THE CHAIN LOCKER

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Foundering BOUNTY - click photo for gCaptain story (USCG photo)
Have you ever had to abandon ship at sea? It's never happened to me, although there have been a couple of times I thought it might - close enough that I looked around at the cold waves and flying spray and shuddered to imagine myself lost, adrift and almost invisible. How would anyone find us, even supposing they found the wreck? A person disappears from sight quickly in a big sea. Who would risk his life to find and save us?

Thank God there are many people who intentionally put their own welfare on the line to save others. The IMO recently recognized three such heroes, and commended eighteen others. Two of the three were specially trained men who dedicate their lives to saving lives; the third was just an ordinary sailor who happened to see a chance to help a fellow human being. It doesn't really matter, they each did the right thing - in one case, at the cost of his own life.

Randy J. Haba and Daniel J. Todd - Aviation Survival Technicians Randy J. Haba and Daniel J. Todd were the two professionals - young men trained like special forces soldiers to overcome extreme weather conditions and save shipwreck victims. In doing their jobs AST rescuers show not only strength and skill but often, also, a sense of humor to help reassure frightened victims. They responded to the sinking of Bounty, the replica of Captain Bligh's famous HMS Bounty of  Mutiny on the Bounty fame, when she sank during Hurricane Sandy.

According to the IMO: "After flying through the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy, in strong winds and torrential rain, they encountered the ship, partially submerged with a large debris field, surrounded by life rafts.
 
Rescue Helicopter CG-6012 was the first to arrive at the scene, and AST Haba was lowered into the stormy waters.  He spent an hour battling strong currents and 10 metre waves, in the wind and rain, taking survivors from the life rafts to the waiting rescue basket, overcoming exhaustion and fatigue.  At one point, he was engulfed by a huge wave that knocked his mask off, severely restricting his vision and further hampering his tremendous efforts. AST Haba demonstrated the utmost determination and perseverance, performing two more rescues without the use of a mask. He exhibited exceptional strength and endurance throughout the entire rescue.
 
Rescue Helicopter CG-6031 arrived 30 minutes after CG-6012, and AST Todd was immediately deployed into the turbulent sea to begin the task of reaching another life raft. He began retrieving each of the survivors from the raft and delivering them to the rescue basket.   Whilst he was assisting the second survivor into the rescue basket, a large wave toppled the life raft containing the four remaining survivors.  Todd immediately secured a handhold on the sea anchor to stabilize his position.  His strength and ingenuity expedited the rescue of the six survivors and his action saved valuable time. This enabled him to reposition himself to a second life raft, containing three additional survivors, whom he also successfully rescued.
 
Both men overcame the effects of cold, fatigue and ingesting sea water to deliver 14 crew members of HMS Bounty to safety." 

Here is a USCG video of the actual rescue:
Jingou Yang - Unlike AST Haba and AST Todd, 55-year-old ferry crewman Jingou Yang just happened to be there. He was a crew member on the ferry Tong Chang Qi Du 11, which collided with the cargo ship Shun Qiang 28 on the Yangtze river. The ferry began to sink, but most of those on board were rescued, Mr. Jingou Yang among them. He was safe. 

What happened next? To quote the IMO: "The ferry’s hull was damaged and it started sinking with 33 persons on board, 31 of whom were subsequently saved during the search and rescue operation and transferred to a rescue ship.  One passenger was trapped in his truck, which had been severely damaged in the collision.
 
One of the  rescued crew members, Mr. Jinguo Yang, 55, jumped back onto the sinking ferry and attempted, unsuccessfully, to prize open the jammed door of the truck in order to rescue the trapped passenger.  Unfortunately, the ferry lost its stability and capsized.  Mr. Jinguo Yang was unable to save the passenger’s life; indeed, in trying to do so, he lost his own.  Although he had the opportunity to escape at the last moment, he chose instead, at the cost of his own life, to stay and attempt to rescue the trapped passenger."  

The IMO citations are for bravery - an English word derived from Latin, I think - which has several meanings, among them (from Webster) "to encounter with courage and fortitude, or without being moved;" and that would certainly apply here. But the etymology of the word hero (from Origins by Eric Partridge) really hits the nail on the head for me: "he keeps guard over. The basic sense. . . would therefore be 'protector'." These seamen, along with the other eighteen cited, are certainly protectors, and heroes is the name for them! 

You don't need an IMO citation to be a hero, although these men certainly deserve theirs. Seamen act to protect others all the time, all over the world, in every trade. We've featured some examples here and here; and there are many others. God bless those heroes - both known and unknown - who, like Randy Haba, Daniel Todd and Jinguo Yang, have risked their own lives to save another's. It's part of the brotherhood of the sea - it's an absolutely essential part of who we are.

Have you seen heroes in action during your time at sea? Comment below and tell us about it!

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