Simple Courage: The Story of S. S. Flying Enterprise - And One of the Greatest Naval Rescues in History
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In late December 1951, laden with passengers and nearly forty metric tons of cargo, the freighter S.S. Flying Enterprise steamed westward from Europe toward America. A few days into the voyage, she hit the eye of a ferocious storm. Force 12 winds tossed men about like playthings and turned drops of freezing Atlantic foam into icy missiles. When, in the space of twenty-eight hours, the ship was slammed by two rogue waves–solid walls of water more than sixty feet high–the impacts cracked the decks and hull almost down to the waterline, threw the vessel over on her side, and thrust all on board into terror.
Flying Enterprise’s captain, Kurt Carlsen, a seaman of rare ability and valor, mustered all hands to patch the cracks and then try to right the ship. When these efforts came to naught, he helped transfer, across waves forty feet high, the passengers and the entire crew to lifeboats sent from nearby ships. Then, for reasons both professional and intensely personal, and to the amazement of the world, Carlsen defied all requests and entreaties to abandon ship. Instead, for the next two weeks, he fought to bring Flying Enterprise and her cargo to port. His heroic endeavor became the world’s biggest news.
In a narrative as dramatic as the ocean’s fury, acclaimed bestselling author Frank Delaney tells, for the first time, the full story of this unmatched bravery and endurance at sea. We meet the devoted family whose well-being and safety impelled Carlsen to stay with his ship. And we read of Flying Enterprise’s buccaneering owner, the fearless and unorthodox Hans Isbrandtsen, who played a crucial role in Kurt Carlsen’s fate.
Drawing on historical documents and contemporary accounts and on exclusive interviews with Carlsen’s family, Delaney opens a window into the world of the merchant marine. With deep affection–and respect–for the weather and all that goes with it, he places us in the heart of the storm, a “biblical tempest” of unimaginable power. He illuminates the bravery and ingenuity of Carlsen and the extraordinary courage that the thirty-seven-year-old captain inspired in his stalwart crew. This is a gripping, absorbing narrative that highlights one man’s outstanding fortitude and heroic sense of duty.
about him, they could never make him feel heroic. Kenneth Dancy understood thisand shared in it. His eyes never flickered, he didnt shift his feet, and he showed none of the usual human flinches of falsehood as he said, No, we werent heroes. We were two men trying to do a difficult job. Yes, the circumstances were bad, but what were we to do? Carlsen was trying to save his ship and I was a mate on the tug that was trying to help him save his ship. Thats all there is to it. Which is, of course,
his concentration moved forward to the business of reasserting himself. Sooner or later the freighter would start to become an active creature again. He would have to organize her behavior as best he could when establishing and maintaining the tow. And if she got to port, he would have to supervise the recovery of such cargo as had survived, and he would have to oversee the establishment of a repair contract. A master pays close attention to his ship’s records. From their official home in the
understanding of how the oceans figured in commerce. His mother saw to it that he achieved an education in marine commerce, one that specialized in steamship trading. He went to Paris as a chartering clerk and came home to Denmark at the outset of the Great War, in 1914. Through a cousin, he became involved with a Scandinavian steamship line that tried to make a living by running the shipping blockades set up by England and Germany in their war. As all of Europe was drawn into the conflict, the
or the shipping line—negligent. A damning conclusion could cost Carlsen, as the most visible involved party, his master’s ticket, his career, his place, his means of supporting his family. As they sat down to open the inquiry, the officials and all who came to give evidence to it—all people of the sea—knew this. They also knew that the cable between Turmoil and Flying Enterprise had parted the previous day, that the weather in the Atlantic boded ill, that the ship’s condition had not improved,
were loaded with them. No point in checking whether the cargo had indeed shifted—nor will there be a trace of the softer goods, the animal hair, the grass seed, the gherkins in brine; they will have dissolved long ago. And as to the vans of furniture and musical instruments, and the tons of birdcages, the sea will have shunted some of that freight a mile away by now, and perhaps even farther. Nevertheless, as this is the closest I have ever come to the physical presence of Flying Enterprise,