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Splendour of the Seas
Crew Rescues
Survivors of Lost Cargo Ship
December 16, 1999

Images by Kjell T. Evensen;  Text by Lois A. Evensen

At approximately 1 AM, December 16, 1999, at sea between Jamaica and Aruba, Splendour of the Seas'
crew saw a distress flare. Within minutes the crew spotted two orange life rafts.  As they were
being pulled aboard, Splendour's captain called to the men in the rafts with a bullhorn to ask
if the occupants spoke English and if there was anyone else in the water.  The men answered
yes to both questions.  Their captain was missing, last seen in the water wearing a life jacket.
Shortly thereafter, one of the survivors wrapped in a blanket, was brought to the
bridge to tell Splendour's Captain Olsen his story.

The rescued men worked on a 3,000 ton cargo ship carrying cement products from Jamaica
to Trinidad.  The cargo had shifted, the ship began taking on water, then sank in about 30 minutes.
The men had only been in the water about a half-hour when Splendour answered the rescue flare.

The search began for the lost ship's captain.  Splendour issued a "pan pan pan" on VHF radio
(formerly a "May Day"), explained who and where we were, said we were attempting to rescue
a twelfth person, and that we could use some help.  A tanker responded immediately and joined
us within an hour.  A Dutch navy war ship was sent from Curacao and we were told a search
plane would also arrive by dawn.  The Dutch assigned Splendour's Captain Olsen the commander
of the site until the Dutch Navy ship could arrive on the scene.

The time flew.  Time was precious to rescue the man and there was optimism in the air.  The seas
were heavy with ten to twelve foot waves with frothy white caps;  wind was 35 knots.  The ship's
spotlights scanned as crew lined up on the bridge, wing bridge, and around the ship side-by-side,
staring into the dark water.  The sky was clear, but spray from the ocean and sometimes our own
smoke as our ship maneuvered caused an eerie haze in front of the lights.  Splendour passed
through the debris field several times.  The drift was approximately one to one-and-a-half knots
per hour.  Small lights and reflective material turned out to be pieces of a broken-up life boats as well
as other debris.  The mood was serious, quiet, intense, yet hopeful.

Sunlight finally began to arrive to help.

Just before dawn, the rescue plane arrived and began to criss-cross the area.

The Dutch Navy war ship arrived just as dawn broke.

We could finally see the tanker that had worked with Splendour throughout the night.

The Dutch took command of the operation.  The now-three ships on the scene lined up and the
team began to slowly search the area by passing through the debris field yet another time.
With three ships and daylight, the area could be even more effectively searched.

We saw a great deal of debris, including this orange bucket.  Not more than thirty minutes later,
from Splendour's starboard wing bridge a life jacket was seen in the water.  As we moved closer,
we could sadly see it was the missing captain, dead and floating just below the surface.

Splendour's Captain notified the rest of the search team that the man had been spotted in the water.

The Dutch ship moved quickly to pick the body.

The Dutch rescue boat looked so tiny in the water as it went about its grim task.

The rescue plane made one more pass as the commander of the Dutch ship thanked all involved.
The Dutch ship accompanied Splendour to her next port of call, Aruba, where the lost ship's survivors
onboard Splendour would be turned over to authorities and reports would be filed.

The Dutch ship docked immediately in front of Splendour in Aruba.

It was a sad moment as the lost ship's captain was brought ashore and placed in a hearse.

Splendour's Captain Olsen and his crew were the heroes of the day for their rescue of eleven seamen
and for the professionalism with which they conducted the search for the missing man.  It was
a sad day to know one man was lost, but a joyful day that eleven were saved from the sea.

The crew of the Splendour of the Seas has been honored for their bravery and dedication in
the rescue of 11 crew members of a sunken cargo ship in stormy seas. The crew were awarded
the New York Council Navy League's AMVER Award (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel
Rescue System) at the League's annual black-tie anniversary dinner in New York. Captain Tor Isak Olsen
accepted the award for Splendour of the Seas which is the first cruise ship to receive the award.

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