By Chris Allen



"Crane to Seaview."

Admiral Harriman Nelson grabbed the mike from the chart table. "This is Seaview. We read you, Lee."

"We're about to enter the caves. I'm not sure how well our communications system will work once we're inside."

Nelson couldn't help the frown that crossed his face briefly. "Understood. Stay in contact as long as possible, otherwise we'll expect you back at the entrance in thirty minutes."

"Aye, sir. Acknowledged. Crane out."

Lee Crane signaled to the other divers that it was time to begin their descent into the nearest cave entrance some two hundred feet below the surface. The three men swam easily into the dark open mouth, their powerful flashlights piercing the gloomy waters of the cavern.

The floor of the cave sloped sharply downward and the divers followed the contour of the bottom until they finally reached a flat area where they could work more easily. They lost contact with the sub at that point.

It was the type of underwater assignment that Lee Crane enjoyed. He had always felt very comfortable exploring the unknown depths of the sea. He felt at home surrounded by the peacefulness of the water. The only sound he could hear was the whooshing intake of his breath and the bubbling as he breathed out again.

The three men worked together collecting the samples that the Admiral had asked for. From time to time, Crane checked his regulator to make sure he still had plenty of air. It was relaxing work, the marine samples were easily obtained and the men continued to work for another fifteen minutes. They swam deeper into the cave as the ocean floor dipped from time to time. Rock samples were added to the collection of plant life and soon the baskets were filled. Crane checked his watch again. It was time to return to Seaview.

Seeing the Skipper's signal to head back out, Chief Sharkey and Seaman Riley joined him as each picked up a basket and began their journey back to the cave entrance. They were only about a hundred yards away but they found that they were swimming against an ever increasing current and weren't making much headway. Because of the slope of the ocean floor they were still unable to see the cave's entrance even though they seemed to have been swimming for a long time. As the minutes passed and they had still not reached the crest of the hill, the men began to worry. Crane signaled for them to halt.

They were finding it difficult to even stand up straight, the power of the current was such that they were being pushed backward, further into the depths of the cave.

"Seaview, this is Crane. We are experiencing a very strong current." Crane sounded out of breath as he struggled against the force of the water. "We're not making much headway. I suggest you send....."

The sudden tremendous force of the current caught the three men by surprise as they were lifted off their feet and carried away in the opposite direction. They were caught up in a roller coaster ride with the water pushing them farther and farther away from Seaview. The current scooped up the sandy sea bottom and whirled it around as if in an underwater cyclone. Bits of plants and stones were flung into the maelstrom along with the three divers as they were tossed head over heels in an uncontrollable ride down the slope of the seabed further and further away from the cave's entrance.


Admiral Harriman Nelson grabbed the microphone from the radioman. "Lee, can you hear me!" There was no answer. "Lee! Sharkey! Riley!" Nothing.

Sparks adjusted the dials on the radio equipment and then turned to his commanding officer and shook his head. "No word, sir." He added hopefully, "They may just be out of range."

Commander Chip Morton chose that moment to enter the Control Room and could sense instantly that something was wrong. If the silence didn't give things away then the expressions on the men's faces were a dead giveaway. Chip felt a cold shiver and an uneasiness in the pit of his stomach. "The divers?" he asked.

"Some kind of underwater turbulence," answered Nelson. "Nothing registers on sonar. It must be confined to the waters in the cave. We've lost contact with them."

Chip found himself at a loss for words. He'd only left the Control Room five minutes ago. Everything had been fine. The divers were supposedly heading back, their assignment completed. He watched as the Admiral walked slowly to the Observation Nose and stared out the huge windows at the empty ocean, devoid of life.


Crane felt as if his whole body was being torn apart, pulled in different directions as the ever increasing torrent of water flung him about in endless loops. It sent him crashing against the cave walls and then tossed him out into the middle of the current again sending him further on his way, deeper and deeper into the depths of the cave. All he could do was close his eyes and pray. It was useless to fight the power of the water. He let himself go limp, hoping to save his final bit of energy for what might happen in the end.

And then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the water became still. He opened his eyes but could see nothing among the debris of mud and plant life that continued to swirl around him before finally beginning to settle to the bottom. His flashlight was long gone but to his surprise he could see light filtering down from above. Impossible, he thought. We're over two hundred feet below sea level. But there, about fifty feet above him was an opening, circular in shape, about ten feet across, through which the light was coming. As he struggled upward toward the opening, his air running out, he realized for the first time how badly his body ached. He tried to peer through the murkiness to see if he could glimpse Sharkey and Riley but he was alone.


The diving parties that had been sent out to the cave returned with no word of the three missing men. They had found it impossible to even approach the cave entrance. The waters that had seemingly sucked the three men into the depths of the cave had now reversed themselves and had come rushing out of the entrance, forcing the rescue party to abandon any attempt at entering.

Nelson continued his vigil at the windows, issuing orders from time to time but mostly just staring out in the direction of the cave.

"The divers report that the entrance is too small to use the Flying Sub." Chip's comment startled Nelson who hadn't noticed the young man come up and stand beside him.

"Diving bell?"

"Unlikely. The current is much too strong. I doubt if even the Flying Sub would have stood a chance."

"And so you're telling me that three divers would have no chance at all?" Nelson didn't mean to respond so gruffly and admonished himself when he saw the grimace cross Morton's face.

"I... I only meant..."

Nelson's angry look softened. "You know as well as I do, Chip, that if there's any way for Lee to get himself and the others out of there, he'll find it."

Chip's mood brightened. "You're right, Admiral." Chip could recall a number of times that things seemed hopeless when Lee had gotten himself in some kind of predicament. But he always seemed to overcome the odds and bring his men back safely.

Nelson quickly lost himself in his thoughts as he returned to his position at the window. Chip stood next to him, waiting for his next orders. He couldn't help but glance at his watch again. The divers would have run out of air over ten minutes ago.


Finding his strength failing as he swam slowly up towards the surface, Crane struggled painfully to unfasten his tanks, took one final breath of air, and let them drop to the bottom. He barely managed to swim up towards the light before running out of breath. As he broke the surface of the water he greedily gulped in some fresh air and made a grab for a rocky ledge that jutted out a few feet from him. Pain shot through his left shoulder as he tried to grab hold of the rock and he fell back down into the water. Trying in vain to reach the surface once more, Lee suddenly felt a rush of water next to him and found himself being pulled back up. As his head broke the surface once again, he turned to face his rescuer. "Riley," he gasped. "How?"

Riley merely grinned and began the arduous task of pulling the Skipper up onto the rocky ledge. By the time both men were out of the water they lay there breathing heavily. Lee was having a hard time catching his breath; his lungs felt as if they were on fire. His shoulder was throbbing and his entire body hurt.

It was over five minutes before Lee was able to open his eyes and survey his surroundings. He and Riley were lying on a rocky plateau a few hundred yards in diameter, surrounded on all sides by steep, rocky walls. Incredibly, there was blue sky up above with a few faint wisps of clouds passing slowly by. The warmth from the sun began to slowly seep into Lee's bones relaxing him as he lay there, unable to move. He winced a little as he felt Riley check his injuries but his mind was still foggy and he felt himself drift off, unable to stop the darkness from closing in.


"Three miles?" asked Chip incredulously. "You're not saying that you think they were swept nearly three miles through those tunnels?"

Nelson found the possibility hard to believe himself. "I know it sounds far fetched, Chip, but it's about all there is left to hope for." He indicated the small volcanic island on the chart that the two of them had been discussing. "It's not entirely impossible, in fact, the more I think about it the more it makes sense."

"So you believe that Lee and the others may have been swept along in caves that were produced by volcanic activity many years ago and that these caves may connect to an island three miles from here?"

"Exactly." Nelson glanced at the blond officer and could see the expression of doubt on his face. "You see, the island is only the very top of the volcano. Most of it is underwater and stretches for miles. When a volcano erupts, the hot lava is quickly cooled by the ocean water and sometimes there are lava tubes formed that stretch far out under the ocean." Nelson walked back over to the Observation Nose as he talked. Chip followed him and listened with interest, a faint glimmer of hope was just beginning to grow. The Seaview was already on her way to the island and would reach it shortly.

Nelson continued, "It's only a theory but it might explain a few things. For example, the way the current in the cave reversed itself so suddenly reminds me of the action of someone sipping on a straw, drawing up the liquid and then as the person stops sucking, the liquid goes back down again into the glass."

"And we have to hope that Lee, Sharkey and Riley were lucky enough to have reached the island before their air ran out and before the current reversed?"

Nelson pursed his lips and thought for a moment, "Yes. I know it sounds like a long shot, Chip, but at this point we don't have any other options but to check out the island."

"As you said before, Admiral, Lee does have an uncanny knack of finding a way out of the most impossible predicaments."

"Right you are. In that case, prepare the Flying Sub for immediate departure. If they're on that island, we'll find them."

"Aye, sir!"


"Sharkey!" Lee woke suddenly, a thin film of sweat covering his face. He had remembered that Riley had rescued him, but where was the Chief?

"Easy, Skipper," soothed Riley, as he tried to calm the agitated Captain. "Sharkey's over there." Lee looked in the direction that the young sailor indicated and could make out the figure of Sharkey who was lying down a few yards away.

"Is he alright?" asked Crane, struggling to sit up.

Riley helped the Skipper into a sitting position. "He was the first one here. Somehow he managed to get himself out of the water but he's been unconscious ever since I got here. He's breathing okay so I think he just cracked his head a bit." The young man grinned at the Captain, "and you know what a hard head the Chief has."

Crane returned the smile and looked around the plateau. "Where exactly are we?"

"As near as I can figure, I think we're in some kind of crater. Like from a dead volcano."

Lee had to agree. The rock surrounding them certainly did look volcanic.

"Skipper! Look!"

The shock in the young man's voice caused Lee to turn and look where Riley was pointing. He was staring at the large opening in the rock that was filled with water. The two men watched in amazement as the water began to swirl around and around like water going down the drain in a bathtub. The water level began to drop and within a few seconds it had all disappeared in a rush as if some giant sea monster had sucked it all up until there only remained a large empty hole.

"There goes our way out," lamented Riley, staring down into the deep, dark hole.

Crane looked up toward the steep rocky walls that surrounded them on all sides and at the large round opening above them where the sun was beginning to disappear. "That's our only way out now."

Lee managed to get to his feet a bit unsteadily. He cradled his left arm with his right, wondering if it was broken or just dislocated.

Riley came over to assist him. "Easy, sir. There's something wrong with your arm."

With Riley's assistance, Crane walked over to where Sharkey was lying and carefully checked his injuries. The Chief sported a large bruise on his forehead and although, like the others, he had a number of other cuts and bruises from contact with the cave walls, there didn't seem to be any other serious injuries as far as Crane could tell.

The air was beginning to feel decidedly cooler as the sun no longer shone through the opening in the crater. Lee sat back down and surveyed the situation. They needed to build a fire but the inside of a volcanic crater was not a likely place to find any wood. All they had to keep them warm were their wetsuits. Building a fire would serve a twofold purpose, warmth and a signal for help. "Help me get out of this suit, Riley." Crane winced again as he tried to remove the top of his yellow wetsuit.

Soon both men had removed the tops of their diving suits. Riley shook his head in disbelief as the Skipper triumphantly produced a box of waterproof matches from the safety pouch of his yellow suit. The two men then set about cutting the sleeves off their wetsuits with their knives and then they sliced the material into small strips. Since they had no kindling to work with, they removed most of the matches from the box and set fire to that. It was enough to start some of the rubber smoking. They didn't expect to get much in the way of flames from the material but hoped that the smoke would get thick enough to be noticed from the top of the crater. Ten minutes later they watched with fingers crossed as a thin plume of black smoke spiraled slowly upward.


The Flying Sub continued its pattern search of the volcanic island. Chip Morton took the small craft around on a final sweep. It was becoming increasingly difficult to see in the advancing twilight and there were a number of craters of varying sizes where a man could be hidden from sight. It looked like they might have to wait until morning and send out men to scour the island on foot.

Seaman Kowalski in the copilot's chair was focusing the binoculars carefully on the surface of the island. He suddenly let out a shout. "Mr. Morton! One of those craters is smoking. It's not an extinct volcano after all!"

Chip looked over to where Ski was pointing. He passed the controls over to the young man and grabbed the binoculars. All he could see was a thin wisp of smoke coming from one of the large craters on the outer edge of the island. At first he dismissed the tiny bit of smoke as nothing more than some leftover activity but something told him that it should be investigated further, just in case. He handed the binoculars back to Kowalski and took the controls once again. The bright yellow craft swooped down low and made a pass over the "smoking" crater.


To Lee's great relief, Chief Sharkey had regained consciousness and, although weak and cold like the rest of them, seemed to be in pretty good shape despite the ordeal.

Riley had managed to cut up some of the left over rubber suit material to fashion a sling for the Skipper to support his shoulder. Other than that, there wasn't much else for the men to do except sit and wait and try to keep the pile of yellow and black rubber burning. They were almost out of matches and the smoke was barely noticeable anymore. It was then that they heard the roar of an engine and the three of them recognized the sound immediately.

They leapt to their feet and waved their arms frantically as they spotted the belly of the Flying Sub as it made a pass over the crater. Their hearts sank as the roaring sound faded into the distance.

"Man, they didn't see us," lamented Riley, sitting back down.

The three men listened for a few minutes, hoping to hear the sound of the Flying Sub returning.

"It's too dark. They wouldn't be able to see us so far down in the crater," observed Sharkey.

"Then we'll just have to wait until morning," said Crane, sitting back down with the others. "We'll try to keep the rubber burning as long as possible. If it goes out completely we won't be able to get it going again. We only have a couple of matches left."

Sharkey shivered in the cool wind and then suddenly began to laugh. The others looked at him.

"What's so funny, Chief?" asked Riley.

"I just wondered if anyone has ever frozen to death inside a volcano before."

Crane smiled. "It might be a bit uncomfortable tonight without a good fire, but it won't get cold enough for us to freeze."

Two hours later, the matches were all used up and the pile of rubber had stopped burning. The three men moved themselves against the nearest wall of the crater and sat close together, trying to conserve their warmth. They joked with Sharkey about the fact that he still had sleeves on his wetsuit and that it was only fair that he cut his off too. They spent some time telling stories and recalling some of their more unusual adventures while aboard the Seaview but soon all was quiet in the crater as the three men drifted off to sleep.


"I tell you, Mr. Morton, I swore there was something moving down at the bottom of that smoking crater and I thought I saw something yellow, too." The two men had reluctantly brought the Flying Sub back to the Seaview and had reported their findings to Nelson.

"It's too dark to do anything about it tonight, Ski. If they are down there we can't possibly get them out until it's light." Chip was just as disappointed as Kowalski.

"Mr. Morton is right, Kowalski," added Nelson, "we don't want to risk any lives trying to attempt any kind of rescue at night. Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait until morning. But if you did see some movement inside that crater then at least we have a place to start looking come daybreak."


Crane shifted uncomfortably on the cold, hard ground and woke to find his shoulder throbbing even more than before. His two companions were snoring softly and he got quietly to his feet and walked over to the middle of the crater. He looked up into the circular night sky, framed by the sides of the crater and couldn't help but appreciate the beauty of the stars twinkling above. It was almost as if a piece of the night had been cut out of a circle of black cloth with the stars sprinkled on with glitter glue.

Lee Crane knew that it was impossible for the Flying Sub to fly anymore that night. Without a large blazing fire, there wouldn't be any chance of them being seen by a rescue party. He looked over at the pitiful remains of the pile of half-burnt black and yellow rubber and shook his head. He certainly wouldn't get his Boy Scout badge for fire making, that's for sure.

Deciding that sleep was impossible, he began to walk slowly around the outside of the crater, being careful to avoid the large, empty hole where Riley had pulled him from the water. If he kept moving, maybe he wouldn't feel the cold quite as much.


The large crater was still in shadow in the early morning and would remain that way until around mid day when the sun would be overhead. It was beginning to get light enough to see and the three men sat with their backs against the wall once more, trying not to think about how hungry and thirsty they were getting.

As they sat in companionable silence they were suddenly startled by a rumbling sound coming from the empty hole in the middle of the crater floor. They ran over to the hole and were amazed to see the water rising rapidly until it came right up to the level where it had been yesterday. But it didn't stop there. The water continued to rise and bubble out of the hole. It splashed over the sides and began creeping across the floor of the crater. At the rate that it was coming, it wouldn't be long before the whole crater floor would be underwater.

The men jumped back quickly from the onrush of water and looked around at the sides of the crater trying to find somewhere to climb up. The eastern side of the crater seemed to slope more gradually and there appeared to be a small ledge about ten feet up the wall that might afford a temporary refuge from the rising water. The men began to climb, with Riley helping the Skipper who had only one good arm to hang onto the side of the wall.

It took them five minutes to reach the ledge and in that time the water had now covered the entire floor of the crater to the depth of a few inches. It wouldn't be long before the water level reached the ledge. The men looked around the walls of the crater for anything higher up that might support them but there didn't seem to be anything else that they could reach.

As they watched the water edging up the sides of the crater they couldn't help but look up toward the sky and hope that the Flying Sub would make an appearance.

"No problem," quipped Sharkey, "all we have to do is tread water until we float right up to the top of the crater and we'll be out."

Riley snorted, "And then it'll be just like that ride in Disneyland. You know the one I mean...."

"Splash Mountain?"

"That's the one."


The early morning sun glinted off the hull of the small yellow craft as it broke through the surface of the water and became airborne. Morton piloted the Flying Sub back over the same area where they had spotted the smoke. No more smoke was visible but they made a quick pass over the crater to see if they could spot any movement. The small craft was loaded with survival gear. It might not be possible for the Flying Sub to land inside the crater so the plan was to drop some supplies down to the missing men. It might be a while before they could reach them and so the food, water, blankets and medical supplies would ensure their survival for as long as necessary.

Kowalski focused the binoculars on the large crater as Morton guided the craft over top. "It's got to be the wrong crater, Mr. Morton. This one is full of water."

"It can't be, Ski. It's the same one that had the smoke coming out of it yesterday."

"I tell you, it's got a lake at the bottom of it."

"I'll take another pass over it. Have another look, Ski. Maybe there's a dry area off to the side or something." The look of disappointment on the young sailor's face mirrored his own.


The three men heard the roar of the engines and looked hopefully up at the sky. They knew that it would be almost impossible for anyone to spot them up on the ledge but they waved their wet suit jackets around and yelled in the hopes of attracting someone's attention. They watched anxiously as the Flying Sub came back for another pass over the crater.


"I see them, Mr. Morton! At least I see something moving down there. Can you make another pass?"

Chip felt his heart thumping. He hadn't really believed it was possible for the divers to have survived a three mile ride through a lava tube. "Hang on, Ski. We're going back over top." The Exec made a large graceful turn and headed back over to the crater.

Ski was peering through the binoculars, hoping to pinpoint the location where he saw some movement. He adjusted the focus and kept the binoculars aimed toward a small rocky ledge on one of the crater walls. "It's them! Yes, sir, Mr. Morton. It's them all right! They're waving something yellow at us!"

Ski's joy was contagious and Chip felt a tremendous relief at finding out that Lee and the others were alive. "Are you sure they're all there?"

Ski nodded. "Yup, all three of them. I couldn't tell what shape they were in but they were all standing up. They were on a small ledge on one side of the crater, just above the water. But you know, Mr. Morton, I could swear that there was no water in that crater when we flew over it yesterday."

Chip wasn't pleased with that little bit of news. "It may have some connection with that current in the tunnel reversing itself. If the water level is rising in the crater then we may have an even bigger problem on our hands."

"Like how to get them out?"

"Right. How to get them out before that crater fills up. If that's what seems to be happening." Chip made another sweeping turn and headed for the crater once more. "I'm just going to let them know that we've seen them." He then flew directly over top of the crater and "waggled the wings" of the small craft before turning away once more and heading back to the Seaview.


As the Flying Sub made one more pass overhead, the men below let out a whoop of delight as they saw the small craft "waggle" its wings before disappearing once more. They listened carefully to the sound of the engine retreating until they could no longer hear it.

"They've seen us!" yelled Riley, "Man, I can't believe it!"

The others grinned at the young man's obvious delight and Sharkey had to grab hold of Riley before he fell over the ledge in his enthusiasm. "Calm down, junior. We're not out of the woods yet."

Stu Riley suddenly fell silent and looked down at the slowly rising water below. There was only about five feet of clearance between where they were standing and the surface of the huge lake beneath.

As the three men sat down to contemplate their situation, Sharkey noticed that the Captain was deep in thought. "It doesn't look too good, does it, Skipper?"

Crane raised his head at the question. "There aren't a lot of options, Chief. The Flying Sub can't land inside the crater. Now if we had a helicopter, that might work, but the rate that water is rising, I doubt if there's much time left unless we can come up with some way of staying dry while we wait for a rescue." He looked up at the steep walls surrounding them. There was no sign of any other ledge to climb to. The top of the crater was about a hundred feet above them and there was no way of climbing up.

"Well one thing's for sure," piped in Riley.

"What's that, kid?" asked Sharkey.

"With Admiral Nelson working on a plan, he's bound to come up with something to get us out of here."

"You got that right, kid."


"How long before the chopper can get here?" asked Nelson.

"At least two hours," answered Chip. "But I doubt if Lee and the others have that long. That little ledge they were on was pretty close to the water."

Nelson paced back and forth in the Observation Nose, mumbling to himself. He suddenly snapped his fingers and let out a yell. "A boat!"


"We drop an inflatable raft down into the crater! They can stay high and dry until the chopper gets here and can lift them out. We can include a small care package for them too. I have a feeling they'll be pretty thirsty and hungry by now."

A large grin replaced the worried frown on Chip's face. "That's a great idea! I'll get right on it." The young man dashed back into the Control Room and began issuing orders before Nelson had a chance to give him the go ahead.


The three men watched in dismay as the water level came within inches of the ledge. From time to time each would glance hopefully up toward the sky, waiting for a miracle and wondering if perhaps this time, the Admiral was fresh out of ideas.

The sudden appearance of the FS1 as it flew overhead took them by surprise. They watched in anticipation as the small craft flew back and forth a few times before flying directly over the crater with the bottom hatch open. On the third fly by, they saw a small package drop down from the belly of the craft. It hit the water with a splash and they immediately recognized the present they had received. The package popped open with a large hiss and began to inflate. Within seconds a large inflatable raft bobbed up and down gently on the surface of the water.

With a nod from the Skipper, Riley jumped into the water and swam towards the raft. The young sailor scrambled aboard and located the oars which he quickly assembled. He then rowed over toward the ledge where the other two men stood. The water was now over the edge of the ledge and was lapping at the feet of the Skipper and the Chief.

Sharkey helped the Skipper get into the raft and then hopped in himself. The first thing they checked for was the emergency rations that were stowed on board. The three of them were soon enjoying their first sip of water in quite some time.

"Here's the radio, Skipper!" shouted Riley gleefully.

Crane took the radio that the young seaman passed to him and turned it on. "Crane to Seaview. Come in, Seaview."

The voice on the other end let out a triumphant yell. "Skipper!" Then as if he realized that his answer was not official protocol, Sparks calmed down and answered again. "This is Seaview. We read you loud and clear, Skipper."

"Is the Admiral there?"

"He's right next to me." There was a pause as Sparks handed the mike over to Nelson.

"Lee! Are we glad to hear your voice! Is everyone all right?"

"Just a few cuts and bruises," replied Crane, deliberately not mentioning his shoulder.

"There's a chopper on its way. Shouldn't be too long now. We were lucky that the Navy had a carrier out on maneuvers with a chopper on board. Hang tight!"

"Aye sir. Crane out."

As the Captain handed the radio back to Riley, Sharkey began to distribute some of the rations. The three men sat in the gently rocking boat, chewing on their survival food, watching as they rose slowly up towards the mouth of the crater.

"At the rate that water has been spewing out of the hole, we'll be up to the top in a couple of hours," observed Sharkey.

It was only a few minutes later that they noticed that they were no longer rising.

"Hey! Maybe we won't have to worry about spilling over the top after all!" yelled Riley.

It was then that they noticed that the water level was dropping. Quickly.


"The ETA of the chopper is half an hour, Admiral." Chip Morton joined the Admiral once again on his "front porch".

"Not soon enough for me," replied Nelson.

Sparks called Nelson from the radio shack, "Sir, there's an urgent call from the Skipper!"

"Patch it through to the nose," ordered Nelson.

Picking up the mike from its hook, the Admiral spoke, "What is it, Lee?"

"Admiral, we have a problem," came the reply.

Nelson sighed, "Go on."

"The water level is dropping. We're going down pretty fast."

"How long do you estimate until you reach the floor of the crater again?"

"It's hard to tell. Probably less than an hour at the rate we're going down." There was a hesitation at the other end. Crane continued. "I'm a bit concerned what might happen when we do reach the bottom."


"There seems to be a tremendous amount of suction at the point where the water was coming out of the hole. It's starting to create a whirlpool affect. If this keeps up we'll get sucked back down the hole, raft and all."

"The chopper will be here in less than thirty minutes. You're going to have to hold on until then." Nelson thought for a moment. "Can you make it back to that ledge you were on?"

"We'll give it a try but the water is pulling us toward the center of the crater, away from the walls."

"Good luck. Nelson out."

As he hung the mike back on its hook, the Admiral couldn't help but utter a few expletives. Morton had heard the whole conversation and could tell that Nelson was worried about the men. They all were. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse.

No matter how hard they pulled on the oars, Riley and Sharkey could not get close to the ledge which was now above the waterline. The water was churning around and around, keeping the raft in the center.

"Man, I'm getting dizzy," remarked Riley, hanging on to the sides of the raft.

"You and me both, kid," chimed in Sharkey.

It was then that they spotted the helicopter as it moved into position directly above the crater. A rope with a harness attached was being lowered from the chopper and dropped slowly down toward the raft. After a few minutes, the rope was close enough for Riley to reach out and grab it with Sharkey holding onto the young man's legs to keep him from toppling overboard. The raft was spinning around quite rapidly now as the water continued to drain down the hole.

"You first, kid," said Sharkey as he helped Riley into the harness. The young seaman looked anxious as he realized he would be dangling a hundred feet above the water.

Signaling to the chopper that the first man was ready to evacuate, Crane and Sharkey watched as Riley was slowly lifted up into the air. Finally, the two of them breathed a sigh of relief as they saw the young man being helped into the chopper. The rope was then lowered down once more.

The raft was spinning much more rapidly as it got caught up in the whirlpool and was being dragged down towards the opening in the lava tube. It was much more difficult for Sharkey to snag the line this time and finally after three attempts he had the harness in his hands.

"You're next, Skipper," shouted Sharkey over the increasing roar of the water. Crane shook his head and indicated for Sharkey to go. The Chief refused, saying, "I know the Captain is supposed to go down with the ship but you're not going to be able to get into this harness by yourself with that shoulder of yours!"

The argument would have gone on but the decision was made for them when suddenly the raft toppled over, dumping them into the swirling waters. Sharkey still had hold of the harness and made a grab for the Skipper just as he went under. The two men clung to each other as they were tossed around in an endless spin cycle. Crane made a grab for the harness with his good arm and wrapped the rope around a few times. The two men could do nothing but hang on and pray.

The chopper pilot had seen the raft tip over and made the decision to pull the line up, hoping that at least one of them had hold of the other end. As the winch slowly pulled the rope toward the chopper, the pilot was relieved to see that he had not one, but two men on the end of the line.

Crane managed a quick glimpse down at the water just in time to see the raft being sucked down into the hole, disappearing from sight. He looked up toward the chopper and prayed that he would be able to hang on long enough with his one good arm. Looking over at Sharkey, he couldn't help but smile at the sight of the Chief with his eyes closed, muttering to himself over and over: Don't look down, don't look down.

Willing hands pulled the two exhausted men into the belly of the chopper which then turned around and headed back toward the Seaview.

The next part of the rescue was a bit easier as the three men were lowered, one at a time, onto the deck of the submarine. They were then whisked down to Sickbay and into the capable hands of Doc Jamieson.


"Waddya mean I'm scared of heights?" demanded Sharkey.

"You should have seen your face when they finally got you into the chopper," replied Riley, with a wide grin. "You were clinging so hard to that rope they had to pry your hands off."

"I was merely worried that the rope might break with the two of us hanging onto it," replied the Chief, as Jamieson dabbed some more iodine onto the myriad of cuts on the Chief's body.

"That bruise on your head is worth at least twenty-four hours in Sickbay," observed Doc, already expecting the argument.

"But Doc, I'm fine!"

"And you will stay that way if you listen to what I say," warned Jamieson.

"You let the Skipper out of Sickbay."

"He had a dislocated shoulder not a concussion. Once it was popped back in I let him go and talk to the Admiral. He'll be checking back with me in the morning."

Doc turned to Riley who was enjoying this little scenario. "And you, Riley, had better get out of here now before I find some more cuts to dab!"

Riley didn't need to be asked twice. "No problem, Doc. I'm on my way."

Sharkey sighed and lay back down on the bed, secretly thankful that the ordeal was finally over.


"How are you feeling, Lee?" asked Nelson as he and the Captain sat in the Officers' Mess sipping coffee.

"Like I will never ever go on any of those rides at Coney Island again."

Nelson chuckled and shook his head as his mind went over the events of the last few hours. "From my vantage point aboard the helicopter, it looked like you three were on one of the wildest rides I've ever seen."

Lee laughed. "My head's still spinning. Remind me never to complain anymore when the Seaview hits some turbulence and we get bumped around a bit."

Nelson watched as Lee barely managed to stifle a yawn. "I think what you need is a good night's sleep, Captain."

Lee had to agree. "I can't think of anything better right now than a nice soft bunk. Even my bruises have bruises on them." He stood up gingerly and walked slowly out of the Mess with the Admiral.

"You can give me a full report in the morning, Lee. I especially want to hear about what happened to the sleeves in your wetsuits. You and Riley may have started a new trend in diving wear."

Lee laughed and bid goodnight to the Admiral then headed very slowly up to his cabin in Officer's Country.

The End




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