OTD: The Sinking of the Oceanos

On this day (04/08/1991), the cruise ship Oceanos sank off the South African Coast with the loss of no lives. A massive rescue effort by merchant ships and the South African Air Force supported by the onboard entertainment staff ensured that all passengers and crew were safely evacuated.  The actions of the master however were less than satisfactory and he seemingly played no part in the rescue, leaving the ship on one of the first helicopters. 

The cause of the disaster was never really adequately explained but in the engine room repairs to a faulty waste disposal system had not been completed and a vital ventilation pipe had been omitted. This pipe ran through the aft watertight bulkhead of the generator room.  Non return valves had also been left out of the waste disposal tank. At roughly 09.30 pm, a muffled explosion was heard and the ship lost power. The engineer explained that the ship was taking in water, either from a leak in the hull or after touching ground en route. The water had shorted the generators and immobilised the engines. The hole in the watertight bulkhead was allowing water to flood the waste tank which was then dispersing water throughout the plumbing of the ship and there was nothing that could be done about it except take to the boats. There is a very good video on YouTube that explains the circumstances very well. However, at some point this link may go 404. You can also use the image below to access the video.

There is a very good video on YouTube that explains the circumstances very well. However, at some point this link may go 404. You can also use the image below to access the video.

I had sailed on the ship in 1989 and at that time it was the top ship in the Epirotiki fleet, but by the cruise season of 1991 in South Africa this was no longer true. She was originally built as Jean Laborde, and was the last of four sister ships built for Messageries Maritimes. All 4 ships were twin screw with Burmeister and Wain diesels developing 12 500 BHP with a maximum speed of 18,5 knots. They were designed for use on the Marseilles to Madagascar and Mauritius service. Following many name changes and new owners she was acquired by Epirotiki Lines of Greece in 1976 who operated her successfully in Mediterranean waters for many years.

A friend and I had been offered this particular voyage at an extremely good price but fortunately had turned it down as it would have cost too much to fly to East London and back from Durban. The sinking caused a lot of reputational damage  to the tour operator but the onboard staff really deserved a lot of praise for their actions. Not all members of the crew followed the captain’s example, and many stayed till the end, assisting in the evacuation of the ship. 

The ill fated Achille Lauro was also lost in 1994, and it was en route to South Africa for the cruising season. I am fortunate that I sailed on both of these ships so can look back on it and smile.  My Oceanos sinking webpage still exists on all@sea,  much of it written at the time of the sinking. 

DRW © 2020. Created 04/08/2020.

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OTD: Warsaw Uprising

On this day (01/08/1944) The Warsaw Uprising began. The Polish underground resistance, led by the Polish resistance Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa), attempted to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to destroy the city in retaliation. The Uprising was fought for 63 days (01/08/1944 – 02/10/1944) with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.

Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to make radio contact with them and did not advance beyond the city limits. Intense street fighting between the Germans and Poles continued. By 14 September, the eastern bank of the Vistula River opposite the Polish resistance positions was taken over by the Polish troops fighting under the Soviet command; 1,200 men made it across the river, but they were not reinforced by the Russian forces.

It is hard to know the real number of casualties, but it is estimated that about 16000 members of the Polish resistance were killed with roughly 6000 wounded. Between 150000 and 200000 Polish civilians died while German casualties totalled between 2,000 to 17,000 soldiers killed and missing. Approximately 25% of Warsaw’s buildings were destroyed and after the surrender German troops levelled another 35% of the city block by block. By January 1945 over 85% of the city had been destroyed.

The Katyn Forest Memorial in Johannesburg commemorates the event as well as paying homage to the 14500 Polish POW’s murdered by Stalin’s assassins in 1940 and the members of the South African Air Force who were involved in the Warsaw Airlift in August 1944. The memorial sits on to of a grassy rise in the James and Ethel Gray Park in Melrose, between the Glenhove and Athol-Oaklands turn-offs on the M1 in Johannesburg.

The Allies, realising that the Poles needed support sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force, and the Polish Air Force under British High Command, in an operation known as the Warsaw Airlift. 

The Polish Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum was Polish ex-combatants association, the Polish Air Force Association Charitable Trust, the Association of the Polish Knights of the Sovereign Military order of Malta (UK), and by public subscription.   

Polish Forces War Memorial (National Memorial Arboretum)

(1500×652) Information panels at the Memorial

DRW © 2020. Created 02/08/2020

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Cheltenham revisited

Yesterday I had to go through to the hospital in Cheltenham for a renal scan. It is the first time in ages that I have visited the city, and it would be interesting to see how the coronavirus has affected it. I also had an ulterior motive too.. but more about that after a look at the numbers.
USA still leads with 4 4398343 active cases and 152320 deaths. The UK is in at number 10 with 300692 cases and 45878 deaths while South Africa is sitting at number 5 with 459761 cases and 7257 deaths.

Continuing where we left off… I have been craving a hamburger or any junk food now for quite some time, and Burger King is conveniently situated around the corner from the bus stop.

Because I had an early appointment I was in town very early so had an hour or so to kill, but alas BK’s was still closed so no early morning junk food for me. The streets were reasonably deserted at this time of the morning although the people that were on their way somewhere were trying their best to dodge each other irrespective of whether they were masked or not.  The weather was grey and gloomy in spite of the forecast muttering about heat waves and sunshine. 

Unfortunately the effect of the prolonged lockdown was evident with so many shops empty or destined never to re-open.  The pavements were also displaying signs of the times.

I turned around and headed in the opposite direction which was generally towards the hospital.  This area is pedestrianised although I forgot to take more general shots around here. 

Some of the shops that I usually haunt are in this area so it would be interesting to see how they were doing. All around were people cleaning and emptying bins and generally preparing for the day’s business;  It did look promising.  I spotted the entrance to Regent Arcade and decided to have a quick look. I don’t usually go in here as there is very little in it that interests me and I have not found the toilets in there in case of bladder emergencies. 

They have marked out lanes and queuing areas inside the arcade, with designated “turning around” areas. On the left is a hand sanitising station and to be honest I did not like the feel of this place at all. It is unfortunate that we have come to this situation and it is going to be the new “normal” for awhile. Nature however showed me that while we are all suffering from the effects of a pandemic she is still showing her true colours.

The one thing I do like about this area is the street art in the one alley, it has been relatively unchanged for quite a long time and I was glad to see it still existed. 

The images in the left column were created by John D’Oh. 

I was also glad to see the Elephant Rampage mosaics were in place although they have still not restored the missing plaque.  I did a post about them way back in 2018

Continuing on my stroll I noted that the hobby shop was still in business although closed at the time and my new breakfast emporium still existed but was also closed. My navigation had included a shortcut through what is known as Sandford Park, but I had to change my plans slightly as I urgently needed a loo!  The park is situated at the end of the High Street, and the river Chelt, (which takes its name from the town), flows through it. It was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford in September 1928. 

The image above is of the “Italian Garden” that was created in 1920 by landscape architect Edward White. Sadly though the garden did not look too impressive due to the grey skies and overall gloom surrounding it.  Unwins Fountain was also not working, although it was being cleaned when I returned from the hospital so there is still hope.

The flower beds around the fountain were partly in bloom too, and I did like these purple spikey flowers.  It appears they are called “Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’ small globe thistle”. 

Exiting the park I took a quick turn around St Luke’s church before walking to the end of the block.

I have not really explored the area around the hospital and Cheltenham College and  The College Ground is a cricket ground in the grounds of Cheltenham College. I was really on the opposite side of the building on the grounds so this is really a long distance shot. (image is 1346 x 523). It may be worth coming back here once day and to get to the other side of the pitch.  The ornate Victorian building is the gymnasium/cricket/pavilion and it was built 1865. It was almost time for my appointment so I turned around and strolled to the hospital. 

I was finished in less than 30 minutes and soon on my way back to the bus stop. A quick reminder though…

On my way back to the bus stop I could not help shake my head at the amount of litter in the park and area around it. In South Africa all of those aluminium tins would have been long ago recycled. But here in the UK it appears as if we have quite a few tossers around.

I quickly popped into Lidl and bought some pink doughnuts and halfway to Clarence Street it started to rain. Unfortunately BK’s was still closed, so much to my dismay I did not get to scoff a Whopper. The 41 bus was waiting and half an hour later I was back in Tewkesbury.  Masks are mandatory on public transport by the way, and buses are now sporting signs that limit the bus to 17 passengers only.

And that was my day.

DRW 2020. Created 29/07/2020

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OTD: The Death of the Tsar

On this day in 1918 Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and his consort, Alexandra Feodorovna as well as their 5 children are brutally executed  in the cellar of the Ipatiev house in the city of Ekaterinburg.  Also executed was the Tsar’s personal physician Eugene Botkin, his wife’s maid Anna Demidova, the family’s chef, Ivan Kharitonov, and footman, Alexei Trupp

The 5 children were:

In 1979, the bodies of  the Tsar and Tsaritsa as well as three of their daughters, and those of four non-family members killed with them, were discovered near Sverdlovsk (formerly Ekaterinburg) and  they were recovered in January 1998 and officially identified. The missing daughter’s body (either Anastasia or Maria) fuelled the rumour that Anastasia had escaped the murder. DNA confirmed the identification of the remains.  More bones were discovered in July 2007 and DNA tested and it was concluded that these belonged to Alexei and a daughter (Maria). 


(Nicholas II of Russia with the family (left to right): Olga, Maria, Nicholas II, Alexandra Fyodorovna, Anastasia, Alexei, and Tatiana. Livadiya, Crimea, 1913. Portrait by the Levitsky Studio, Livadiya.  This work is in the public domain in Russia according to article 1256 of Book IV of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation No. 230-FZ of December 18, 2006. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_II_of_Russia )

DRW © 2020. Created 10/02/2020

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Ye Festivale That Nevere Wasse

Round about this time of year Tewkesbury would hold it’s world-famous Medival Festival. It is one of the 3 things the town is famous for and unfortunately this year it never happened. In fact almost nothing happened here between March and now so normality is nowhere ear yet. However, while we cannot all flock to the festival site we can at least look back and laugh at what happened before that and before that and before that…

I have attended most of the festivals over the years that I have lived here and always harvested a large collection of pics that I displayed in the relevant posts. You can access the posts using the menu below.  I am unable to work out why I did not post images from 2015 and 2016 though. Yet another of the many mysteries in this blog.

[Festival 2017] [Festival 2018] [Festival 2019]

In an effort to keep some sort of continuity going I dub this post “Ye Festivale that Nevere Wasse” because who knows whether normality will return and if we will ever hold a Medieval Festival again. The whole thing is really a visual event, its crowded, noisy, busy,  and kind of strange. The oddest thing is seeing knights and peasants queuing at the local super to buy food, or walking up the road to take in the sights. The battlefield becomes crowded and the battle tends to happen at a distance so there is not much to see so I rarely stick around for it.  All of these images appear elsewhere in these pages so some may look familiar.

DRW ©  2020. Created 12/07/2020

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