how the formation of the chimney created an optical illusion.  Ed saw something maybe just some of the debris swirling startled him and his mind just created the vision of something he could relate it too.  He has probably heard the stories about the Flying Dutchman and since were in the area referred to in the movie last night his mind just grasped on to the ship in order to explain what he saw”, explained Nelson.


Lee grinned as he thought about the admiral’s explanation.  “It would certainly make sense, sir.  Let’s hope that this time logic turns out to be fact!”


Nelson chuckled at Lee’s heartfelt plea as he closed the book and took one more look out of Seaview’s panoramic windows.





On an evening near the end of the cruise Dr. Wilkerson and Dr Rafaela were enjoying the view from the nose.

"Harry, I am so glad that you decided to combine the seamount study with my current study.  You know I was a little concerned in the beginning,"stated Dr. Mari Rafaela as he glanced over to Dr. Richard Wilkerson.  "Dick, I had nothing against you, your team or the seamount project, but I just wasn't sure how things would work out even though the Circumpolar Current ran close the
Macquarie Ridge in a number of areas so in some ways it was logical to combine the two studies.  The increase in the mission length wasn't a concern, but I was afraid that your project might take time away from the sample collections and measurements I needed. I was also concerned that I would be limited on the number personnel, equipment and space that would be available, by having two separate teams aboard.  I know I should have trusted you and your team Harry, to make sure everything would work out, but when you wait so long to get the chance to fund a study like this and know it is a once in a lifetime chance you just
want to make sure everything goes smoothly."

Dr. Wilkerson nodded.  "Yes Mari, I know what you mean. I was just excited that Harry approached us about joining this mission.  Our research results will allow us to present a better argument to the governments of the area for better protection of the seamounts in their regions. We will be able to explain the importance of the abundant sea life in terms they will understand and appreciate."

The scientists continued to discuss the individual aspects of their research until Admiral Nelson interrupted. “It is getting late gentlemen and I need to check on an experiment before I turn in tonight, you are both welcome to stay a little longer and enjoy the view if you want too.”  But both of the scientist indicated that they were ready to return to their cabins for a good nights rest.


Early the next morning, Nelson received a call from Dr. Dominic Rowe of the National Trust of Australia requesting some assistance.  Apparently the Calypso was supposed to pick up a box of rare Kroombit Tinkerfrogs from the Rainforest along the Great Ocean Road, on the way back to Melbourne after the completion of their voyage, but experienced engine trouble and had to put in for repairs.  The Tinkerforgs are very delicate and an endangered protected species, so the Australian government was hoping to develop a breeding program.  Since the Calypso was unavailable and Seaview would be sailing through this area, could the Seaview please transport the box of frogs for the Osprey Foundation?


Admiral Nelson confirmed that Seaview would be only too happy to help out.  He smiled, as he couldn’t help thinking that a box of frogs, was probably the least threatening visitors the Seaview had hosted as guests!



Note:  Thanks to Lillian for her usual fantastic job of Betaing on this story.  I really gave her a challenge this time, but she stuck with me and deserved a big thank you.


<a href="">Feedback to author</a>