"..a bardy view!"

Captain Cook and the USS Guardian…

USS_GuardianIn 1770 Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour grounded on the
unchartered waters of the Great Barrier Reef and got stuck.

Through exceptional seamanship he lightened his load and with a severely
damaged hull was able to free his ship, and nurse her towards a safe harbour
for repairs.

He had no state of the art navigation, no electronic devices, no
sea-bed imaging and no satellite communication.

On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian, a 223ft minesweeper,
costing $277 million, commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, ran aground on the
Tubbataha Reef, in the Philippines.

Launched in December 1989, she is only 22 years old. TheTubbataha Reef was declared a world heritage site in 1993 – 20 years before the
minesweeper swept into it.

USS Guardian has been sitting on the reef for ten weeks. In
that time incalculable damage to this fragile eco-system has been done. It’s a
little known story. After all, the USA doesn't like broadcasting sensitive matters such as this, and if they do, they will dress it up as an

In the last ten weeks her crew was rescued, and no less than three
US ships were deployed to the area – the destroyer USS Mustin, the survey ship
USNS Bowditch, and the salvage ship USNS Salvor, as well as an array of
Philippine vessels such as tug boats and coast guard ships. Guardian has been
cut into sections for salvage, effectively sliced piece by piece on site,
having been decommissioned by the US Government, who apologised for the
accident, blaming it on faulty maps.

Faulty maps. At a stroke they have written off $277m,
and the cost of breaking it up is probably just as much. The Philippines
government is seeking compensation, which could run into several millions of dollars, yet not likely to be realised. Compensation
is a euphemism for culpability, so admission of guilt is unlikely.

is also a euphemism for incompetence.  Cook didn’t have any maps, indeed he made
them as he went along, so quite what he would think of his 21st century successors probably isn’t printable. Americans are not renowned for
their sense of direction, but they are very well known for giving awards and
medals. The decommissioning ceremony of USS Guardian to commemorate 23 years of
service to the Navy was held in Japan only last March 6th.

The 79 crewmembers rescued from the grounding, “signified the end of an era and to honour the
legacy that Guardian has left behind."
Unfortunately the object of their
praise was stuck on the Tubataha Reef at the time. "We performed heroically"
said Rear Admiral Jefffrey A. Harley, the commander of Amphibious Force U.S
Seventh Fleet  “It’s Sailors like you who
made success possible. The hard work behind the scenes, your inspiring
confidence, espirit de corps and your pride in your ship did not go

This is how to turn a disaster into an achievement.

So it's goodbye
to the USS Guardian, which is unceremoniously broken up by the salvage vultures of
this world, and whose superiors sentimentally lament her passing, offer
commendations to her crew, and abundently bestow her virtues.

The fact is seamanship was
sorely lacking, and in this century “faulty maps” are a poor
excuse. Meanwhile Guardian’s commander and her
crew have taken over another ship – the
USS Warrior
– lets hope they have some decent navigation equipment this time. 

Captain James Cook, after his troublesome voyage, eventually
met his demise in Hawaii, in 1779.

As a native thrust a knife in
his back, he was heard to utter the immortal words “Cartography. Tell the
Americans about maps, otherwise they will never know where they are”

With that final statement, he fell, comforted
in the knowledge that he did his bit.

He was 50 years old at the time, and by a
strange coincidence, Hawaii became the 50th state of the USA – 200 years later.

Perhaps Gene Roddenberry gave a nod to Captain James Cook when he created
Captain James Kirk and Star Trek? Indeed, it was Cook who set out to explore strange new
worlds and boldly go where no man had gone before.

Cook actually wrote (following
his exploration of Newfoundland in 1767) that he intended to “go farther than
any man has been before me, but as far as I think it is possible for a man to
And in August 1771 he wrote "I,
however, have made no very great discoveries, yet I have explored more of the
Great South Sea, than all that have gone before”

These are the voyages of HMS Endeavour and HMS Resolution.  

Let’s hope this post puts the debacle of the USS Guardian’s
grounding on the Tubbataha Reef in perspective. There’s always another side to
a story – there’s always another tale of the sea to tell.

Related articles

Final piece of grounded USS Guardian lifted from Philippine reef
Philippines: Salvage team completes removal of grounded US vessel in Tubataha
US Navy ship removed from Tubbataha Reef
USS Guardian removed from Philippines' Tubbataha Reef
Pics: The USS Guardian is cut to pieces from a reef in the Philippines
$300 Million Uss Guardian Navy Ship Now a Scrap Metal
Navy owes $1.5 million for damage to reef, Philippines says

April 2, 2013 - Posted by | Arts, Books, Conservation, Current Affairs, Education, History, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom, USA | , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: