A Bomb Scare

It had been about eight days and the weather forecast for the site remained the same, high winds and 4 -6’ waves. We weren’t able to put the ROV (remote operating vehicle) in the water under those conditions for fear of losing it, so we continued to wait.

Mac, one of our security guards.

It was early afternoon and everything seemed normal when one of the security guards noticed a kayaker that he had recently seen on the ship’s radar screen was not showing up. He alerted the others, who immediately ran around the perimeter of the ship’s deck. With binoculars in hand they scoured the horizon, it was then they noticed the kayaker was right next to the ship, close to the bow. Mac (a guard) yelled to him, asking who he was and what was he doing so close to the ship.  He yelled back that he had just planted a lipid mine bomb on the hull and then started rowing away. This, of course set the guards into high alert.  A story of our mission, as well as a picture of the M/V Sea Hunter anchored in the harbor, had just been posted in the local newspaper, so many knew about us.

We immediately contacted the local police. Meanwhile, a couple of the guys had went on Mini Me (ship’s tender) to buy some supplies. They were on their way back when Greg radioed them about the situation.  They changed course and went towards the kayaker who was approximately half way between the ship and the shore.  As they approached him they stated who they were and again asked him what he had done. He seemed nervous but started chuckling and stated he was only kidding, that he didn’t really plant a lipid bomb or any other type of bomb.  He went on to say that he had read the recent article in the paper and was curious so he just wanted to see the ship up close. Not knowing the truth, the guys stayed with him until the local police arrived.

He was taken into custody by the Provincetown police. The guys on Mini Me rode back to the M/V Sea Hunter and scoured all areas of the outside hull. Fortunately, they found nothing.  I can truthfully tell you that though we all felt it probably was a hoax, for a while we were a bit worried. For him to specifically name what type of bomb he had installed gave us reason to be concerned, as that is the actual type used to blow up ships. You can never be too cautious in situations like this. We all went back to work while we waited to hear from the local police.

It was three or so hours before we got a call back from the police. They explained to us that after interrogating him, they did believe it was just a stupid hoax. That he repeated over and over again that he was sorry and didn’t know why he did and said something so crazy. The police found that he had been in other trouble in the past, and so to be on the safe side they decided to search his home. There they found quite a few weapons, (mostly guns) though they were all legal. They asked Greg if he wanted to press charges, but he decided against it. He didn’t want to stir anything up and take away from our current plans. He wanted us all to focus on the Port Nicholson.

Though it turned out to be nothing but a dumb hoax, it got me thinking.  Since I had only been a “treasure hunter” for a short period, some of the crew (Greg, Gary and Brian) had been at it for years.  I had heard them previously say that there were many people who hated what we did, they thought of us as lowlife grave diggers. On the flip side, others felt quite differently. They felt that when you salvage a wreck, you preserve historical information. According to the United Nations, there are more than three million ship wrecks on the oceans floor and people have been salvaging both on land and on the water for hundreds of years. Because of this, laws have been established both nationally as well as internationally.

The law of salvage is a concept in maritime law which states that a person who recovers another person’s ship or cargo after peril or loss at sea is entitled to a reward commensurate with the value of the property so saved. The concept has its origins in antiquity, with the basis that a person would be putting himself and his own vessel at risk to recover another and thus should be appropriately rewarded. A related consideration was widespread piracy; a vessel in peril could very well be left for pirates if the owner did not generously reward a potential honest salvor. Salvage law has been recognized for centuries in such documents as the edicts of Rhodes and the Roman Digest of Justinian.[1] It is still a nearly universally recognized right, though conditions for awards of salvage vary from country to country.

Whether you agree or disagree about what we do, we are within our rights and have followed all rules set by our state and government.  Each member of the crew is fully aware of the tragedy that struck the SS Port Nicholson when they were torpedoed by a German sub, U-87 on June 16, 1942. Greg and Kathy Brooks (owners of SSR) had a memorial wreath made in honor of the four men who lost their lives that day.  While over the actual wreck site of the SS Port Nicholson, we bowed our heads, said a prayer and threw the wreath into the calm waters.  As I watched that beautiful wreath float up and down with each wave, I was at peace with what we were doing.

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