A Christmas Tale: Sea Rescue Drama
The drama started in the North Sea when a signal for help was launched on Christmas Eve of 1978. The Swedish vessel of 3,000 tons was on a routine trip in the North Sea from Sweden to Tyneside when part of its cargo of wood products slipped and the vessel started to list. The Alstern sank within minutes and Captain Carl Peterson began Christmas Day huddled with seven other men and four women in a tiny life raft buffeted by rough and freezing seas. Their raft began to fill with water as gales tore at its roof and distress flares failed to raise the alarm. For five hours they stared death in the face and had begun to give up hope when flare signals were spotted by the oil rig supply vessel Lundy Shore.
The thirty-year old Swedish captain recalled how the crew and the wives of four of them began to abandon ship and sent out a May Day. The list was so great that by the time he left he was able to jump from the deck of the bridge straight on to the life raft. The weather was terrible with waves battering the life raft that soon had a foot of icy water inside. Hours passed until, as part of a search for survivors, they were spotted by the Lundy Shore that was in the area to supply the North Sea oil rigs.
The Hull’s ship captain, Raymond Hatch, and his crew battled with thirty foot waves and forty mile-an-hour winds to rescue the crew of the sunken Swedish cargo vessel. Too weak to climb aboard the Lundy Shore they were hauled up by way of nets and brought back to Scotland to recover. Only one man was injured during the ordeal and the others were taken to rest at a hotel in Edinburgh.
The dramatic incident and heroic sea recovery by the 41 year old, Captain Raymond Hatch, and his crew was widely reported in the United Kingdom and in Sweden. The Lions Club of Stockholm-Brannkyrka decided to present the club’s distinction the “Golden Lion” as proof of its great admiration of the good seamanship shown during the rescue action. It was accompanied by a gift of 1,000 Sw. crs to be used for the pleasure of the crew.
A plaque expressing the gratitude of Sweden’s Maritime Investigation Commission to the rescuers was presented by the Swedish Ambassador at the Swedish Embassy in London to Captain Hatch. It is proudly displayed in his home in memory of his long years of service in the Merchant Navy. It reads:
THE SWEDISH GOVERNMENT’S MARITIME INVESTIGATION COMMISSION WISHES TO EXPRESS ITS GRATITUDE TO THE CAPTAIN AND HIS CREW ON M/S LUNDY SHORE FOR EXHIBITING EXCELLENT SEAMANSHIP AT THE RESCUE OF THE CREW OF M/S ALSTERN IN FULL STORM CHRISTMAS NIGHT 1978
A later sea rescue was reported in the ‘Hull Daily Mail’ when two boatloads of Vietnamese refugees were rescued by the former Hull trawler skipper in the China Sea. Captain Ray Hatch was working an oil rig supply vessel for an American company when he found the refugees in a sorry state. Nearly 130 people had been at sea in two 30 ft. boats for almost five days. Capt. Hatch said “they were hanging over the sides and were clinging on top of the wheelhouses. They’d had no food for three days”. Luckily, Captain Hatch was able to take the refugees, men, women and children, of all ages to a United Nations camp on Koku Island. … They had been refused help three times already … he said.
The boat people gave Capt. Hatch a very unusual souvenir - a compass they’d used which had been salvaged from the wreck of an American aircraft which crashed during the hostilities more than ten years ago. It remains one of his treasures from his many years as a merchant seaman and Captain.
Ita Marguet, December 2017
Note: This text is dedicated to the Captain and crew of the vessel Lundy Shore. It is extracted from press and other documents in witness of the sea rescues recounted above.