Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BROKEN (12/06/18)
- TITLE: Sailor, Be Aware
By Virgil Youngblood
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Traveling by stage coach or other means would have been a significantly longer journey with other hazards. Sam Bass, a notorious outlaw, had been captured by the Texas Rangers, but other scalawags’ abounded and Indian tom-toms still thrummed. A bumpy, sweaty, jostling, shoulder-bumping journey was not the preferred way to go for passengers able to purchase a comfortable cruise.
Two days earlier a hurricane had spawned in the western Caribbean. The West Indies hurricane network didn’t become aware of it until it passed west of the isle of Jamaica. As the twister tracked northwest past the Florida coast to North Carolina the U. S. Signal Corps, tracked its progress, providing alerts.
The City of Houston encountered gale-force winds and lashing rain as they passed well east of Frying Pan shoals. A beacon-ship, anchored off the handle-end of the shifting sand bar jutting eighteen miles into the Atlantic, was dragging anchor, fighting the over one hundred miles-per-hour maelstrom.
At two in the morning on October 23rd, the Captain of the City of Houston roused the passengers from their staterooms, distributing life preservers and gave orders to prepare to abandon ship. Tumultuous seas had flooded the engine room. The vessel was sinking stern first, broadside to the towering, merciless waves crashing over them.
Praying for a miracle he delayed ordering them into the life boats. It would be sheer futility for his passengers, many whom were women and children, to row a boat toward shore in the booming waves and darkness.
The City of Houston wallowed ever lower throughout the night. When day dawned, the steamship Margaret, discovering their plight, came alongside rescuing passengers and crew.
Ten ships and seventy-one lives along the eastern seaboard were lost in that tempest.
The apostle Paul was shipwrecked off Malta in a similar tempest. Recently, four anchors were discovered which may or may not be from the ship he was on. (Acts 27: 29, 40) There are pros and cons, but Malta too, has its share of wrecked vessels.
In 1987 the scattered remains of the City of Houston was discovered off the tip of Frying Pan Shoals in 90 feet of water. It has become a popular diving site.
Since 1784 many attempts have been made to warn ships off Frying Pan Reef. There have been anchored ships with lights hoisted 40 feet into the air, and various platform lighthouse towers both manned and unmanned. Today, an anchored buoy flashes a warning beacon. The last tower is now a hotel/diving/fishing destination.
Arch Embler, on a return visit October 2011 to the Frying Pan Shoals Lighthouse tower, inscribed this note in the comment book:
As maybe the only person in this journal to have served in the Frying Pan of the Coast Guard era, it means so much to get back to this place. Not only is this a unique place in all the world, but a light also in my own life. I came here, assigned in early 1974 to this duty station as an EN3, to maintain the three diesel generators. I also came here as a 23-year-old human searching for truth and meaning. A friend from high school had a life changing experience and explained to me that he had believed in Jesus and his life had changed. I wanted to read the Bible at Frying Pan and decide for myself whether it could be true. I did. I came to the conclusion, after reading Luke and John, that God truly did communicate with humanity through the written word, and had atoned for our sins. I believed in Jesus here at Frying Pan in August 1974, and the path of my life changed. It was as if light filled every corner of my life. Because of that I went to the university I did, where I met my wife who is precious to me still after 34 years. It seems every good thing in my life today is because of the direction change made at Frying Pan, where the light penetrated the darkness.
Broken lives, like ships, litter Satan’s shoals. But if we keep our eyes on the true Lighthouse, we will never hear the cry “Abandon ship!”
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