​​​​Operation Deep Freeze

​‘69 was over. It was time to head North to Boston, our home-port. We were all to prepare the ship for sea. That meant anything that moved, had to be secured or stored below; all doors and hatches closed, watertight integrity. Nothing could be loose inside or out, for safety sake. Over the speaker someone would say, “set the sea watch.” We were underway.
This time, we headed West, to the Pacific side of South America. As always, the seas from Antarctica to South America were rough. All of us had a job to do. As a cook, I headed for the galley.
Our first stop was Talcuanno, the seaport for Concepcion, Chile. We tied up at the Chilean Naval Base there. Those who had liberty, went ashore. We took a tour of the area. There was a “narrow gauge” train outside the gate. We don’t see those in the “States.”
I took pictures, when I was able. We went to the Concepcion University soccer field, with a square clock tower at one end, and kids playing hockey on roller skates, at the other.
A few of us took the opportunity to rent rooms at the Ritz Hotel, in Concepcion. Once checked in, we broke up into smaller groups to tour the park and downtown area. There were a few photographers around the park. They did not have Polaroid cameras. They had to stand behind a colorful box, hold up a powder in a tray, stick his head in the box behind a black curtain. When ready, he would light the powder in
the tray creating the flash. He used the chemicals in the box to develop them. One of them took a picture of me in front of a park monument, which I still have, somewhere. I also have a picture I took of him and his camera box on a stand. I also purchased a home made blanket from a lady in the park. An interpreter told me the name of the animal used. I believe it was Alpaca.
There were two of us to a room. We went back to ours to look at our treasures, have supper, and then it was off to bed. The next morning we had a ’continental breakfast” in our room, then headed for the front desk to check out. What started out to be an uneventful day, almost became an international incident . Neither my roommate or I spoke a word of Spanish, but we knew that something was definitely wrong. We were not allowed to leave. There were two managers on duty at the desk. We paid our bill, but were blocked from exiting to the street. One of the managers spoke a little broken English. The other, none at all. While the other one did the best he could to explain, showing me a list.
We were late sleepers. All the other crew members had checked out. It was not until they were gone, that they noticed items missing. Before we came to check out, they had written up a list, a long list of items stolen from the hotel. The list included gold lettered towels, silver of all types, a tea service, etc.
In the United States, it is common practice for a hotel guest to take a towel or something with the hotel’s name on it for a souvenir. It was figured in to the cost of the room and good advertising. Not in Chile we found out.
We were to pay for it all, or we could not leave. We could not go back to the ship. We could not go home. We had thoughts of jail in a foreign country, an international incident.
I asked the one who could speak a little English, to dial the ship’s phone number, which I gave him. I explained to the Officer Of The Day (OD), that we were being held
hostage, and read off a partial list of the items purportedly stolen. The OD called a meeting of all hands. Within the hour, twice, if not three times the items on that list were returned. The managers were overwhelmed. They had no idea so much stuff was “lifted” from their hotel.
So grateful were they, that they wanted to know what they could do for us in return.. All I wanted was an ash tray with the name of the hotel and address on it.. My shipmate couldn’t think of anything. We were just happy to be free again. The proprietors were not satisfied that they had done enough for us. We told them we were going to buy some souvenirs. One of the managers went with us. We went to several shops. We were to pick out what we wanted. Then our guide(the manager) talked the shop keeper down in price to what he thought was acceptable. We bought some items and thanked the hotel manager. He still wasn’t satisfied he had done enough, but we were ready to return to the ship. We thanked him and went on our way. Once back on board the ship, the OD and several other officers thanked us for the way we handled the situation.
International Law says that “International waters” start at 13 miles out from shore. No country can declare sovereignty over waters beyond that point. In the late sixties, Peru did just that, declaring a 200 mile limit. The world community was alarmed. Peru declared no fishing was allowed inside their supposed 200 mile limit. Some of the world's best fishing was off Peru. There were several incidents where Peruvian gun
boats tried enforcing this new bogus law. Fishing boats, though fishing in International Waters, had their boats impounded and crews arrested. For a time. Our country put some war ships in the area to protect our fishing vessels. A visible deterrent. The Peruvian military soon realized we were serious and left our fishing vessels alone.
Occasionally, when our Navy or Coast Guard ships sail past Peru in international waters, we look for our fishing vessels. We would stay in the area for a time, then continue to our destinations. We never saw any of our fishing boats. We did see a distant Peruvian gun boat.
Off the coast of Peru, it was very hot. The crew was warned not to stay out in it for more than 30 minutes. Any more than that, anyone could get serious burns. A threat of Courts Martial was imposed, should anyone get burned to the point of not being able to work. We had one crew member fall asleep. He was out in the intense sun light for about an hour.
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Page No. 47
Page No. 47