Marshalls or Marshmallows?


#21

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#22

How about a story?
My distant memory of old times at sea was triggered by my link to Kwajalein above. So here’s my story of a learning experience as a young officer.
I was navigator of the frigate HMAS TORRENS and we were visiting the far flung reaches of the Pacific in 1979. The main reason was to attend the independence celebrations of the new nation of Kiribati (pronounced kiriboss) - formerly the Gilbert Islands - which we did with due ceremony (and lots of other stories).
We sailed afterwards to Nauru for prearranged fuel but were unable to moor at the buoys as the wind was from the wrong direction. For the first and only time in my naval career we shut down the ship’s boilers and drifted with no main engines ready for two days waiting for the wind to change. It didn’t despite consistent forecasts from the USN at Guam - I had a word in their ear later over a few beers.
The captain was jumpy to say the least. It was my job as navigator to change the wind and I duly failed. So he despatched me to find alternatives. We eventually got approval to go to Kwajalein, a rather secretive location as a target for ICBM tests from the US mainland. It was a day or so to the north so off we steamed as fuel ran lower.
A pilot was embarked for entry and he was a friendly fellow chatting about this and that. He pointed out the upturned wreck of the former German cruiser PRINZ EUGEN - escort for the BISMARCK - which had survived the war and two US nuclear blasts at 1200 yards range with minimal damage at Bikini. She had incidentally been USS PRINZ EUGEN for a time too!
Lovely stuff. The pilot at some stage casually mention it being a lovely Tuesday or some such and my captain, knowing better, corrected him to Wednesday only to be corrected himself by the local who was by now wondering about these Aussies. He glared at me - the navigator is the keeper of the ship’s time. I scurried off to check the nautical almanac and sure enough the Marshall Islands kept time zone -12 (so it should have been Wednesday) but I’d missed a tiny asterisk.
The asterisk took me to a footnote that said, “except Kwajalein which keeps +12.” It wants to keep the same day as the USA. Wouldn’t want a missile arriving on the wrong day, would we?
Big boo boo. I’d arrived on the wrong day. Fortunately our ETA was right having been sent in GMT but my bum got a good kicking and my leave was stopped. Luckily again there was no shore leave there anyway. Trusting as the yanks are, even to let missiles land in their lagoon, the thought of a couple of hundred Aussies on the loose ashore was a step too far.
And, moral of the story, I learnt a timely lesson about attention to detail.


Marshmallow Marshalls Moralising Muscle