by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
Critically damaged and rocking in the clutches of a powerful storm surge in the Pacific, the situation looked grim for the crew of Ocean Pioneer 3.
The modern tanker had been designed to cope with every conceivable form of emergency situation the ocean could throw at it, but such was the severity of the storm that many of its revolutionary safety features were rendered useless. Battered by waves the size of buildings and struck by deadly lightning bolts, Ocean Pioneer 3 lost maneuvering power and barely had enough emergency reserves to send out a distress call.
Within moments of the call coming through, John Tracy routed the vital details from Thunderbird 5 to International Rescue’s secret base. With the speed and efficiency of a well oiled machine, the heroes of the organisation blasted off in their fabulous Thunderbird machines, streaking towards the perils of the raging storm and the helpless tanker caught in its midst.
Arriving at the danger zone in Thunderbird 1, Scott Tracy assessed the situation with a cool head. Determining that Ocean Pioneer was rocking too much to allow him to land on the deck, he set the craft’s auxiliary stabilisers to full power and adopted a hover position with a vantage point over the stricken ship. Contacting the crew, Scott learned they were shaken, but physically okay. However, the same could not be said for their vessel. The damaged hull had cracked under the intense stress of the powerful waves and Ocean Pioneer was taking on water fast.
Thunderbird 2 arrived moments later and lowered Pod 4 into the sea a safe distance from the rocking ship. The hatch swung open and Thunderbird 4 blasted down the rails, with Gordon Tracy at the controls. Close behind came another craft, code-named the Whale, which followed Thunderbird 4 into the sea under the expert control of Tin-Tin.
The yellow mini-submersible and the bright orange rescue bathyscaphe submerged and proceeded towards Ocean Pioneer to access the extent of the damage below the waterline. Scanning the structure with his hi-tech instruments, Gordon radioed details of a large crack in the hull, spanning several of the watertight compartments throughout the ship. At the controls of Thunderbird 1, Scott quickly formulated a plan of action. In order to evacuate the three crew members from the ship, the vessel would need to be stabilised and fast. He spoke rapidly into the radio, issuing orders to Gordon and Tin-Tin.
Wasting no time, Gordon deployed the magnetic grabs on Thunderbird 4 and moved towards the hull of the ship, which was still rocking violently. Timing his maneuver to a critical fraction of a second, he applied just the right amount of thrust and the magnets pulled his craft against the tanker’s side with a jolt that shook Gordon’s bones. Clamped in position, Gordon fired up the heavy-duty laser and using it as a welding torch, began to seal the cracks in the ship’s hull.
Meanwhile, Tin-Tin took the Whale in close beside Thunderbird 4. Using targeting information from both craft, Tin-Tin fired a thick flexible tube-like apparatus, which attached to the Ocean Pioneer with a clang. Knowing that the cutting gear at the end of the tube had already penetrated the hull, Tin-Tin activated the foam pump and in seconds the miraculous invention was flowing along the tube and into the ship. Once it made contact with the water inside the ship, the foam began to react and expand rapidly, forcing the water out of the remaining crack in the hull just as Gordon finished sealing it.
Detecting feedback on the pump system, Tin-Tin shut off the flow, detached the tube and retracted it back into the Whale’s equipment hatch. With the majority of the water now removed and the crack in the hull repaired, Ocean Pioneer 3 recovered some of its stability and Scott gave the order for the evacuation to begin. Lowering the rescue capsule from Thunderbird 2, Virgil expertly brought the freighter craft into position over the huge vessel.
Scott radioed the crew to move into the capsule and seal the doors. Skidding across the slippery deck, the three members of the crew leapt for the safety of the rescue capsule, slamming the hatch behind them. Virgil reeled them into Thunderbird 2’s lower deck and made ready to collect the Pod, which Gordon and Tin-Tin had returned to safely. Having retrieved the Pod, Thunderbird 2 left the danger zone, while Thunderbird 1 remained behind to keep an eye on the tanker until the storm passed and recovery vessels could tow it back to port.