Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Jesse Halsey in Russia

"Among other duties in Mourmansk, I had the loading of a big British transport for Archangel (a base in the intervention program). This time huts were to be ready, and Red Cross, before the soldiers got there. In June, when the ice had broken up in the White Sea, we started. A nondescript British crew, two other Americans, a Belgian Consul and his wife. As we entered the straits (still packed with floe ice) we came upon a Russian vessel that had been caught and was low on provisions. We came alongside her, swinging in our lifeboats so we could get nearer, gave her some foot and went on. A wireless came, soon after, ordering us to a Russian village inside the straits where the inhabitants were starving—we were to leave them some food. As we had been poking through the ice our ship had begun to leak a little, nothing serious, but we were taking turns at the pump on the forward deck—more to kill the time than for anything else. I was at the pump counting on toward a hundred when of a sudden the ship struck a rock and keeled over throwing me overboard to the ice. I scrambled back and looked to the bridge for orders. The crew mutinied, disregarding the captain and the passengers, got a boat swung over side and made off. The ship had slipped into deeper water and was rapidly filling. The Scotch engineer and I managed to get a boat over (the boats on the starboard side had all been swung in when we provisioned the Russians some hours before). We got the others aboard and at the captain’s order pulled away while he remained on board. I thought certainly the boilers would explode, but the water gradually dampened the fires and they didn’t. We pulled off a few hundred yards and waited. The vessel stuck, apparently wedged on a reef. We went back for the captain and made for shore through the ice—some fix of six miles."

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