Dangerous Waters: Tales of the Sea
Short Stories - the Merchant Navy in the 1940s
Gordon Mumford was fourteen at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. This book contains ten more stories about his experiences at sea.
His first voyage in September 1942 was on the Soborg. This ship, a small Danish collier, took coal from England to Iceland to refuel the Murmansk convoys. Other stories range from minesweeping operationsin Borneo, to his two postwar voyages, one to eastern Canada and the other to Argentina.
Trade paperback, containing portrait, 4 photographs, 1 map. Index.
ISBN: 9780973629729 | 8.35" x 5.35 x 0.35" | Wt. 150 g. | 116 pages | $14.95 CDN
SAVE EVEN MORE ~ Order the set of sea stories
--The Black Pit and Beyond AND The Sampan Girl AND Dangerous Waters--
and save on shipping
UK Special offer - this offer is available to UK residents.
for purchases sent to the UK and paid in £ Sterling (GBP)
Trouble seems to be my middle name on that ship, but I am gaining experience and hopefully turning from a raw landlubber into a seafarer. I still have a long way to go. Visual signalling communications, such as semaphore, flags and Aldis lamp signalling, had not been a part of my training at the radio college. This deficiency becomes embarrassingly apparent only a few hours after leaving Blythe en route to Iceland. A naval escort vessel suddenly bears down on us out of the overcast, the seas tossing over its bow as it approaches. From its bridge an Aldis lamp flashes our name in Morse.
“Sparks,” the Mate yells to me from the bridge as I stand on the deck. “Come up on the bridge and take this message.”
I scramble up the steel gangway to the bridge and gingerly hold the lamp. I look at the Mate. “I’ve never used a lamp before Mr. Mate, but I’ll try.”
Aiming the lamp at the escort vessel and with my finger on the signalling trigger, I send the “K” signal, a dash followed by a dot and a dash, telling him to go ahead with his message. The naval lamp flashes back in a stream of long and short flashes, but not being used to visual signalling, I can’t make any sense of the message. In desperation I send the wait signal, “AS” in Morse, and admit defeat.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Mate, but I can’t make sense out of the message. Would you like me to call the Chief Sparks?”
He agrees and I hurry to the radio cabin, and get the Chief to help out his raw underling. My pride is hurt. I’ve lost face again and, together with having to cope with seasickness, life begins to lose its sheen. I feel overawed by these older, experienced men. My confidence is damaged, and I badly need an encouraging word to revive my depressed spirits.
I learn, of course; I have to. Sheltered in the lee of the midships accommodation, I watch the long and short flashes of the signalling lamps on ships communicating with each other. Gaining confidence with practice, I begin to read their messages. The exercise is interesting and I learn quickly. The Morse is the same, only now it is visual, not aural. The messages are routine, passing little bits of news and information between the ships. They are mainly on course changes, orders to reduce smoke, and other matters of interest to the convoy.
Learning to read these messages has another effect. The crew members see me reading the messages and speak to me. “What’s happening, Sparks? What are they saying?” It salvages my pride to be able to translate the language of the talking lamps for them. I feel useful at last, and that is something I need. These visual communications links are our main means of communicating within the convoy because radio transmissions are forbidden unless we are under attack.