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Story of a 2nd Mates Hell!

- In the Pacific Ocean

M/V British Monarch Wednesday 9th June 1957
I can see the stern light bobbing away from me over the wave tops. Rule 10 of the international collision regulations flashes through my mind. Can they hear me shouting – a puny voice in such a vast expanse? Not a hope. Still the light is bobbing away, no masthead lights to indicate that the ship has turned about and is returning.
The small light indicating comfort, safety and security has gone. All alone in a vast expanse with not much hope of them returning for at least eight hours.

I can see Antares and Saturn; a little above there is Altair and Deneb with the moon fast disappearing in the Western sky. I hope Mr. Love, our chief officer, will have good sights this morning. It’s becoming lighter in the Eastern Sky now; the stars are disappearing fast. Farewell oh companions of the graveyard watch welcome to the rising sun.

So ran my thoughts for the first few hours after falling overboard from the British Monarch in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday 9th June 1957. Having made up my mind that my time was not up, though needing to reassure myself on this point on several occasions, I proceeded to let my mind wander at will ignoring the body until the return of the ship. I knew which way to travel by getting my bearings from the sun. The ship having been steering 278 degrees direction when the accident happened, I therefor faced in that direction awaiting her return. Having settled my mind on this matter I now felt at liberty to consider other things. I considered it a waste of time divesting myself of any clothes, being in tropical gear at the time for I should only regret it later on - my shoes would give some protection against any possible attacks.

The easiest way to stay afloat was to tread water with my feet, arms describing an arc in front of my body. Floating on my back was of no avail for the breaking water hindered attempts at breathing. I could picture the effect on the members of the crew having learned of my disappearance, my thoughts being mostly centred on the old man Captain Coutts, for the awful responsibility and anxiety imposed upon him, wondering, waiting and watching having turned the ship round after making his calculations. I could visualise the Radio Officer sitting for hours in a small cabin surrounded by instruments, perspiration streaming off him, sending out frantic signals for all ships in the area to keep a sharp look out, ears straining for the message to say that all was well.

The water is very dense here, finding it comparatively easy to stay afloat. Well God I am in your hands, in you I put my trust for better or for worse. If it be your will take me in what way you care, I can hardly suffer worse pain in mind and body than your beloved son. If it has to be a shark, make it quick, but I can hardly believe that my time is up, the ship will be returning in due course so let’s make the best of it whilst we are waiting.

God, what was that? Get off me, leave me alone. Stings like hell, I wonder why? About 12 – 18” long, transparent with small suckers of a pale blue hue along its underside. What purpose do you fulfil in this world of ours, old chap? Sting if you will but give a man a sporting chance. There goes a Portuguese man of war, Good morning old chap, whither are you bound or are just wandering like myself. I am not coming too close for I fear your sting as well.

The sun is up now and with it comes two birds to investigate the stranger in their midst. Both are dark brown in colour with white markings on their underside. They seem uncommonly interested in the strange object floating in their midst amongst the waves. Very friendly but with a bad habit of dive bombing out of the sun necessitating my having to turn about each time which puts rather a strain on the eyes. They have lost interest now and are away hunting for their breakfast.
All alone again with swell getting a little steeper but still finding it fairly easy to keep afloat. I never dreamt that solitude could be so comforting but I am not alone really – nobody really is.

Just imagination for He is with us at all times, unseen, unheard but very real. The cloud formations are very attractive. There is one like a pencil opening out into a beautiful cotton wool fan. Another over on the horizon in the shape of a huge hand with index finger pointing in the general direction in which the ship will return. A coincidence? I hardly think so. Gazing at this cloud returns my thoughts to those on board. The members of the crew will now be posted at various vantage points throughout the ship, each watching and waiting with their own private thoughts spinning around in their minds.

I hope and prayed that all would be well at home with those nearest and dearest to me, and that news of the accident and survival would be simultaneous. Whilst bordering upon thoughts of home, I visited all my friends and relations, reacting the last visits I had paid them and trying to visualise what they would be doing at this time.

The progress of the world also occupied my mind for a very long time. Such questions as the reason for being here, the superiority of man over other forms of life, the futility of warfare and bloodshed being predominant. Being a Sunday I thought a service would be fitting so joined Capt. Villiers on board the Mayflower for a while and then visited my cousin on board his small boat in this same ocean.

My constant companion was a turtle of large dimensions, although unable to speak, he afforded me quite a few laughs at times. A very friendly chap he was, I feel sorry that he has had to return to his own kingdom.

The ship returned at last I knew she would, a more welcome sight I have yet to see. Whilst here I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all those on board for everything they have done for me since my return. A crowd of lads a man is proud to call his friends.

Signed: Douglas M. Wardrop
2nd Officer