Down to the Bottom of the Bering Sea

I moved down the corridor with a purpose. Don stopped at his cabin door. I turned back to him with a snap.

“Where are you going?” I demanded the things I had unloaded from my ditty bag almost scattering.

“What do you mean?” Don said, in surprise. I looked him up and down.

“Get your coat and gloves. I’ve got to go down there with Dutch. I need somebody on the dive boat who I can trust, and that’s you.” I stuck him hard in the chest with my extended index finger. He jumped back under my forceful touch.

“Me? I’m not a diver,” he stated, but his voice was weak. I turned and headed for the dive locker.

“C’mon, and haul out the keys for the clinic. We need some supplies.”

The clinic was locked, as usual. Don opened the door and then stood back so I could enter.  I examined some small brass doors I’d seen, welded to the bulkhead, on our last visit. One of the doors was painted with ‘narcotics’ on the outside in small black letters.

“Key,” I held out my hand. Don’s hand with the keys in it retreated back to his chest.

“You can’t just go in there and take what you want. All that stuff is counted and controlled.”

I continued to hold out my hand until Don relented, which did not take long. I pulled out ampoules of morphine. 10 milligrams was stenciled on the side of each clear glass container. I sloshed the yellowish liquid around. I popped four ampoules into my pocket then pulled out some syringes. They went into my pocket too.

“Just in case,” was all I volunteered. I tossed the keys back to him as I headed out. “Write a note, then lock up,” I threw over my shoulder.

Dutch was already suited up when I got to the locker. “What do you have on underneath?” I asked, examining the remaining dry suit for fit. It was too big but it would do. “Pants, shirt and two sweaters,” he said. I approved.

“Where are the Navy Dive Tables?” I said and then proceeded with my pre-dive check.

“Dive tables? We don’t have any, Dutch answered. I just stopped and looked at him.

“Dive computer?” I said, my voice rising.

“Nope,” he replied, flatly.

“Damn,” I sighed.

“We don’t ever go deep,” Dutch said, “we only dive in the tropics. We go maybe twenty feet down on the reefs.” I suited up without further comment. I checked my tank to make sure that the gauge said 3000, and then hunted around for a pony bottle.

“No bailout bottles either?” Dutch frowned down at me.

Bailout bottle

Bailout Bottle

“What’s a bailout bottle?” I had expected the question. A bailout bottle was a very small bottle of compressed air with its own little regulator. If worse came to worse, you could get to the surface on just the pony bottle alone. No modern diver dived without one anymore. This was not going to be anything, more or less, than a risky venture out into a deadly cold sea. I decided that we would go out, dive down, find nothing, and then get the hell out of the water. Screw Borman and the anchor.

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