CARLO Gordon joined a distinguished list of ship captains, who in spite of imminent and grave danger to himself, chose to inspect his vessel one last time to make sure that every member of his crew made it to the relative safety of life rafts while his vessel, the Resplendent, sank below the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Part of the 26-man crew, while sitting outside the Welwitschia Hospital in Walvis Bay, described how one of the officers gave Skipper Gordon a life jacket and how their captain entered the bottom of the wheelhouse through one of the deck doors to make sure that every last man was safely off the sinking ship.
“We saw the door slam shut and moments later the vessel went down. That is the last time we saw the skipper,” the men said.
One crew member said he only had time to don a life jacket and that he had to swim for all his worth to reach the life rafts floating some distance away.
“It all happened so very fast. We heard the alarm and started going through the safety drills but by that time we were already up to our knees in the water. We rushed up the stairs to the main deck and we only had time to put on our life jackets. When we got to the deck it was already listing very badly to one side. Then the ship suddenly started rolling and the next moment the stern went underwater and we were slipping off the deck into the sea. We swam hard to get away from the vessel because we were afraid that we would be sucked under the water by the sinking ship,” said one man who was working in the factory part of the ship when the ordeal started.
The crew did not have enough time to put on all the necessary safety gear and they only managed to deploy two of the life rafts manually. The other life rafts deployed automatically when the ship went underwater.
The first mate got injured when one of the life rafts – still in its container – fell on him while the crew were deploying it.
The flailing crew members were picked up from the sea by others who made it to the life rafts. The Resplendent crew were all rescued by the crews of the Fisher Bank and two other vessels, the Begonia and the Victory that rushed to the spot where the disaster was busy unfolding.
It was initially believed that the Resplendent sank because of hull plate that sprang loose, but as the rescued crew of the stricken ship regrouped on the deck of Fisher Bank, they heard from the engineer that a pipe that is used to pump seawater into the factory part of the vessel burst which filled the engine room with water.
The Resplendent was in the process of “up trolling” her net (winching the trawl net back on board) when the water burst into the engine room. The sudden shift of weight in the boat forced its stern underwater and more of the sea entered the winch room below the main deck through the cable ports. The added weight of the trawl net pulled the vessel under in less than five minutes.
The Ministry of Works and Transport in an official statement said the official search for Skipper Gordon has been called off earlier this afternoon.
“Unfortunately he has not been located and it is feared that he has gone down with the vessel. Navigational warnings issued to vessels in the vicinity to report any sightings of the lost skipper’s body will remain in place,” the statement reads.
According to the statement a special team, made up of a Master Mariner, a retired skipper and two government marine surveyors, has been assembled to conduct a thorough investigation into the tragic incident. The investigation will start on Thursday and the final report is expected on 20 March 2020.
“According to international customary maritime law, ship captains must follow principles of prudent seamanship – which means taking responsibility for the safety of others on board before their own. This is exactly what Skipper Gordon did. He joins a distinguished list of ship captains, who in the face of imminent and grave danger to themselves, chose to be the last one off, if not the only one to go down with the ship.”
According to the ministry Skipper Gordon’s displayed exemplary seamanship and performed an exceptional act of bravery.