The next morning, 85 miles later, American Coast Guard cutter W307 which had been following us for two nights came alongside. The captain shouted, "Heave to, and prepare to be boarded." (Heave to means to pull around into the wind and stop.)
|Coast Guard cutter Planetree overtakes us|
The master of the Planetree read out some figures and Skip obeyed "under protest." Two armed men came aboard and put Skipper--only Skipper--under arrest. They couldn't arrest Nick, because he wasn't an American citizen--and in fact, they couldn't even legally detain him (though they did). They couldn't arrest me, since I was a minor. And they could hardly arrest Amya, our current feline mascot. But they didn't arrest Mum or Ted either. They ordered us to sail to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. A Navy destroyer USS Collett appeared on the horizon to make sure we did.
Ted was on watch at 4:30 on the morning of July 3 and Mum was in the cockpit with him. Suddenly the sky lit up to the west (the direction of Bikini Island, 200 miles away) as if with a "gigantic flash bulb, oval in shape and at about five to fifteen degrees above the horizon," according to Ted. Although the explosion was not reported by our military or in American newscasts, a Japanese station announced that the United States had exploded another bomb in the Bikini test zone.
We now know the bomb was code-named "Cedar." (The date given by the military is July 2; they were probably going by Stateside dating. We happen to know it was July 3 local time!) Cedar was equal to 220 kilotons of TNT--that is, 14-18 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Of the 72 bombs exploded in Hardtack Series I, the largest was 9.3 megatons.
|USS Collett "escorts" us to Kwajalein|
The men thought we'd sailed into the test zone by accident and the Navy had assigned them to rescue us. Their jobs, replacing buoys and marine installations damaged by the tests, exposed them to considerable radiation but they assured us everything was under control: "A man can take one hundred roentgens of radioactivity per hour without harm."
"Oh?" asked Skip. "For how many hours?"
"Well, five or six anyway."
Skip pulled out his copy of Shubert and Lapp's Radiation: What It Is and How It Affects You and showed them that an over-all exposure of that much would probably be fatal.
Laflin confided that some of the men, in order to get leaves, "cheated" by putting the radiation badges issued them in their shoes instead of on their shirts. Skip pointed out that if the deck is the most radioactive place on the boat, the badges should be placed in the shoes.
By the time we reached Kwaj on the 4th of July we were lifelong friends.
|Skipper and Mum at Skipper's arraignment, Honolulu|