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August 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Fire Aboard!

how John Bantin escaped a burning Red Sea liveaboard

from the August, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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On July 28, the comfortable liveaboard Blue Melody had just moored at the popular Red Sea dive site of the Thistlegorm wreck after our dive at Shag Rock shortly before. Several other boats were there, and this was to be significant. We were all taking it easy during the surface interval and contemplating the dive we were about to undertake on the iconic WWII vessel that had fallen victim to a suicide raid by a German Heinkel bomber out of Crete. Sha'ab Ali was meant to be a safe anchorage out of range of the Germans at that time, and a multitude of ships were anchored, waiting to unload the war materiel they carried, intended for Operation Crusader, the British Army's campaign to drive Rommel out of North Africa in late 1941.

As I lay on a sofa in the saloon, taking it easy, I suddenly noticed the lights starting to flash in a random manner. There was something wrong with the electrical system. This was immediately followed by a loud shout from the dive deck. The engineer ran past me and hurtled down towards the engine room. A curl of black smoke warned that a fire had started. This black smoke soon became thick. The dive guides immediately went to the cabins below decks to warn any passengers that they might need to come to the emergency muster point. This was the deck immediately above the dive deck, itself covering the engine room and soon immersed in thick, acrid black smoke....

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