Thursday, October 26, 2006

20 January 1956

I’d just finished typing page 7 of my Paris adventure, & laid it carefully aside when the ship’s intercom announced: "The ship is now passing an active volcano." I jumped out of my chair, grabbed my hat, & joined the stampede to the hangar deck.

The night was the black it can get only at sea. Far off, & ahead of us, were the lights of our escort. And directly in the center of my hangar bay "window", two fingers of blood clawed their way down a mountain. The colors of the fire & the night complemented each other, & blended near the base, where the lava ran into the sea or spread out onto the land. I wondered whether it always acted like that or if it were a special eruption, just for us.

I ran below for dad’s binoculars, which I said I’d never use, but one doesn’t see a volcano every night. By the time I got back topside, we’d moved so that we no longer looked at the volcano straight on, but had passed around to the side, & were looking at the lava almost profile, so it appeared as thin ribbons. The glasses are so powerful that, at that distance, it was difficult to hold them still. The dark outline of the volcano loomed surprisingly larger than it had first appeared. Through the glasses, the molten rock winked & glowed, like hot coals. This was Stromboli, it & Etna being the only active volcanoes in this part of the world. Yesterday I said Etna was the only one; but I wouldn’t care to walk barefoot over Stromboli!

Steidinger, one of the cooks, came running in earlier & whispered: "You guys heard the latest dope?" We all said no, & leaned forward in our chairs. "We’re pullin’ in to Honolulu for conversion into five seagoing tugs! Either that or they ‘re going to cut everything off above the hangar deck & make us a troop ship."

The chief informed us this morning that we were going to New York for our yard period, instead of Portsmouth. God, would that be marvelous. He also said we are not going to get a canted deck after all—the Bennington just came out of the yards with her new canted deck only to find out that the added weight slowed her down so much she couldn’t get enough speed to retrieve aircraft when there is no wind.

Oh, to spend three months in New York! But, I’ll believe it when I see it. Taps almost, so excuse me for now….

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