Sunday, March 23, 2008

Beautiful Things

The MEU I was deployed in made a training call/port visit in SW Australia in 1986. We heloed into Lancelin National Park for a week of live fire and maneuver with the RAA, then spent a week split between the city of Perth and the much smaller Freemantle.

We had arrived off Freemantle after getting everybody back on board from Lancellin. There is a passage through the reefs that allows large ships safe anchorage in all but the worst of weathers. I was on the USS Tarawa, an LHA, at the time. The morning we were supposed to begin liberty in Freemantle, I woke up before dawn and stepped outside to enjoy a smoke on the catwalk that ran the length of the ship, beneath the flight deck.

It was cloudless, with absolutely no wind. The sky was such a pure, dark gray blue that it was impossible to see the horizon. I could look down in the rapidly growing light (in the South Pacific, sunrise is like a leisurely flash bulb) and actually see details on the bottom some hundred feet below.

It was dead quiet but for the hum of ship’s alt power;.I think we only had half our steam up, and that only for emergencies. I could hear the creak of the anchor chain riding through its port fifty feet forward.

I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life, nor as peaceful. Not until the hundreds of dolphins all rose up, all around the ship, softly blew, and then rolled back beneath the water.

Haven’t seen anything to top that yet.

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