Until the Sea Shall Free Them: Life, Death and Survival in



10 thoughts on “Until the Sea Shall Free Them: Life, Death and Survival in the Merchant Marine

  1. Matt Matt says:

    It was not his time Bob Cusick knows this and only this for certain He does not believe in a God who reaches down and singles someone out He believes in a God who creates tides, waves, strong men, weak men, songs, gravity, greed, grain, and anchors and chains, and then washes them all together In early October 2015, I got a breaking news alert on my phone that caught my attention The container ship El Faro, owned by TOTE Maritime, had sailed into Hurricane Joaquin, but had not come out th It was not his time Bob Cusick knows this and only this for certain He does not believe in a God who reaches down and singles someone out He believes in a God who creates tides, waves, strong men, weak men, songs, gravity, greed, grain, and anchors and chains, and then washes them all together In early October 2015, I got a breaking news alert on my phone that caught my attention The container ship El Faro, owned by TOTE Maritime, had sailed into Hurricane Joaquin, but had not come out the other side Something happened amid wind and wave something terrible happened near the eye wall of that hurricane Ships have something called a Voyage Data Recorder that records conversation on the bridge Unlike an airplane s CVR, the VDR runs throughout the voyage It captured the final moment s on the doomed ship s bridge At first, even in the midst of a tremendous blow, there remained an air of calm confidence Things began to spiral after the captain reported a hatch had blown off, and water was coming in At 7 29 a.m., the captain rings the abandon ship At 7 31 a.m., you hear him yelling Get off Get off the ship Stay together The helmsman is scared, yells Help me at 7 36 a.m The captain responds Don t panic Don t panic You re okay Don t freeze up At 7 38, the helmsman asks the captain if he s leaving them I m not leaving you, the captain responds Let s go A low frequency rumble begins The last clear words, screamed by the captain at 7 39 a.m., are It s time to come this way Then the sea took them Thirty three people died when the ship slipped below the surface of the Atlantic It didn t seem like something that could happen in 2015, to one of those monstrous ships They have radar and 24 hour weather forecasts and all the lessons of hundreds of years of sailing built into them I followed the story obsessively There came a point where I d be in my room, late at night, squinting at a computer screen with my office door closed My wife would burst in, expecting me to be watching pornography Instead, she found me perhaps just as disturbingly following every word of the U.S Coast Guard Marine Board Investigation To listen to these hearings, or read the transcripts, is to enter a world most of us don t think about, yet play such a huge role in our lives Globalization happens because of these ships We can get cheap products from all over the world because of these ships I wanted to knowabout this world I started looking for books I found Robert Frump s Until the Sea Shall Free Them Unlike the El Faro, the Marine Electric was a coal carrier plying the coastal trade She was not a fancy modern vessel, but a converted World War II era Liberty Ship She had an old bow, an old stern, and a newer midsection welded in between Like the El Faro, she met a tragic end On February 12, 1983, just 30 miles offshore, the Marine Electric ran into a storm After helping the Coast Guard find a small fishing boat, the Marine Electric found trouble herself She took on water Her bow rose a little less in the surging ocean The captain ordered the ship abandoned The Marine Electric went down fast Only three men out of thirty four were plucked from the sea, despite the best efforts of a crazy brave Navy rescue swimmer The Coast Guard did not yet have a rescue swimmer program that was one of the changes to follow the foundering of the Marine Electric One of those survivors was Chief Mate Robert Cusick Following a daring swim from his stricken vessel, he lucked onto a lifeboat, which got him out of the murderously cold water He kept his spirits by singing Stan Rogers Mary Ellen Carter, a lost ship ballad that gives Gordon Lightfoot a run for his money At the Marine Board Inquiry, the owners of the Marine Electric, Marine Transport Lines, tried to argue the ship had run aground, damaging her hull Chief Bob Cusick surprised everyone by refusing to toe the company line He testified to the criminally shoddy condition of the Marine Electric Holes in the deck Hatch covers that didn t fit A barely floating coffin that kept getting passed during inspections because sailing these old ships helped their owners make a profit For his temerity, Marine Transport Lines tried to ruin Bob Cusick Until the Sea Shall Free Them tells this story, and muchFrump s book came out in 2001, and certainly got lost in the shadow of Sebastian Junger s bestselling The Perfect Storm, published in 1997 and turned into a Wahlberg Clooney blockbuster in 2000 There are times right down to the epigrams before each chapter where you can sense Frump aping Junger s style I m here to tell you he needn t have bothered This book stands on its own as one of the best sea stories I ve ever read It might be better than The Perfect Storm, and The Perfect Storm has long been one of my favorites At the time of the sinking, Frump was a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer under famed editor Gene Roberts In the aftermath of the Marine Electric, Roberts unleashed his investigative journalists on the U.S Merchant Marine, exposing the deplorable conditions of the ships, and the collusion of the U.S Coast Guard in allowing them to continue to sail That reportage is the genesis for this book yet this goes far beyond a journalistic expose Frump begins with the final voyage of the Marine Electric, her sinking, and the valiant rescue attempt by the USCG He handles the sinking with aplomb, combining scientific factoids the fast and fatal process of hypothermia with unforgettable images a cluster of dead men kept afloat by their life preservers, their arms moving in the waves, so it looked as though they were beckoning for help Dramatically, the Marine Electric s last night should have been the book s peak But in my opinion, things only get better when Frump moves ashore He does an excellent job laying out the history of the U.S Merchant Marine, sprinkling in tales of daring during WWII, the USMM suffered casualty rates comparable to the U.S Marines , and tales of neglect that ended in lost ships and lost lives Frump structures the Marine Board of Inquiry like an old fashioned courtroom battle, while also delivering an astute systems analysis Frump is scrupulously evenhanded, and delivers the story from every point of view There are no endnotes, so I can only assume that he talked to everyone, since all sides are represented At its heart, Until the Sea Shall Free Them revolves around Bob Cusick standing up to his company s misdeeds But Frump puts those misdeeds into context He presents the corporate side, how ship owners had to deal with powerful unions and protectionist laws He gives the union side, with sailors forced to choose between sailing an unsafe ship or finding a new career He gives the Coast Guard view, especially from the perspective of Marine Board Judge Domenic Calicchio, an indefatigable advocate of maritime safety Frump even manages to be sympathetic to the lawyers involved I found Frump to be an excellent writer At times this comes across as overwritten, as it strives for lyricism That s all right with me There is ambition in the style, and I respect that Until the Sea Shall Free Them is filled with memorable characterizations It s beating heart, though, is Bob Cusick He made for an unlikely hero At the time of the sinking, he was a portly man in later middle age not quite the image you have of someone able to defeat the terrific primal forces of cold, and wind, and water He comes across as competent, intelligent, humble, and capable of deep insights For whatever reason, his saga hit me in just the right way I found his post sinking journey through the thickets of grief and survival to be heart achingly poignant Frump weaves his ruminations into a final lament on the fragile edges upon which life is lived A lifeboat drifts this way, a good man turns that way A wave washes a line over here, a man reaches out over there He hears a song He is saved or lost A good man acts, a weak man does not Life and God wash together all the good and bad little things Together, those little things can say when, where, and why Save men Drown men Keep systems Change systems Say in their sum what will happen, to a man, to a society.Your time is either up or it is not


  2. Kolumbina Kolumbina says:

    Wow What a book A true story about the wreck of Marine Electric that happened in 1983 in US waters when the freighter ran into a terrible storm and sank to the bottom of the ocean Only 3 people survived, one of them the most interesting character in the book chief mate Bob Cusick A brilliant book, engrossing life story, a shocking court case, absolutely fantastic.Loved this book Great


  3. Eric_W Eric_W says:

    The Marine Electric was a very old ship, originally a WW II tanker which had been converted to carrying coal up the east coast Trains would deliver it to the ship and then the ship would haul it to Boston The coal would be carefully loaded to prevent hogging too much weight fore and aft and sagging too much weight in the center Both conditions could be quite dangerous at sea Every trip the mate noted a fewcracks in the hatch covers The owners were a good company but they were b The Marine Electric was a very old ship, originally a WW II tanker which had been converted to carrying coal up the east coast Trains would deliver it to the ship and then the ship would haul it to Boston The coal would be carefully loaded to prevent hogging too much weight fore and aft and sagging too much weight in the center Both conditions could be quite dangerous at sea Every trip the mate noted a fewcracks in the hatch covers The owners were a good company but they were building a brand new replacement and no one wanted to spend a lot on the old lady The crew had even warned the Coast Guard but the inspectors were careful not to trip over the defects while failing to mention them on their reports The crew scrapped and painted but sometimes scrapping through the rust revealed daylight.The inevitable happened A huge winter storm, a magnificent blizzard with high winds and awful conditions caused water to ship over the bow and then into the hold through a cracked hatch cover Soon the bow was down, and the ship developed a list Inevitability the crew were forced to abandon ship, but the ship capsized so quickly all the engine room crew could not escape quickly enough to escape and went down with the ship Most of the others were thrown into the 33 degree seas, Then to make things worse, they were pushed under the deckhouse as the ship rolled over In this situation, life jackets made things worse because then pushed the sailor toward the surface against the deckhouse.Lifeboats such a reassuring word life boat Regretfully, the little known truth about them is that once in a lifeboat, it s extremely difficult to get people out, especially if conditions are not ideal and why get into one if conditions are good They bash up against hulls of larger ships attempting rescue, they are often hard to launch, even the new ones can turn turtle, making them prone to sink, altogether not a really good experience for anyone.There was a truism in the Merchant Marine First the Coast Guard heroically rescues officers from sinking ships Then they line up the officers in front of Marine Boards of Investigation And summarily shoot them Only three people survived the sinking of the Marine Electric. Someone had to take the fall, and by golly, it wouldn t be the company that owned the ship The case of the Smith Voyager is illustrative She was carrying grain and fitted only with plywood dividers and loaded beyond the Plimpson level contrary to the master s orders The owners insisted The ship began taking on water during a storm and the grain then shifted causing a further list The courts ruled against the owners, but the Coast Guard overruled the court and charged everything against the master s responsibility unsteady ships were being sent to sea under great pressure from the owners, .yet it was not the owners who were blamed or the old, inform ships themselves The operational managers the officers were blamed for the sins of the system system Years later, Dr Charles Perrow, a Yale University professor of sociology, would write a book entitled Normal Accidents and find that this behavior was typical in the maritime system, a system that alone among major industrial bureaucracies was actually organized to induce errors, not correct them.An enterprising Perrow student, Leo Tasca, had painstakingly examined four Marine Board of Investigation cases and their findings Then he took the same cases and analyzed how they came out in courts of law In each case, the owners and operators were found clearly liable and paid handsome sums Yet the heart of each case was essentially ignored by the marine boards The results were so clear cut, said Perrow, who previously had viewed the Coast Guard as above reproach, that he could only conclude the Coast Guard was highly biased toward owners.The editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a special interest in following maritime stories or the story of the Marine Electric probably would never have been covered at all He was also the best editor for the story, one who supported the reporters with whatever they needed and let them go deep into the story They soon discovered that the class of ships the Marine Electric was part of, had been know as sinkers, having been built of dirty steel and the age of the ship had not made it any cleaner Now the iron was tired , too There were three survivors and soon the battle lines were drawn The law was clear The company was liable if the company knew unseaworthy conditions existed But if the officers knew and did not communicate that to the company, well, case law was clear there, too If the company paid at all, the sum was millions less They had no privity of the knowledge that the ship was unseaworthy When the Maritime Board began its hearing, there was one hero present, Commander Calicchio, a man who would probably never be promoted to Captain in the Coast Guard because he had a tendency to do things the right way because they were the right thing to do, not because they were expedient or political When in charge of the Florida ports, he had forced cruise ship owners to increase the number of lifeboats with a simple demonstration of how the regulations had been designed by formulas for the average person under average conditions The story of how he did it is worth the price of the book He knew the problem was the system Mostly, he thought, the proliferation of rules was designed to cover the ass of the brass and then assign blame to people who weren t really to blame at all A thousand passengers died because they couldn t get to the lifeboats soon enough They would call a Marine Board and cruise through a buffet of regulations to see whom they could blame You could bet the captain and the officers would go down on something like that You could bet there would berules and regulations, when the simple fact was right in front of you There weren t enough lifeboats I won t do anyspoiling by detailing the hearing board and its decision.This is a really good book lots of maritime history, personal anecdotes, a trial, stormy seas, a couple of heroes, explanation of a system fraught with problems, and nicely put together Terrific read


  4. Corinne Johnston Corinne Johnston says:

    Sometimes when we hear about ship disasters, we focus so much attention on the mighty battleshps and battlecruisers, or the RMS Titanic, RMS Lusitania or the Empress of Ireland collision.In World War two, dozens of T 2 Tankers were built for the sole purpose of helping take much needed supplies to the Allies One brave and crippled T 2 Tanker made it into port, literally leaning on two destroyers The tide of the Battle near Libya changed with the arrival of that tanker, now the allies had fuel Sometimes when we hear about ship disasters, we focus so much attention on the mighty battleshps and battlecruisers, or the RMS Titanic, RMS Lusitania or the Empress of Ireland collision.In World War two, dozens of T 2 Tankers were built for the sole purpose of helping take much needed supplies to the Allies One brave and crippled T 2 Tanker made it into port, literally leaning on two destroyers The tide of the Battle near Libya changed with the arrival of that tanker, now the allies had fuel and the Germsns did not Forced to fall back due to lack of fuelAfter the war, the T 2 Tankers were converted into bulk carriers that sailed the East Coast of The United States for a number of years But the T 2 Tankers had a fatal flaw Sulphur mixed in with the steel when they were built meant that they could not go from warm salty water T 2 Tankers SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton split into two on the same night in the same storm covered in Robert Frump s excellent novel Two Tankers Down Many of the men who sailed on T 2 Tankers were afraid but what could they do like miners, firefighters and police officers among others, they needed to feed their families.The SS Marine Electric and her sister ship the SS Marine Marine Sulphur Queen were converted T 2 tankers and both of them broke in half None of the Sulphur Queen s crew but there were survivors of the Marine Electric and they stood up to management on behalf of those who didn t make it.Only four T 2 Tankers are left and soon they will be retired and scrapped, which is the right thing to do Thank you Mr Frump for opening our eyes to dangerous job the merchant marines are


  5. Judi Judi says:

    This true story has it all a devastating disaster at sea, an officer who refuses to hide the truth, courtroom drama, and how all of this changed the Merchant Marine ships In 1983, the Marine Electric went down 30 miles off the east coast Thirty four men died, three survived One of the three had the courage and determination to tell the truth about the abysmal conditions of the Merchant Marine ships in order to stop all of the sinkings and deaths that had continued for years due to the blin This true story has it all a devastating disaster at sea, an officer who refuses to hide the truth, courtroom drama, and how all of this changed the Merchant Marine ships In 1983, the Marine Electric went down 30 miles off the east coast Thirty four men died, three survived One of the three had the courage and determination to tell the truth about the abysmal conditions of the Merchant Marine ships in order to stop all of the sinkings and deaths that had continued for years due to the blind eye of the government and the huge shipping owners The most amazing part of this story is the fact that this man, Bob Cusick, lived in Hillsboro with his family, and he passed away only 2 months ago I was privileged to know him his wife and daughter, and I highly recommend this book It is a compelling and fascinating book that took me inside a profession that I knew little about


  6. John John says:

    I was assigned as a Coast Guard reservist in Buffalo, New York, and I found this book on the shelf of a Coast Guard marine inspector at that base That was ironic, as the author criticized the Coast Guard for being too cozy with the merchant marine industry in the early 1980s, and for allowing ships to sail that were in poor condition Perhaps the book s presence on that shelf, though, was emblematic of the change that occurred, in part due to the series of articles the author and others wrote f I was assigned as a Coast Guard reservist in Buffalo, New York, and I found this book on the shelf of a Coast Guard marine inspector at that base That was ironic, as the author criticized the Coast Guard for being too cozy with the merchant marine industry in the early 1980s, and for allowing ships to sail that were in poor condition Perhaps the book s presence on that shelf, though, was emblematic of the change that occurred, in part due to the series of articles the author and others wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer after the sinking of the SS Marine Electric off the coast of Virginia in 1983 Robert Frump does an excellent job of capturing some of the challenges of the U.S merchant marine fleet and industry, the horror of the capsizing and sinking, personalities of the survivors, and the tensions during the Marine Board of Investigation into the Marine Electric disaster He captures the change that increased the professionalism of marine inspectors, and that got rid of the old, tired T 2 tankers that were long past their prime This book is well worth the time for those who have an interest in the merchant marine industry, shipboard life, the Coast Guard, and how bureaucracies do and do not work I was glad to have stumbled upon the book


  7. Carol Carol says:

    This would not have been a book I would typically read, but I had run out of reading material on the long flight back from Africa, so Phil gave me this one As a true story it contained plenty of technical details about ships and the Merchant Marines What I liked best was how the ordinary seaman and their families whose lives had been so affected by this tragedy DID win out in the end and good came from their loss.


  8. Sue Sue says:

    An in depth account of the sinking of a merchant ship off the coast of Virginia and the subsequent investigation Written by an investigative journalist, it is an indictment of the U.S Merchant Marine, greedy shipowners, and lax enforcement of safety regulations by the Coast Guard.


  9. Marcelmuise Marcelmuise says:

    Should be required reading at CG Inspector school.


  10. Kaitlin Kaitlin says:

    Incredible story and phenomenal read I cannot stress enough the importance of this book for anyone in the maritime industry Even for those who are not, an amazing book.


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Until the Sea Shall Free Them: Life, Death and Survival in the Merchant Marine [PDF / Epub] ✅ Until the Sea Shall Free Them: Life, Death and Survival in the Merchant Marine Author Robert Frump – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk A devastating disaster at sea an officer who refuses to hide the truth a courtroom confrontation with far reaching implications The Perfect Storm meets A Civil Action in a gripping account of one of t A devastating disaster at Sea Shall eBook ´ sea an officer who refuses to hide the truth a courtroom confrontation with far reaching implications The Perfect Storm meets A Civil Action in a gripping account of one of the most significant shipwrecks of the twentieth century In the Marine Electric a reconditioned World War II vessel was on a routine voyage thirty Until the MOBI :Ê miles off the East Coast of the United States when disaster struck As the old coal carrier sank chief mate Bob Cusick watched his crew his friends and colleagues succumb to the frigid forty foot waves and subzero winds of the Atlantic Of the thirty four men aboard Cusick was one of only three to survive And he soon the Sea Shall eBook ↠ found himself facing the most critical decision of his life whether to stand by the Merchant Marine officers unspoken code of silence or to tell the truth about why his crew and hundreds of other the Sea Shall Free Them: PDF/EPUB ² lives had been unnecessarily sacrificed at sea Like many other ships used by the Merchant Marine the Marine Transport Line s Marine Electric was the Sea Shall Free Them: PDF/EPUB ² very old and made of dirty steel steel with excess sulfur content Many of these vessels were in terrible condition and broke down freuently Yet the government persistently turned a blind eye to the potential dangers convinced that the economic return on keeping these ships was worth the risk Cusick chose to blow the whistle Until the Sea Shall Free Them re creates in compelling detail the wreck of the Marine Electric and the legal drama that unfolded in its wake With breathtaking immediacy Robert Frump who covered the story for the Philadelphia Inuirer describes the desperate battle waged by the crew against the forces of nature Frump also brings to life Cusick s internal struggle He knew what happened to those who spoke out against the system knew that he too might be stripped of his license and prosecuted for losing his ship yet he forged ahead In a bitter lawsuit with owners of the ship Cusick emerged victorious His expose of government inaction led to vital reforms in the laws regarding the safety of ships his courageous stand places him among the unsung heroes of our time From the Hardcover edition.