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28) The Ghost of the Kane


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Except for the ventilation systems, and distant throb of the engines below in the Engine Room, ships are very quiet...especially at night. Most of the crew are turned in for the night, or sequested in their quarters behind closed doors.
Passage ways, though brightly lit, are lonesome...long, narrow, quiet corridors.
The lounges are empty, the movies having been shown hours before, usually after supper. Except for the occasional visitor to the "ice box" to inspect the night "lunch" - rations actually put out for the night watches, but available to all, and maybe get a cup of coffee, or whatever, these spaces are as quiet as the rest of the ship. Before the change of the watch at mid-night, and 0400, a member of the off-going watch will brew a "fresh pot" for the watch coming on.
The Officers' Lounge on the Kane was expansive, surrounded on three sides by large rectangular windows ( portholes...if you prefer ), at night being but black, reflecting the lit interior of the lounge, and whoever might be there.
It was my custom, before turning-in, to repair to the Chart Room, and write-up the "Night Orders" - a ritual giving the night watch officers something to read, as it read the same most every night: "Keep a good lookout. Give all ships a wide berth. Call me if you need me...etc, etc.' I would then go into the darkened wheel-house, help myself to the coffee, and have my last chat for the day with the mate on watch. Usually I'd station myself forward at the portholes looking ahead, placing my cup on the ledge, and giving the horizon a good scan as my eyesight adjusted to the darkness. This night however, I took up position behind the consol where the throttles, and guages, and meters were, dimmly lit so as not to interfere with night vision. The helmsman was immediately to my right, the officer of the watch somewhere off in the darkness, but within hearing distance in case we should speak. The creak of the steering wheel, as the helmsman steered was not to be heard on this ship, which was the only sound to be heard on the old ships...the wheel in this case being metal, and smaller than most automobile steering wheels. Anyways, it was on automatic "pilot", the helsman, like myself, and the mate, just standing there, his eyes scanning the horizon also, with an occasional glimpse at the compass.
Whether we were conversing or not, I forget, but I did notice below in front of me on the cosol, an idicator light change from green to red. It was just about 2300 ( 11 p.m. ). Without saying anything to anyone, I turned up the illumination on the guages, and noted the bow-thruster revolution indicator showing 400 RPM...the thruster had mysteriously lowered itself.
The Kane was an oceanographic research vessel, and as only several other ships, was unique in that it had an omni-directional device similar to an outboard motor, but electric, and weighing thirty-tons housed forward, and below...way below.
The propellor, which was about five-feet in diameter, and in a "Kort nozzle" projected below the bottom of the ship, and was rated at five-hundred horse-power. Alone, it could "drag" or propel the ship at five-knots...quite a powerful piece of machinery when you consider the Kane was almost three-hundred-feet in length. It was used mainly for "station keeping" when the scientists had gear over the side, like cameras, and scientific devices. It was raised, and lowered electro-hydraulicly by pushing a button in the wheel-house, the controls on the cosol.
I remarked to the mate what I had just observed, and told him to stop the ship. It was a clear, dark night. The sea as flat as glass. We were somewhere off the Irish Coast, hundreds of miles out into the Atlantic...alone. Heading for our
survey site, which was about a day away, we were doing fifteen-knots.
The mate pulled the throttle to stop, and while we were waiting for the way to come off the ship I told him to phone the Engine Room, and tell them we were recovering the bow-thruster. Down in the Engine Operating Station ( EOS ), the oiler answered the phone, taking the information, and informing the mate that the engineer was in the engine room checking on one of the ship's service generators which had mysteriouly taken itself off-line.
When the ship finally came to dead in the water, we recovered the thruster, the indicator light changing from red to green, indicating the hydraulic clamps which hold it in the stowed position, were locked, and set. We came up to speed again, and proceeded on our way. Whatever the mystery in the engine, we thought nothing of that, mysterious things happened down there all the time..."normally".
Midnight was approaching, the watch coming on, filing into the wheel house, the relieving mate commenting on seeing the ship's purser dashing out of the lounge, seemingly frightened, and bolting into his room, slamming the door behind him. We were soon to learn there was more to happen, and it didn't take long.
I had decided to stick around for a while, and shoot the breeze with the relieving mate before turning in...it was a beautiful night. The mate going off turned the watch over to his relief, mentioning the bow thruster episode, and that I was still on the bridge, and left. Just a few minutes into the new watch, and before we could get to talking about the purser, or the thruster incident, the red light came on again...the thruster was down. "Stop 'er" I said. The mate brought the thottle to stopped. "Get the Chief Mate up.' was the next thing I said.
When the ship came to a stop, we retrieved the thruster again. By this time, the mate was on the bridge, half-asleep still. "Take the stand-by man with you, and go down to the bow-thruster room, and check the locks. Call me from there, and tell me what you find.' was my orders to him after a brief run-down on what's had been happening. He scurried off to find the other seaman ( there were three on each watch )...one helmsman, one on the bow on lookout, and one on stand-by, usually in the crew's mess ( lounge ). Ten minutes later the mate phoned the bridge, and said all was in order, the locks in place, and all.
My next instructions to him must has seemed bizarre, but I didn't want to be up all night with this non-sense: "Get some six-by-six shoring timbers, and shore that damn thing up so that we don't have it happening again...tonight anyways, and then report to me on the bridge when it's done!'
"Yes, sir.' he said.
We had damage control timbers placed in strategic locations about the ship, so it was no problem in acquiring such stuff. He completed the job, and was on the bridge within an hour. "That thing's not coming down now Cap.' said the mate.
"Good.' I said. It was getting on 0200 ( 2 a.m. ). After some small talk, and another cup of coffee, the mate, and I left the bridge. I had enough for a night, and hit the hay.
Awake at my usual time - 0630, and without a call...I never left a call in the night orders, unless I expected an earyl land-fall, I washed, dressed, and for some unknown reason went down to the lounge for coffee, instead of the bridge.
The coffee pot was located on the port side of the lounge, atop a stainless steel counter, along with a toaster, shelves, and cabinets for condiments, cups, saucers, and the like. A deep sink was part of the whole set-up. Right next to all this was one of the large lounge windows, or ports looking out to the deck outside.
The ship was rolling slightly in a gentle NW'ly swell we were beginning to pick up. As I poured myself a cup of freshly made coffee, I notice a cup rolling around the bottom of the sink. I retrieved the cup, noticing it was a mug my wife, and I had bought in Bari, Wales for George the Purser on his birthday. It was not a cheap mug either, having George's name embossed on it in gold. It wasn't George to leave anything adrift like this, especially this mug, which he dearly cherished.
I put it in the cabinet above, and left for the bridge.
Nothing else had happened since the episode that night. I left the bridge for breakfast, there encountering George before we sat down. He had just come into the lounge, and was looking for his cup. I told him of retrieving it from the sink, and before I could query him about that, he started in on his  getting a late cup of coffee, and there, pointing to the window by the coffee mess, outside, stood Albaugh, the Chief Engineer who had died aboard the Kane years ealier...staring straight at him. "There he was Cap'n...staring at me from out in the darkness...straight at me...his eyes wide, and staring. I dropped the cup, coffee, and all into the sink, and ran hell-bent for my room, and into the bunk, and under the blankets. I lay there shivering with fright until the sun came up.' he said.
George was still shaken. Others, sitting at their breakfast, could hear George. who ordinarily was very soft-spoken. The Third Assistant Engineer - McCaffrey, heard Gearge also...he was the watch engineer when the generator dropped off-line. "What time was that when you saw "Albaugh".' asked McCaffrey. George answered: "About eleven last night.'
"That's about when the diesel shut down.' said McCaffrey.
"That's about when the bow-thruster decided to play tricks.' I blurted out.
None of this was lost on the two waiters ( messmen ) who served us, and before
breakfast was over for officers, and crew, it was all over the ship.
We now had a ghost aboard. Not just any ordinary run-of-the-mill ghost, but the ghost of someone many aboard still remembered. He had died in his room while the the ship was in port, and went un-noticed for the better part of a day - he just lying there - dead. I didn't know this fellow, and still to this day don't know much about him, but apparently he wasn't the type anyone had anything bad to say about. Anyways, I didn't and still don't believe in ghosts, knowing the full reason why people do experience them, but will save that for some other day.
"Hey Cap'...that diesel was shut down by an engineer, or someone who knows how to do it. Even the synchroscope was adjusted for the other generator to take the load.' said McCaffrey across the lounge.
"...and there ain't no way it could have been accidently shut down from the EOS, 'cause the stop button has a cover on it.' continued McCaffrey.
"Yes, and there "ain't" no way that bow thruster could have slipped those locks either without someone on the bridge pushing the button, and I was right there when it happened.' I added.
George, hearing all this, which he hadn't known of at all, was now frightened more than ever, and left the table for his sanctuary - his office, saying as he left:
"It was Albaugh...Albaugh is back.'
Night came too fast. Thank goodness we'd be on station, and no one would have to be on the bow alone on lookout. The ship would be lighted from stem to stern, the scientists putting this, and that over the side as they did their research. Lights no one ever thought of using, or forgot to use, were lit. Even the embarkation flood-lights at the life-boat stations were lit...the seamen made sure of that. No one stood near the dark windows in the lounges, and in most cases the drapes were drawn, and dead-lights ( port hole covers ) down, and the ports dogged shut.
 
After a few days on station, and no visits from our mischevious ghost, we retrieved our gear, including the thruster, and moved to another site some days steaming. Never again did the thruster slip its clamps, nor diesel engines secure themselves. Presumably Albaugh had left the ship...George never seeing him again, not that he was looking for him, for George made sure the drapes by the coffee mess were always closed at night. Some of the seamen though would not venture into the spaces forward at night unless accompanied. Occasionally there were reports of sudden drops in temperature around this, and that piece of machinery, or in seldom visited spaces, but after a few crew changes over  the months, and years the ghost of the Kane was forgotten.
Nothing was ever found to be faulty in either the thruster, or the ship's service generator. There was one thing though, that I never mentioned to anyone, and that was that on several occasions, late at night, in the darkened movie projection room, the camera would be running, the lens squeezed way down, and a movie being played in miniature size on one of the bulkheads with the sound barely audible.
No one would be there, but the room would be filled with the fragrance of Mixture 79 pipe smoke....Albaugh smoked Mixture 79.



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