If you were a betting person I wonder what odds you'd give me on three sister ships catching fire & sinking as a result. To add to the odds all will have serious fire incidents during their life.
Until I started researching this article I had never contemplated a 'burning ship', except perhaps the stories of Viking funeral ships.
The Lakonia was the first sister to succumb - fire broke out aboard her exactly one month after the death of JFK on December 22, 1963. Lakonia is the ancient region of Sparta in Greece. I have followed in the wake of this first sister & she has taken me on an intriguing journey.
The next sister we come to is the rather royal MS Oranje - named for the ruling family of the Netherlands Orange & launched by Queen Wilhemina herself in 1938. Her maiden voyage began on September4, 1939 - just one day after the opening ceremony of WWII. In 1941 she was loaned to the Australian govt. & converted into a beautiful hospital ship.
"After waiting an hour or so, that grand ship of mercy, the 'Oranje' was sighted. As she came closer I held my breath in admiration. She was the loveliest & most beautifully streamlined craft I had ever seen afloat. From her masts down to her plimsoll-line, this magnificent floating hospital was painted a spotless white, reminding me of a gigantic dove. The vivid red cross on her sides could be seen for miles."
In 1964, Oranje along with her running mate, Willem Ruys, was sold to the Italian shipping company Flotta Lauro (Star Lauro). Both ships were renamed & both names interested me very much.
Oranje became the Angelina Lauro - I think it's safe to say that most people upon hearing that name will have a brief (or longer, depending on their preferences) image of the Oracle goddess Angelina Jolie. I know I did & I was curious - could there be anything to see? Well originally I found some snippets, but then let it lie. However this actress came up in conversation with a friend & shortly thereafter I watched the 1984 movie Romancing the Stone & lo & behold the movie ends with this beauty straddled across the streets of New York. (This image has been appropriated from the excellent Jake Kotze's site)
"The word "Colombia" comes from the name of Christopher Columbus... It was conceived by the revolutionary Francisco de Miranda (Miranda = She who must be admired) as a reference to all the New World."
"Some of the most common names go deep back in history when people used to name children after animals (having in mind their preferred characteristics). Thus, Colomb, Colon, Columbus, also Coulomb etc. (different variations of the same name) come from the roman/Latin word for Dove" - incase you have forgotten the quote from above about Oranje "This magnificent floating hospital was painted a spotless white, reminding me of a gigantic dove."
I returned to my contemplation of movie stars as symbolic gods & wondered about Angelina, (though not for long), because when the Oracle speaks, it's normally up to a spot of myth-making itself - "A Harpers and Queen magazine (read Oracle) compiled list has put the stunning Jolie as the most beautiful woman on Planet Earth."
How can you argue with that? Anyway added to that was the fact that I was looking at ships, albeit only three instead of the full quota of a thousand, but enough to make a leap of wondering.
So lets look at Angelina Jolie as a symbolic Helen of Troy.
The delightful Helen, delighting even herself (notice the doves!)
There was a bit more to this choice I must admit - having looked long at the Lakonia, there were many points of interest - first Lakonia being Sparta - I had not realised that the lovely Helen was actually Helen of Sparta. Then it was kind of interesting to find that Jolie's father, Jon Voight was born on December 29, the day the sacrificial hull of Lakonia sank.
Prior to the birth of her twins a curious story was announced by the Oracle - "Angelina Jolie Wants to Name Her Twins Castor and Pollux" - the reasoning apparently being that she is a Gemini. Anyone open to a little more thought than what's available in the tabloids (etymology = "1884, "small tablet of medicine... for compressed or concentrated chemicals and drugs") might be interested to know that Castor & Pollux are the brothers of Helen of Sparta. The circumstances of her conception are a little on the more creative side & would certainly result in criminal charges or psychiatric evaluation, these days.
"Her mother was the beautiful Leda, queen of Sparta, who was ravished by the father of the gods (Zeus) in the form of a swan" - guys don't try this at home, besides if the wind changes you might stay that way.
The story does not stop there however "Leda's husband was Tyndarecus, who later the same night, unaware of his feathered predecessor, also impregnated his wife. She produced two eggs, one of which yielded Helen and Polydeuces (Pollux) and the other of which contained Castor and Clytemnestra."
There is another tale that Zeus mated with the goddess Nemesis, Nemesis being none too pleased at being jumped by a bird, abandoned the egg but it was hatched? & raised by Leda & Thyndarecus. However the Leda & Swan story seems to rate most popular in the art world.
Regarding her name, wiki states "Helen is derived from the Greek ‘ελενη or Helene, meaning "torch" or "corposant." For anyone as ignorant as I was, a corposant is an electrical discharge accompanied by ionization of surrounding atmosphere - another name is 'St Elmo's Fire' - "a visible and sometimes audible electric discharge projecting from a pointed object, such as the mast of a ship or the wing of an airplane, during an electrical storm...the electrons have enough energy to ionize atoms in the air and cause them to glow... It is named after St. Elmo, the patron saint of mariners, as the phenomenon was often observed by sailors during thunderstorms at sea."
Tying Helen very nicely again to ships, in particular 'fiery ships'.
So the Oranje's new incarnation was as the Angelina Lauro & as such she sailed to Genoa (O Ange) in 1964 for a make-over. As the incarnation proceeded, disaster occurred - on 24th August, fire broke & six people were killed. (In Roman times, 24th August was one of three days in the year when a pit that was thought to lead to the underworld was opened so that "spirits of the blessed dead were able to commune with the living."). It wasn't until 6 March, 1966 that Angelina Lauro departed on her maiden voyage.
Returning to the theme of Helen , I came upon some interesting quotes.
"Helen of Sparta was perhaps the most inspired character in all literature, ancient or modern. A whole war, one which lasted for ten years, was fought over her."
"She has become a symbol of man's erotic desires & of all the varied moods of womanhood. The ancient myth that forever associates her with beauty & the Trojan War."
Funnily enough I wrote the following sentence before I had typed the latter quote - For myself she has meant two things - 'beauty' & 'Troy'.
I think the following quotes give us a glimmer of the importance of this character -
"Her story is one that is intricately intertwined with many of the Greek gods & goddesses."
"It is as though this event was in the destiny of every dynasty formed from the beginning of things."
Earlier as I was typing I mis-spelled story & found (s)troy looking back at me. Looking now I also see the twin-like appearance of the words destiny & dynasty. Again as I research & play with ideas I keep getting a feeling of historical reruns - change the characters a bit, mix up the scenery, tweak the names a little, but running behind it all are very strong threads weaving oh so familiar themes. One thing that bugs me is how bloody awful these Greek & Roman myths are - they have never inspired me, I could use a few choice words to describe my irritation at the endless, callous interference of the 'gods'.
The story of Helen was no exception, she was a mere pawn or puppet in a pre-written play. Three goddesses have a tiff about who is the fairest & hey presto the lives of tens of thousands are scuttled. I wrote previously about the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI & how I felt it was a re-enactment of 'Troy' - I stand by that now more than ever - but I have to add here ' For the love of all we hold dear, what is the point?'
Returning to Helen/Angelina we find that our modern (that means all new, never seen before - yeah right) 'beauty' has traded in Paris for Achilles.
In the old version of the story Paris forsakes his wife to be with Helen, the modern version has Brad Pitt /Achilles in the same role. Actually one of the stories about Helen after the closing ceremony of Troy, was that she married Achilles.
A long time ago, I watched a programme on TV, it may have been an episode from the Twilight Zone, I don't recall, but the story stayed with me. It was set in a a courtroom , I believe someone was charged with murder. My memory may be a bit off here but I seem to recall that when the accused was found guilty, the story ended, then a moment later the whole thing would be repeated, only this time the characters had all changed positions, this time it might be the judge who was the accused & so on, round & round the scene went - I do so wonder sometimes if that's not the plot of this thing we call life.
Anyway enough surmising, on with the show (or rerun).
Now we move to 1979. I have previously written that I believed this year was significant. My attention was drawn there initially when I wrote about the AIR New Zealand DC10 that crashed into Mt Erebus (entrance to Hades), in Antarctica that year, killing everyone outright. Sir Edmund Hillary was meant to have been the commentator for that scenic flight as he had been previously, but the Titan was replaced by his friend. I was contemplating 1979 recently when I had the urge to do a little math play (a very rare urge I might add) - I wondered how many years there were between 1979 & 2012 - wow looky there - that magic number 33.
For the last few years of her life the Angelina Lauro was leased to Costa Lines & as their custom was to use Christian names she became simply Angelina.
On 30th March, 1979 while she was berthed at St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands, fire broke out (again) in the crew galley. (Thanks here to Aferrismoon - I went to check out something else on his site, when the first line of his new article leaped off the page -"THOMAS comes from Thaumim [hebrew] meaning TWINS." - taking us right back to Castor & Pollux - Helen's brothers. Another 'Thomas' who appeared in my research was Diane Thomas, a Malibu waitress who wrote the screenplay for Romancing the Stone. She died in a car crash shortly after that film's release.
"The fire aboard Angelina spread very quickly & was soon out of control. Most crew & passengers were ashore at the time & all others were evacuated safely. It took four days to put out the fire & the Angelina ended sitting on the shallow harbour bottom."
The Angelina lay in state for 3 months. Eventually a selvage contract was awarded & she was re floated on 2 July - "the middle day of a non-leap year, because there are 182 days before and 182 days after." On July 30 she departed under tow for a Taiwanese ship breakers & although she made it most of the way, her hull began to give way when she reached the Pacific & on 24th September she sank just before sunrise.
If you asked me what we're looking at I can't tell you, three ships somehow connecting with events (at least to me) - echoing a re-enactment of what is supposed to be long dead history.
So last but not least we come to the third sister (although both her incarnations have a male title.) Firstly 'she' was the Willem Ruys. Building began in 1939, but was delayed due to the War & she was not launched until 1946. Immediately of interest is the fact that the date of her maiden voyage in 1947, December 2, was also the date she sank 47 years later. Also of interest is that the Angelina, in her previous incarnation as Oranje collided with the Willem Ruys in the Red Sea in 1953 - I did have fun imagining the colour scheme. So in 1964 Oranje became the Angelina Lauro, while the Willem Ruys became the Achille Lauro - please tell me you remember this ship - so sure was I that everyone would instantly remember this ship that I assured my son I could mention it to anyone of a reasonable age & it would be instantly recognised. I felt a right prat to find blank faces staring back at me a few days ago, when I mentioned the name at my martial arts class. All was not lost however when the Israeli woman I swap wrist locks with talked of how as a child she had spent many weekends on the Angelina Lauro when it was in port (her father was in shipping). Apparently it had a wonderful aviary & she had been distraught to think of the birds when the ship had burnt - I can only hope they were rescued as certainly everyone managed to get off in time - what a small world isn't it?
The Achille Lauro could be called an unlucky ship. "This ship really did not have the most pleasant career. She is best known for having been hijacked by the Palestine Liberation Front, ... And constantly plagued with fire's..."
As befitting a new name & incarnation, the Achille Lauro underwent her own make over. However, as with her sister, Angelina " the vessel suffered an explosion and a resulting fire on August 29, and work was thereby much delayed.
"on May 19, 1972 the ship was badly damaged by fire during an overhaul at Genoa. It took five months before Achille Lauro could enter service again."
"On April 28, 1975 she accidentally rammed the small Lebanese cattle carrier Youssef in the Dardanelles. The accident resulted in one human casualty."
"The next serious accident happened in 1981, when the ship suffered yet another fire." A book I have on shipping accidents claims that two passengers died trying to escape.
Then in 1985 came the 2 day hijacking by the Palestine Liberation Front. I certainly remembered this & for one reason alone, the murder of the wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer & to be honest now that I have come to think of it, not even so much for his murder, as awful as that is, but to the aftermath - the throwing of his body & wheelchair into the sea. For some strange reason this bothers me more - sorry maybe that doesn't sound quite right. It is most shocking to think of someone being executed, let alone while sitting in a wheelchair, but it was the dramatic over-kill that has always stayed with me. 1985 was the year that the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was bombed here in NZ, in Auckland Harbour. When I wrote about that it was the over-kill of that happening that made me see it as something else - a satanic ritual (remembering that the French code-name for that operation was Operation Satanic.)
So I cannot help but think along the same lines with sacrifice of this man. We are given the story that he was executed because he was a Jew. Maybe that was it, but looking back into time, with a curious mind, the whole event seems to wrap itself around that one event, as if once that was completed the show was over & the cast quickly left the stage.
Looking at that event we see a man named for the sun - Leon Klinghoffer. I know I have read of wheelchairs as chariots (Aferrismoon, maybe others, possibly also as a solar barque so apologies if I'm not giving credit here) & I couldn't help but feel that something very ritualistic occured with that death & the symbolic casting of the body & 'chariot' into the sea (I was reminded of another 'falling man' who was displayed by the Oracle on 10 Sept, 2001).
Looking Greekwise for a solar myth we find Helios who "drove the chariot of the sun across the sky each day to earth-circling Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night... As time passed, Helios was increasingly identified with the god of light, Apollo."
On 30 November, 1994 while sailing in the Indian Ocean, yet another fire broke out. This time the fire was devastating & the ship was evacuated, although it seems two people died during the transfer of passengers to a rescue ship. The ship burned for 3 days before sinking on 2 December, the same day she was launched back in 1947.
So there you have it, a strange tale of burning ships - three sister from the Netherlands, who seem to me to link with myths from (apparently) long ago. The Lakonia who seemed to whisper to me that JFK was a symbol of the sun god & Oracle magnate, Apollo & then Angelina & Brad, oops sorry Achilles - ships that crashed in the night (actually I think it was daytime). I have for sometime now considered that ships are somehow messengers & myths themselves - with great tales to tell if we could but understand. This has been an amatuers attempt to see what that might be.