The Truth About Lead

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
This short story is designed to catch a child's imagination yet also teach some facts about many things. Based on several true stories it is short-just ten pages- so is ideal for those who loose interest quickly.
It deals with the loss, and finding of buried treasure using science, space but above all bravery and teamwork.

Submitted: February 23, 2017

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Submitted: February 23, 2017

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The Truth About Lead

 

Just last week.  The wind which had started off the United States of America had gained in force over the last four thousand miles.  It had gone from a slight swell buoyed by the Atlantic currents, deep, cold and almost black till its wave heights increased to over 12 metres.  As tall as a house the waves continued in their relentless quest to smash into all before it, driven by the increasing wind.

A long time ago.  It was in August 1588 when Count Domingo Montoya met his match.  An experienced sailor, who had chased the British Pirate, Drake, over many seas he knew how hard the sea could be.  Some seas had been crystal blue and you could see down, down, into the inky darkness where only sharks lived.  In those days the sun had been good and his brother had stayed to set up a colony in the America’s on behalf of King Philip of Spain. 

But today was not good.  They had set sail from the Port of Cadiz three weeks before with two thousand sailing ships escorted by the largest fighting Armada the world had ever seen.  Priests had prayed and assured them they were sailing to victory and all the invasion force had to do was touch England and they would run upon looking at the vast army arrayed before them.  That had not worked.  The Bay of Biscay had produced a smashing, lashing wind that toppled the overweight Galleons.  Masts and sails were lost; ships became top heavy and overturned.  Sailors, who strangely could not swim, floundered and drowned in their hundreds.  Many families in Spain would never know the fate of their husbands, lovers, and sons.  Some sailors, the powder monkeys, who were only seven years old drowned in the inside of the war ships without being able to get out.

The Count thought himself lucky till they sighted England and roved up the coast looking for a place to land their troops.  At every harbour, they were stopped by the English Navy who had blocked even the smallest harbour.  Fire ships seemed to lay in wait at every anchorage.  The whole affair was giving the Count a bad feeling.  As his squadron of twenty ships turned around Plymouth head the wind came in from the west and shoreline.  It was not the wind that made him look up, it was the thirty small English ships being led by a smooth running ship bearing a running female deer on its front.  This ship was known to all, it was The Golden Hind, commanded by the privateer Francis Drake.

As the Count looked he rubbed his eyes and realised it was because there was smoke in the wind.  Where had this come from he started to ask himself?  His vision was slightly obscured by his sister ship to his port.  Then he realised Drakes plan.  It was simple as it was effective.  Use the wind to give the British speed and at the last moment turn and allow the burning fire ships that were following behind to smash into the large, slow Spanish Armada.  Then the British ships would dart in and out like wasps stinging an annoying child.  Count Domingo shouted to turn but he was too late for as his ship slowly turned his sister ship had already started her manoeuvre earlier and collided with the Counts ship.  That was all that was needed to send the over balanced ship beneath the waves into a blue dark hole.  The Count and many others tried to get off the ship but none survived and in that wreck died the hopes of a Spanish Invasion of England.  Lost was the hope of changing a countries religion.  Lost was the chance to change a countries language.  Also lost was the 200 million in gold that the ship carried, for the Count was the paymaster for the entire expedition.  The blanket of mud soon covered the galleon and none came to look or grieve for the sailors and children.

One month ago.  The scientific package in the nose of the rocket launch platform worked perfectly.  Some seventy seven thousand miles above the earth’s surface the launch pod to the rocket came loose and almost immediately started to scan downwards.

Designed to look into the sea to map coast lines it was soon found that the reflection gave not just rock but everything else as a reflection.  On only its twenty fifth orbit over the North Pole the satellite spotted the remains of an expedition which had last been seen in 1845.

Over the Plymouth sound the radar picked up many reflections.  Some were clear showing a sandy bottom.  HMS Scylla showed in all her sunken glory and allowed the Admiralty to quietly smile at their investment in this technology.  Only a middle aged Commander looked at the smudges around the sound and wondered what they were.  By the time he has seen six worldwide sweeps he thought he had an idea and he penned a note to the Admiral of the Fleet.

Two weeks ago.  The young diver leading the Royal Marine Fleet Dive Team was still trying to work out why he was sat in a secret conference room in Portsmouth that was usually reserved for visiting admirals of other navies. In walked an Aide to the Admiral of the Fleet.

“Are you Lt Thomas – Fleet Dive Team?  Said the well-dressed young officer.

“Yes, what’s this all about”?  that had started as a question and come out as a plea almost for clemency.  The Fleet Dive Team was known for doing things not quite by the book.  They took in people who could dive or show the ability to dive.  It was not a requirement to have a good education – that all came later.  You had to be young, fit and willing to try anything.  Before the young officer had a chance to reply the Admiral of the Fleet came in, bedecked with gold braid, medals and ribbons showing he had taken part in some serious operations.

The Admiral started “Right Thomas, all your bokes ready to go”.  Thomas was about to ask, what, where, when, why and how but the admiral just ignored him in a way that people in authority can do.  The admiral rolled out a chart and had a small piece of paper with some co-ordinates on it.  “Get your team to here”- he pointed, jabbing a short stubby finger at the place on the map.  “A satellite has shown something here, we don’t know what it is.  It may be a Russian drone dropped in to monitor the ships going in or out.  It might be some old World War Two junk dropped over the side at the end of the war.” 

“However” he paused “we don’t know what it is and we need to know, we don’t like mysteries, not less than a mile away from our nuclear submarine pens, get my drift boy – sort it.  Shall we say by, hmmm, next week?”

“Yes Sir” came the slightly relieved reply.  Standard 50 metre dive, no problem at all.

 

The week went by and at 0430hrs on the Wednesday when the tide was at its lowest Thomas and his two pairs of divers went to work.  They had criss-crossed the area and got several hits from sonar off the object.  Some large chunks of metal appeared to give a good sonar echo as well.  They all kitted up taking a great deal of care to get this right.  The boat coxswain had dropped a lead shot onto the object which seemed to be stuck fast.  The team all went in as one and divided into two groups.

Thomas signalled OK to dive and he and Smith, a young naval diver of 18 years of age dropped down.  Metre after metre they covered.  Slowly dropping into the black muck of space.  Feeling the pressure build, through their suits, as they went deeper till they were at fifty metres.  Here, it was cold, dark, lonely and the only thing you could rely on was your mate.  As they approached the bottom they could see the swirl of mud kicked up by the shot weight.  Both Thomas and Smith looked hard and realised the shot was not on the sandy bottom floor, it had penetrated something.  The big question was what?

They looked at each other.  Smith made the motion with his hands of the front of a boat and Thomas nodded his head.  Now Thomas took the lead, pulling at the planks which gave way immediately. The depth below could be seen just before the visibility turned into nothing.  Thomas inwardly shouted at himself.  They had gone from a visibility of five metres to nil in seconds.  Yet, almost as quickly the mist started to clear as the water pushed it away.  Smith could now see into the hatchway and Thomas motioned for him to go first.  They connected to each other by a tape just in case the lack of visibility returned.

Smith dropped in to look quickly around.  His high powered torch lit, a crab, pincers extended as it scurried away sideways only to be replaced by a lobster so large that it did not move away, even when the beam was shone on its red and brown armoured shell.  The lobster started to move towards Smith.  Smith, it can be said, was unhappy about this as the lobsters pincers could cut his dry suit covering him and allow water in.  That would cause a lot of problems and may result in a long time in hospital.

Smith moved side-ways and fell in an awkward pose through the water.  As he lay there on the floor he made sure his mask was Ok, breathing OK and then he saw a box that was rotted open and in it were lots of lead and brass washers covered in weed and underwater moss.  He grabbed at some to examine them and found they were heavy, very heavy.  That’s unusual he thought and decided to open a capture bag.  This two metre long fine mesh bag allows divers to keep things of interest.  That Smith could only put 10 into the bag was a real surprise due to the weight of the bag.  It was then his training kicked in and he realised he had not looked at his air gauge for some time.  He did so now and got a shock.  He had used up more than he should.  He said to himself, dive over, get out, go home, go to pub.

As he emerged back into the open sea he was met by an anxious looking Thomas who grabbed at Smith’s air control.  Having read it for a millisecond he looked Smith in the eye and gently tapped the side of his head.  The motion was clear, Smith had fouled up.  Whilst Smith had been inside the wreck Thomas had been re organising the shot and it was all ready to go. Smith tied his goody bag onto the shot and Thomas gently inflated the lifting bag attached to the shot.  This plastic bag would allow the dive team to pull it up with ease once all the divers had returned.

They started to ascend as fast as they could, as safely as they could, yet still they were being buffeted around by the waves.  Clearly a storm was brewing.  As they reached the six metre point Thomas did some calculations and realised they would have to stay here at six metres for nine minutes.  Looking at their air, both divers would find this a struggle.  To not do this would mean a trip to the hospital and leaving the team.  From looking at the depth computers this showed six metres one second and then changed to ten metres and then three metres.  Both divers looked at each other realising that this was going to be “Sporty”.  The waves were now running at seven metres high.  That’s as high as a house Thomas thought whilst Smith consoled himself that he had left the lead ingots attached to the bottom shot.  It would have been far too much to have taken them up as well.  The minutes ticked past with both divers hanging on the rope being smashed into each other.  At one stage Smith bumped into Thomas and pulled his breathing regulator out of his mouth.  Thomas stopped breathing and grabbed at the swinging regulator re -inserting it into his mouth.  He breathed out hoping that there was no water inside the breathing tube to make him splutter or even cause him to drown.  And still the minutes seemed to drag on.

The last minute came and went along with it, the last of their air.  They broke surface together to be met by whit topped waves crashing down on them.  They held on to each other.  They both looked for the dive boat.  It could not be seen.

One hour before.  The dive boat deployed the divers and then moved away from the area.  The shot line had a buoy on it and in the gradually improving light it could be seen.  As the boat moved around the head of Plymouth Sound they felt the full force of the wind start to smash them sideways.  The coxswain, an experienced sailor from a long line of sailors many of whom had come from Plymouth, looked at the horizon realising that the white horses made by the large waves curling over were coming up the Sound a lot more quickly than expected.  Over the next hour the little boat was tossed up and down.  The only good news was that one pair of divers had come back after twenty minutes with the report of “It’s an old wooden ship with some canon on it”.  That was all that was needed but still the other team did not appear.  The coxswain looked again at the dive times and in his mind he worked out they could be gone for over an hour.  He looked about and realised that in a little over an hour the waves would be crashing over his boat and they may get submerged.

The coxswain spent the next fifty minutes ploughing up and down waves that were as big as the boat.  The two divers and a first aid man were all being gloriously sick inside the small boat as to lean over was to sign your death warrant.  And still no sign of the two divers.  The coxswain prepared to make the radio call to alert the Coastguard of his concerns.  Knowing the helicopter would always come out yet he also knew that a successful rescue in up to ten metre waves would be almost impossible.

As the clock turned into one hour three minutes dive time one of the diver lookouts shouted and pointed.  A small flashing light was winking at them from the buoy.  It was only visible for a second and then gone under the crashing waves carrying huge strength.  Strong enough to throw a car off a road, a train off its tracks and even an unmoored boat onto dry land.  The weather was just getting worse.  The one hour fifteen minutes was nearly up.  The coxswain drove the boat towards the divers and shouted his instructions to the crew who looked at him in amazement.

Both Thomas and Smith were really not well.  The smashing of the waves was pushing them back under the waves.  The weight of equipment at over 40 Kgs had made them sit on the water line not above it so they were not being propelled by the wind.  Holding on to each other meant they could look at their underwater watches, each on their right arm.  Seconds drifted by and every seventh wave was a really heavy with power gained on its journey across the sea from the United States.  They had both dropped their weights from their kit and lit their emergency flashing beacons.  The seconds continued into the minutes they wondered where the boat was.

Neither could speak to each other as they were both nearing the final stages of exhaustion where one would slip off into the water and be dragged down never to come up again. 

Then as Smith thought it was all over both he and Thomas saw the bright red dive boat skimming in between the furrow of the waves.  It was going at tremendous speed and there was no way it would slow down in time to pick them up.  It was clear that the coxswain had not seen them and was going to run them down in no more than five seconds.

Five seconds is a long time, one, pause, two, pause, three, pause, four, pause, five, pause.  Of course, it was not like that really as on second one, the seventh wave hit pushing them both down and allowing them to struggle up.  They did this at second four, to find the boat alongside them and positioning itself in such a way as to cause a small amount of calm beside it.  Everyone realised this was seconds of respite.  Both Thomas and Smith threw themselves against the boat side.  The procedure is that the dive kit is pulled in first.  But, that assumes you are not about to die so without further discussion they both grabbed hold of the pull ropes and kicked hard in full kit assisted by the spare divers.  Thomas hit the deck first, cracking his mouth on a plastic bucket.  He felt the heavy weight of Smith lying on top of him.  Both divers were thinking the same, just let’s get out of here.  Taking his time to assess the situation and ensure all was ship shape the coxswain decided it was time to move.

And so the coxswain reversed engines and slowly backed them away from the area.  Now, he used the seas power allowing it to push them towards the open harbour entrance.  Entering the harbour was executed at speed with waves making sucking plugholes of water which tried to grab at the boat as it skimmed over the top.  By now Smith had his gear off and Thomas was sporting a very cut lip that seemed not to want gushing blood.

Entering the inner harbour all became calm and the gear was sorted out.  Only now could they talk to each other. 

Thomas to Smith “So what inside it then”

Smith to Thomas “biggest, most aggressive lobster I have ever seen it was over a metre long and like I say, really aggressive.”

All the crew to Smith “Where is it then, boy!”

Smith, defensively, to the crew and anyone else who would listen.  “It was at 50 metres, getting low on air and I’d just fallen over, covered in silt, and I did bag some lead or brass roundels covered in grime”

Crew to Smith “OK so where’s the lead?”

Smith, dejectedly “At the bottom as I tied it to the shot line”.  

Coxswain to Smith, “What, this shot line?  Let me have a look at this lead.  I’ve got some secret potion for that you know, rots its way through anything given time, dead cheap too.  Its called” and all the crew laughed.

 

In the intervening three hours whilst the lead was being “eaten” by the soft drink that is known worldwide, diving kit was serviced put away, reports made, boat refuelled and above all a breakfast prepared in the Dive Team Galley.

As the team sat in the canteen having their third massive “brew” of tea the coxswain came in looking serious and with him was the biggest set of forms any one could remember seeing.  He stood there for what seemed an age.  It reminded them of when a contestant on a TV programme is given the boot.  Finally, he said,

"Gents, Gold, Spanish Gold, ............congratulations, £200m worth of Spanish and the Maritime Law says it all yours and Admiralty Law going back to that time agrees.  We’ve had worse days I suppose.”

“Well I suppose it’s better than finding a Russian underwater probe in the outer harbour”, said the Admiral of the Fleet later in the day.


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