Memories of Storms

 by Syd Calish, the first Engineering Officer of the Whitehurst

 

Ensign Syd Calish

Syd Calish ca 1999

 
My strongest memory of that storm was the discussion I had with the Captain of the

Whitehurst about the wisdom of ballasting the fuel tanks to help stabilize the ship. I was against it and for very good reason. We were not fully fueled at the time and needed all our tanks and all our power to control the ship. The seas were very confused so that the ship was not only rolling heavily (at least 45 degrees to leeward of the wind) but also wallowing considerably. The screws would come out of the water at times and the helm was difficult to maintain.

The fuel tanks of a DE were not baffled sufficiently to prevent sloshing in those seas and I was afraid that sea water ballast would get mixed with the fuel and cause the boilers to flame out thus losing power. We would then broach to and probably roll over. At the height of the storm, our Convoy Commander realized the predicament and changed course to have us run with the storm to some degree and eventually to run out of the worst part of it. As I recall the three destroyers were lost because the Task Force Commander insisted on maintaining their course to their objective.  All three destroyers were of similar design and had poor stability to begin with. After all the latest gadgets were installed topside their stability was worse. I can't remember what the operational circumstances were at the time except that we were escorting some ships. I also can't remember which of the other CortDiv 40 ships were with us.

I might add that a storm we encountered on our first shakedown cruise from San Francisco to San Diego frightened me more than the typhoon. The way the wind and seas were pushing us over onto the port side was fearful because of the contour of the sea bottom of the California Coast. We rolled a measurable 52 degrees to port and the port side searchlight was under water. After that trip I had a great deal more faith in the DEs ability to weather a storm. The interior of the ship was a shambles but the exterior was not badly damaged.

Prior to my service on the Whitehurst I was in a bad storm off Cape Hatteras on a 220 foot minesweeper, the USS Nuthatch. That flat bottomed stinker would pound its way through the waves even in a modest sea but in this storm the stanchions in the crews quarters which were at least 6 to 8 inch in diameter were bent after the pounding. This was not too much fun for a guy who had a tendency for seasickness. For the first 24 to 36 hours after leaving a port I would have my head in a bucket and then after that I would be OK until after the next time ashore. I can't imagine why I don't fancy a pleasure cruise at this time in my life.

                                                     Author, Syd Calish 


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