Thursday, April 4, 2013

Typhoon Nancy (WoE #14, Euphonic Phrase and Propeller Challenge)

After a week's hiatus, I'm returning to Write at the Merge. The prompts this week include a picture of the propeller from the aircraft carrier, USS Intrepid, and the words cellar door.

Cellar Door is considered to be a perfect euphonic phrase, at least that is what was said in the film Donnie Darko. Phonaesthetics, the study of euphony (inherent pleasantness) and cacophony (inherent unpleasantness) in the sound of words was introduced by J.R.Firth in 1930.

Cellar door may be considered the most beautiful phrase in the English language, but it's beauty is lost on me.

Now, the aircraft carrier propeller, that is beauty that is not lost on me. I am the very proud daughter of a man who once served aboard an aircraft carrier, CVA-31 the Bon Homme Richard, fondly called the Bonnie Dick. The Bonnie Dick had several West-Pac tours and she was involved in World War II, The Korean War, and The Vietnam Conflict. I got to walk her flight deck with my father and to pay my respects to her in 1992 before they scrapped her. She was a beautiful, beautiful creature and a damn fine carrier. 

In September of 1961, a Catagory 5 super typhoon named Nancy wrecked havoc upon the West-Pac countries. She formed near the Kwajalein Atol, moving west and then north across Japan, eventually moving out to the open water of the Kamchatka Sea. In Japan alone, 157 people were killed, 18 missing, and over 3,000 injured, making Nancy the 6th deadliest cyclone to hit Japan.

Unable to steer from the Nancy's path, The Bonnie Dick suffered as well. Nancy claimed the life of a sailor as she stole an aircraft from the flight deck. Waves stood 100-feet high over the flight deck (the flight deck is 85ft above normal water lines). When all was said and done, they lost a large crane from the main deck, all the catwalks and walkways on the deck edge were stripped off, the starboard-side aircraft elevator was ripped loose and dangled in the water, the starboard catapult track, a 12in by 14in steel beam, was bent 50ft in the air, and the list of damages goes on from there.

My story this week is loosely based on a true story, my dad's story. I hope I've done you proud, Pop.

I offer the following in response: Nancy Ain't A Lady

“Hell, Typhoon Nancy’s going to chase us all the way to Kamchatka!”

The ocean leaned like a Jenga tower, 65-feet over the flight deck and Seaman Angler grabbed the nearest railing. The wave burned him when it hit, tearing at his eyes. The aircraft carrier slid beneath him. Forever he gripped the railing, feeling both heavy and weightless, counting the long seconds until the carrier righted and the water fled. He sucked in a welcome breath. Nancy’s trying to kill me.

“Woot! That’s what I call a coaster! You all right Seaman? You look green.”

“Respectfully, Sir, shut the hell up.” Angler set his feet and adjusted the cables on his shoulders.

The CO pushed another volunteer out into the weather. “Let’s haul, ladies. The United States will not lose another aircraft on my watch. Get those lines out. Move! Move!”

Angler followed orders, but with a 70-mile head-wind and a hundred pounds of cable tossed across his shoulders, the definition of move was lost in translation. “Join the Navy, see the world. Right.” He questioned his sanity.

Seaman Briggs was behind him; Angler heard his voice boom over the howling wind, “Wild! They say the captain’s gone nuts, ordering the waves to get the hell off his flight deck. Have you ever seen weather like this?”

“No, I’m from Kansas.” Angler coughed seawater from his lungs. “Nearest body of water was the neighbor’s kiddie pool.”

The pilot house broke the next wave. Several tie-downs snapped as the carrier slammed through the trough. Briggs tapped his shoulder. “We got another Skyraider loose.”

“Shit.” Angler forced his legs to increase speed. He and Briggs fought the typhoon, repairing what tie-downs they could with the new cables. The carrier shuddered, complaining, but the weather was merciless. The cyclone tossed the Bon Homme Richard around like a rubber float.

They resecured the jet, and pushed on to the next aircraft between waves, where the process was repeated.  Guide lights flashed across the liquid darkness, a signal their time was up. They fought for every inch of their return, thigh-deep in pooled ocean.

Inside, Briggs and Angler separated. Angler slogged towards his quarters, cursing the sting of soaked clothing. The Bonnie Dick rolled again, throwing Angler against the wall, and the hallway plunged into darkness. “Son-of-a…” Angler pressed against the midship, and waited.

The darkness belayed.

Angler inched forward, using the wall to guide him, his progress painful. Then, a voice whispered within his mind, Stop.

He looked down as the red battlelights flickered into existence. Angler balanced on one leg at the edge of the expansion joint. The sight of swirling ocean pumped ice through his veins. The developing chasm was six-feet across and a long way down.

The treadplate slammed shut. Angler’s heart stopped and he collapsed to the floor, shaken. There he stayed in deep conversation with God, a conversation long overdue, until his will returned. He would not leave his bunk for the rest of the night.


  1. Your imagery is perfect here, and the tension works really well. I particularly enjoyed "The sight of swirling ocean pumped ice through his veins." It really shows how deadly the situation could have been.

    1. Thanks! Aircraft carriers are the most resilient ships in the fleet. Nancy had the Bonnie Dick at the point of capsizing several times over those days. My father often said that the Bonnie Dick was blessed with a particularly diligent guardian angel.

      I hope you enjoyed your visit. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  2. "Now, the aircraft carrier propeller, that is beauty that is not lost on me..."

    I could tell from your intro that your piece was going to be good! And not only good, but magnificent! I'd say you've done your dad very proud! I read that first sentence and knew I was in for a great story, so I even grabbed a nice hot cup of coffee so I could settle in and really enjoy this. On a serious note, reading about these men and their valiant efforts to hold on to their ship in the face of the typhoon fills me with awe and a whole ocean full of admiration too!

    Loved this, loved this, loved this!!!

    1. Thanks! The sea has always been the seaman's deadliest foe. Even on the aircraft carrier, even those several feet up, men have been known to yield to the hypnotic waves of the ocean and walk from their post and disappear. And Nancy wasn't a lady by any stretch of the imagination.

      I'm thrilled beyond imagining that you loved your visit. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  3. "The sight of swirling ocean pumped ice through his veins..."
    That was the spookiest moment in a story ever! You kept my interest throughout, and dropped my heart at the end.

    1. Thanks! I wanted most to show that heart-stopping fear when your stomach plummets and your skin goes cold without reaching for the standby cliches. I'm happy to know I succeeded.

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  4. A lot of great imagery and details here. I'm sure dad is proud.

    1. Thanks! I hope so.

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  5. This was so exciting to read, knowing it was based on actual events! I was completely taken into the setting.

    1. Thanks! I of course took some literary license with the event as it happened to my father, but it's one of my favorite tales he tells of the "good ole days".

      I'm glad your visit was an exciting one. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  6. Well done,, Dotter, that's pretty much how I remember Nancy...


    1. Thanks! Woot! Doing the happy dance in my seat.

      Love you Pop!
      The Dotter (That's right, 2 Ts)

    2. There's much more to this story regarding the damage "bonny Dick" suffered while trying to escape Typhoon Nancy. The weight of water coming over the flight deck forced the number one elevator (elevator in forward center of the deck) downward about 3 feet. The elevator could not be re-closed. Numerous large items stored in the elevator pit were ripped loose from their anchoring by heavy water and the rolling/pitching of the ship. A hatch in the middle of the elevator pit was ripped open and water flooded the decks below. For over 30 hours we battled to remove the water and prevent further flooding.

    3. Hey this sounds like you might be one of my father's shipmates!

      Thank you for your service and for adding your own thoughts on the subject. I hope I at least caught the idea well. I did write this piece within the constraints of the writing prompt, there was so much more I wanted to address at the time I wrote it.

      Thank you again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I really hope you enjoyed your visit. You are welcome anytime.


  7. To Anonymous: I was in Attack Squadron VA195 on that, and two other Bonny Dick cruizes. I did a short stint on the bucket brigade bailing out the #1 elevator pit when the ground up debris clogged up the Handy Billy and a couple of stints on the flight deck, sometimes under water, replacing aircraft tie down cables that were broken by the violent pitching of the deck. I'm assuming from your comment that you were ships company. If so, I know you guys really had a rough time keeping the old gal afloat. While you were working your a$$ off, us airdales mostly rode out the storm in the radio shop or sleeping quarters, except for the above mentioned "volunteer efforts". Thanks for your efforts and God Speed. Shels POP