Did you know that we’ve only explored less than five percent of the ocean? Me neither. It covers most of our planet yet we’re more interested in going off to space. I guess that’s why it took us so long to notice it.
A Chilean research vessel went missing in the South Pacific Ocean one hundred kilometres from Antarctica a few months back. The Chileans had no luck finding the ship and asked the U.S. for help. The Americans decided to test out their latest technology: a fleet of amphibious underwater drones. They combed the seafloor for days and found nothing. What they, or should I say me, did find was unexpected.
I’m Amy, part of the U.S. Navy search team. I was one of the drone pilots that day and helped review the sonar images.
The monotony had set in on the fifth day, all of the images blurring into one. Clicking through the next screen I gave it another try. I could sort of make out the faint outline of an arc. Blinking, I stared again and decided my eyes were telling the truth.
Long story short, I combined a few images together and found the perimeter of a circle, about a hundred metres across and three thousand metres deep.
‘Amy!’ a gruff voice shouted, startling me. The wise face attached to the voice peered into the cabin.
‘It’s about to start.’
‘Coming sir’ I replied, my feet clanking on the steel steps. I arrived at the bridge and found myself the subject of applause. ‘Gruff voice’, also known as Captain Rogers of the USS Leesburg, shook my hand.
‘Would you like to do the honours Amy? It’s nearly time.’
‘Sure thing Captain’ I said with some apprehension. I about to start the biggest underwater recovery mission ever.
The ‘pizza’ as we call it, for want of a better word, is divided into thirty two pieces. The scientists tell me it was covered in an exotic reef which had to be removed, but that’s the price of progress. It’s too deep for a proper look, so no one knows what it actually is. Theories range from a spacecraft to a giant shield. I personally think it’s an ancient ruin, maybe a sundial. Someone high up must think it’s important to go to this much trouble to retrieve it.
The boffins estimate each slice weighs 15,000 tons plus 300 atmospheres of sea on top. As you can imagine it’s not exactly a small task. We had to assemble two large floating cranes next to the pizza, destroying some exotic coral reefs in the process. I know that’s not ideal, but it’s the price of progress.
It’s almost like the pizza was meant to be found, because each slice had holes which the drones could hook the cranes up to.
The buzz of the radio brought me back to reality. ‘All teams ready Captain. Over.’
Peering out from the bridge I could see a calm day. The blue water was still and the sky clear, with the wind whistling. Two orange towers loomed in the distance, surrounded by a flotilla. My superiors hadn’t been keen to share what I found, but I had no doubt that our find was of interest to other countries.
Captain Rogers glanced sideways at me. ‘It’s all yours.’
I flicked the red switch before me. A siren blared letting everyone know that it was all systems go, followed by the rattle of chains and groan of engines. The cranes strained with every inch but slowly and surely they made progress. Nervous chatter filled the air as the bridge waited.
‘2000 metres’ announced the Captain.
‘Been waiting months for this’ Petty Officer Ryan said to me, smiling.
‘You know I have’ I laughed back.
The drones were still deployed at the seabed so we had a visual in theory. In reality there was too much debris and silt moving around you couldn’t make out anything interesting.
‘500 met-.’ A roaring boom silenced everyone.
Something wasn’t right.
The nearest crane was surrounded by a plume of smoke.
‘What’s going on?’ Captain Rogers barked.
Before anyone could answer the crane swayed and toppled towards the Leesburg.