controls. They described being completely submerged under water; tossed about in a maelstrom of cushions, books, and debris; and literally swimming back to seize control of the ship. The saltwater wreaked havoc with the ship’s instrumentation, wiping out radar, gyro compasses, some of the radio communication equipment, the depth sounders, and sonar.
Fortunately, the engines remained in operation and the steering was not affected, so the crew was able to regain control of the vessel and keep it from turning parallel to the seas where it might have rolled and suffered more serious damage. Crewmen were able to board up the broken windows, and the vessel returned to port without further incident.1
The earliest seafarers experienced huge waves that swamped their frail vessels, in most cases leaving no survivors. The numerous wrecks in the Mediterranean, their hulks replete with wine bottles and other cargo, are mute testimony to these disasters. The story of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece predates the Trojan War and would have been known to Homer and even to Odysseus had he been an actual person. When Apollonius Rhodius rewrote the ancient story in 300 B.C., he was just retelling what the ancient Greeks had known for centuries—that the sea could be very dangerous. Only by invoking the favor of the gods, or by skillful piloting, did the Argonauts survive, as this passage relates:
… [They] set off under sail through the eddying Bosporus. There a monstrous wave rears up in front of their ship like a soaring mountain; it threatens to crush down as it towers high over the clouds. You would imagine that there is no escape from a miserable fate, as the violent wave hangs like a cloud over the middle of the ship….2
The language here is telling. Note the key words: “like a soaring mountain,” “towers high over the clouds,” “hangs like a cloud over the middle of the ship.” Compare this to Captain Warwick’s description later in this chapter of what happened to Queen Elizabeth 2, as he told his story nearly 4,000 years after the Argonaut’s tale. Some of the “mys-