It was towards the end of the 1960's on the T/S "Johannes Fritzen", travelling
from Sept-Iles Canada to Rotterdam. Loaded with approximately 35,000 tons
of ore we had passed Anticosti and were near Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
It had not stormed once, but we were in a fog so thick that we could see
only the first two hatches from the bridge. The front hatches and the
fordeck had disappeared into the gray soup. The view amounted to at best 50
meters from the bridge. This was logically an emergency situation. Both
radars were in use, and the ship's horn roared every two minutes for 4 to 6
seconds. The captain was on the bridge from the beginning of the fog, and
the ship was travelling slowly. In short, it was an uncomfortable
I sat in the radio room doing routine stuff; weather reports, listening
traffic lists from coastal stations, weather chart signals, disturbed only by the
ship's horn on the funnel. Suddenly I heard a call on 500 kHz, the
international medium wave calling and emergency frequency for telegraphy.
It was so loud that the headphones nearly fell off my head. It went, "TTT
TTT TTT CQ DE SVZZ NX QSW 425." I must explain that this was a Greek ship
which was going to transmit a nautical warning on 425 kHz. (The callsign
SVZZ is my invention, as I cannot remember the name of the ship or the
callsign.) Anyway, I quickly tuned the receiver to 425 kHz with curiosity,
as nautical warnings are normally only transmitted from coastal stations.
The contents of the message gave me an enormous fright.
M/V KAPITAN PAPADOPOULOS/SVZZ 1 12 0800GMT
DENSE FOG STOP POSITION AT 0745 GMT 48.31N 62.06W
COURSE 310 DEGS STOP RADAR OUT OF ORDER
SPEED 17 KTS
PLEASE KEEP SHARP LOOKOUT
I ripped the message from the typewriter and took it to the captain on the
bridge, and I have seldom seen a rosy face so quickly turn white. Without a
word he rushed into the chart room, and returned after a short time,
obviously relieved. He said, "If the position is correct, the Greek passed
us 15 minutes ago at approximately two nautical miles." I don't like to
think what would have happened if we collided, and even today I get cold
chills on my back when I think of this episode.
Those Greek seamen must have been brash young men. What could have
possessed them to go charging blindly through the fog?