Going Down with the Ship
By Eric Douglas
The sound of the explosive charges rippling across the quiet water propelled Jackson Pauley into motion. The flashbacks that helped him put together all the pieces and realize where Andrea was being kept took only milliseconds. He immediately turned and ran for his houseboat and the Boston Whaler tied up beside it.
Within minutes he had the power boat’s twin engines fired up and was racing across the water. When Jackson went to the proposed sinking site for the destroyer USS Beauregard with Andrea, he had taken it easy. The trip out took him 15 minutes. This time he was racing across the water with his engines wide open and the throttles all the way to the stops. He knew there was no time to waste if Andrea Perez was on board the Beauregard. She would drown in a matter of minutes without his help.
On the previous trip to the site, Jackson had recorded the locations into his GPS system. He was manually driving the boat, but using the GPS system to guide him out. As he flew, allowing the keel of the boat to touch the water occasionally, he also assembled his dive gear. He was able to struggle into a shortie wetsuit and throw his scuba unit over his back while he moved. Jackson always kept dive gear on board the boat and maintained full tanks. He had always wanted to be able to dive on a whim. He just never expected his whim would amount to this.
As soon as he pulled up next to the slowly sinking destroyer, Jackson realized that whoever set off the charges to send the ship to the bottom hadn’t done it right. The ship was slowly filling with water and had settled down 10 feet, but he guessed he had a few more minutes before the ship was completely submerged. They must have ruptured the floats attached to the hull to keep the new holes cut through the sides above the water, but they hadn’t detonated the explosives below the water line that would send water rushing in, and the ship to the bottom in a matter of seconds.
Before jumping off his boat, Jackson selected a second location on the GPS control and engaged the autopilot. The boat began to move off to a spot about 400 yards away. Jackson had entered that location on his first trip to the site when he was looking for a place to drop anchor.
He leapt from the side of the Daydreamer onto an interior deck of the massive destroyer through a hole cut in the hull. The workers had intended the hole as an access for a diver, but never one running in full dive gear while the ship was still above water.
Jackson began to search for Andrea on the second deck from the bottom. He searched down every hallway and in every room he could find. Because the ship was slowly flooding, there was no reason to search the decks that were already underwater. If Andrea were below the water, there was no way he could find her swimming through the rushing water. He had to assume she was in an upper deck that hadn’t flooded yet.
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