At one o'clock the cliff-rimmed coast of Ireland lay 11 miles away to the north. The beamy fishing boat sloshed through westering swells toward her invisible destination and the captain steadied her, watching the flicking indicators of his new electronic navigator.
"We're about onto her now, Mr. Light."
The 29-year-old American squinted angrily at the empty sea ahead, searching. It was John Light's third season on this stretch of ocean. He had come here first on July 20, 1960 as a free-lance movie cameraman to film a crusted hulk that lay on the bottom 300 feet below. In his 11 previous years of diving—with the U.S. Navy, as a civilian salvage diver, and since 1956 as a cameraman—he had been down that far several times before. But never in such desperately difficult waters, and the tough-minded Light had learned to expect no good of them. The name plate above him on the wheelhouse of the boat he was riding on this day could have been a title for a tableau: Resolution.
"The buoys are gone, Dan—again. Seventy-five-knot wind, what can you expect?" said Light to the man at the wheel. "Let's go ahead and find her with the fathometer and we'll drop another one."
December 24, 1962
In the cabin faces turned to the depth recorder, whose rhythmic echo etched the hidden profile of the sea floor. For many minutes it had read 50 fathoms and a bit over. Now, in an instant, it shot straight up to 40 fathoms, sketched an irregular surface and dropped back to 50 as we passed on.
"That's her," said the helmsman. "That's the Lusitania."
Light nodded. "Pretty narrow. Must be the bow. Cut back across her a couple of times and we'll drop our buoy on the highest point we can find."
The outline of the dead ship below loomed up, vanished, loomed again, a remote reflection of a disaster that outraged nations 47 years ago when a torpedo put her where she now lay. In Light's mind the cryptic trace evoked a picture pieced together through 38 dives and three years. In this time, the exploration of the rusting ruin had changed for Light from a normally exciting deep-water film project to a personal crusade, almost an obsession. At the center of the search was an object, once dimly glimpsed, that could change a page of history. It had looked like a ship's gun.
"Man, she's deep," Light muttered. "Well, let's try it this time. Drop!"
The long cable clattered across the gunwale as the buoy splashed overboard.
"Let's go down," said Light.
We skinned into our clinging, clammy rubber suits, cursing.
The second diver was quiet. A mild, unshakable man with the sad sensitive face of a great clown, Palmer Williams had learned all his deep diving on this toughest of diving jobs. Before he met John Light in 1960 Williams had been a hotel manager in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Diving had been a casual hobby for him in the island waters, where his deepest descent had been perhaps 90 feet. But Light, on another diving assignment in St. Thomas, infected Williams with the fever to explore the Lusitania. Now, in 1962, Williams was a veteran of 25 dives into the deep, rolling Atlantic, where the shallowest descent a man could make was 240 feet—60 feet deeper than the standard limit set for Navy underwater experts. He dressed quickly, but without haste, and cut a sympathetic sideways glance at the visitor.
"Fine," said the visitor, trying to smile down the butterflies.
Crewmen helped hoist on our 100-pound air packs. As quickly as possible we dropped over the side into the welcome support of the sea, where our cumbersome gear was weightless. The schedule was set: 10 minutes on the wreck at an assumed depth of 270 feet—minus the time it would take us to swim down the buoy line—then back up the line with specified pauses at 40, 30, 20 and 10 feet to let compressed gases out of our bodies before returning to the low-pressure world in which man is designed to dwell. We peered at each other, traded "O.K." signs and headed straight down.
It is a somber sea, clear and dark as obsidian. The last gentle blue vanishes as the surging underside of the surface flickers out of sight above. The anchor cable rasps through one gloved hand as we hurry on our vertical and inverted way. It gives a measure of motion; without it we could not sense our rate of descent: 100 feet, twilight and deep chill; 150, a turbid zone where light and temperature drop sharply; 200, clear again and bitter cold, with the faint sourceless illumination of starlit midnight; 250, the air is thick in the throat and flows like a light icy liquid into the lungs. Lips tingle with narcosis, and thoughts blur. The eyes need a point of focus to steady the senses, but there is no fixed form anywhere. Watch and depth gauge help. Bright and solid, they are points of reality in this imprecise void. With a little effort both of them can be read: one and a half minutes since starting down; 260 feet.
All at once there is a lightening below. Meaningless forms appear, less black than black. We leave the line and glide down to the solid substance and take hold of it. The visibility is good, perhaps 40 feet, but the light is so ephemeral that, ghostlike in a place of ghosts, we cast no shadow. Where are we? Deep between walls that tower high above us. But, of course, they are not walls but decks, for the ship lies on her starboard side. We are inside her smashed superstructure. There are remnants of wood flooring attached to a vertical surface near by. There is a warped railing. There are other shapes, disoriented details of an unseen entirety.
We weigh nearly nothing, and here, at slack tide, no current stirs the few strands of growth that stand like down upon the rusting steel. We can balance motionless on a fingertip or, with the flick of a fin, move as effortlessly in any direction as can the three huge fish that hover at the edge of sight, watching us.
Four minutes gone, 275 feet: we drop toward tangled wreckage below, down another 15 feet, but there is nothing intelligible there. Best to soar up out of the chasm and see what lies above. There the broad expanse of the hull stretches away, smooth and undamaged save for a row of half-sheared rivets. Portholes pass in orderly sequence. A pair of windows appear, brassbound and rectangular, one fringed with broken glass, the other whole. A swipe of the hand sends sea dust swirling and leaves the glass clean and dead black, backed with utter darkness. A stateroom? They had such windows. Whose? Was someone watching just there beyond the glass when these drowned windows last looked to the light?
In the early afternoon of May 7, 1915 they would have given directly upon the Lusitania's first landfall, not a dozen miles away: the tall cliffs and bright pastures of Ireland, and the glossy towers of the Kinsale and Galley Head lighthouses gleaming in the soft sun of a fine spring day.
Indeed, so fine a day was the 7th of May that Murphy, the keeper of the Kinsale Light, had decided to whitewash his dwelling. Now he was hard at work. It was 1:30 p.m.
On Galley Head 12 miles to the west, keeper Duffy was watching the Lusitania as she headed toward the Old Head of Kinsale.
On the submarine U-20, Kapit√§nleutnant Walther Schwieger was watching, too. Moments before he had taken bearings on the two lighthouses preparatory to heading home to Emden. Now he was running at periscope depth to intercept. Schwieger had had good hunting: three ships in the past 48 hours. He had three torpedoes left. Perhaps if the big liner turned starboard....
On the Lusitania, Captain William Turner was peering through his binoculars. He had to run in toward shore to pick up a recognizable landmark. At 1:30 he identified the black-banded white tower ahead as Kinsale Light. He ordered a turn to starboard.
"I cannot miss," thought Schwieger as the ship turned.
The Lusitania's departure from New York six days before had not been an ordinary sailing. Most papers carried a notice from the German embassy warning Americans of the risk they would run in traveling on Allied merchantmen subject to U-boat attack. The notice fell next to Cunard's advertisement that the queen of its fleet—the biggest, fastest, safest and most luxurious liner in the transatlantic trade—would leave New York on May 1. Mysterious messages were delivered that morning to notables on board urging them to disembark and stating that the ship was to be sunk. Young Alfred Vanderbilt got one and scornfully tossed it away.
There was tension, but there were no cancellations. The new third mate, A. A. Bestic (now one of two surviving officers), remembers that "it was as though a cloud had passed over the sun and one felt a momentary chill.
"I sensed that feeling as a lady with three children stopped to speak to me as she stepped on board. 'Excuse me, but do you think there is any truth in what those men are saying about the ship being torpedoed?'
" 'I don't, madam,' I answered her, 'because there's no submarine built that could possibly catch the Lusitania.' I did not see her among the survivors."
Captain Turner was equally reassuring, pointing to the ship's 24-knot cruising speed. Cunard officials informed the press that the Lusitania was virtually unsinkable, what with her double bottom and her many compartments with their remotely controlled doors.
When the liner at last steamed down the Hudson she carried some 2,000 people and an indifferent cargo, of which half (including 4,200 cases of ammunition) was destined for Allied military use. If there was other military contraband aboard it was not listed. In any case, the presence of American neutrals on board was certainly considered—by the neutrals themselves, at least—to be a deterrent to U-boat attack.
There were no incidents in the long reaches of the open Atlantic. As the ship approached the war zone around the British Isles, Turner had the lifeboats swung outboard. There was one boat drill.
Whether or not Turner knew that 23 ships had been sunk in the war zone since he left New York no one can say. Certainly he was aware of submarine activity ahead. And he was aware of the Admiralty rules for passing through the danger area: make landfalls at night, if possible; stay well clear of headlands, travel at full speed and zigzag. Yet Captain Turner made his landfall at midday, steamed directly toward the dominant headland of the coast, reduced speed sharply and made no precautionary course changes. Having picked up the Kinsale Light and thus fixed his position for all practical purposes, he ordered that the ship be turned to run parallel with the coast so that an even more precise fix could be obtained by noting the moment at which the light would come abeam.
Says Bestic: "It never came abeam."
With the Lusitania committed to an unvarying speed and heading, Schwieger was presented with a submariner's dream come true. He computed his shot and fired "a clean bow shot from 700 meters.... Torpedo hits starboard side right behind bridge.... An unusually great detonation followed.... A second explosion must have taken place...."
Bestic stepped out of his cabin to hear a woman saying, "That isn't a torpedo, is it?" He saw the foaming wake and gripped the rail. Planks, boats, soot and water burst upward and the ship shook with the explosion. And he thought, "How undignified would the lovely Lusitania appear limping into port. The order for boat stations seemed premature. Might put the wind up the passengers." He hurried to his station on the port side, but so swiftly did the huge vessel list to starboard that he was able to get no more than one boat away.
From Galley Head, keeper Duffy heard five explosions. He made nothing of this fact, but it was to become a crucial one in later investigations, suggesting as it did that the disastrous consequences of the torpedoing were caused by a heavy cargo of contraband explosives. Then, as he watched, smoke and steam burst up from the liner's stacks. He telegraphed Dublin: I SEE LUSITANIA SOUTHEAST SEVEN MILES ATTACKED BY SUBMARINE LYING ON BEAM ENDS.
On the Old Head of Kinsale, Murphy, too, heard several explosions and "looked west and saw a large steamer apparently all right." He went on whitewashing.
On the Lusitania the Marconi operator repeated his message: "Come at once. Big list. Ten miles south of Old Head of Kinsale."
There was yammering panic and frozen terror and occasional cold courage. Men forced their way ahead of women and children and were driven back with guns and axes. Vanderbilt gave his life vest to a hysterical woman and stood by, hatless, casual. He could not swim. Others refused to scramble for places in the boats and waited quietly for the water to take them.
The starboard boats were lowered so frantically that one end often dropped below the other, dumping the passengers into the sea. And during these precious last minutes the 32,000-ton vessel rushed onward so that even properly launched boats often swamped as they struck the water.
Schwieger, still watching, wrote: "Great confusion.... They must have lost their heads." And then, a few moments later, "Submerge and go to sea."
Eighteen minutes after taking a single torpedo the "unsinkable" Lusitania sank. Many went down with the ship, many more splashed hopelessly in the calm, cold sea, holding onto anything that floated—including corpses. One lady sat sedately in a wicker chair, undisturbed and unconscious. A few lifeboats circled, picking up swimmers. Others went away before they were even half full.
Duffy wired an Irish epitaph: LUSITANIA AFTER SINKING TWO THIRTY P.M.
Murphy looked seaward at the same moment to check on the steamer headed his way but "could see no trace of her, only smoke and a few ship's boats."
Rescue vessels were a long time coming, particularly since Rear Admiral Hood at Queenstown delayed his warships, fearful that they might be sunk. At dusk all the boats that had come out were gone again, and there was nothing left alive in the darkening sea: 1,198 people had died; 124 were Americans.
Not since the sinking of the Maine had any single incident so startled the U.S. The press raged. Teddy Roosevelt spoke of piracy and murder. William Howard Taft thought the affair most distressing. President Wilson remained secluded. Billy Sunday cried.
The Kaiser was not at all pleased. He suggested to U.S. Ambassador Gerard that "England was really responsible as England made the Lusitania go slowly so Germany could torpedo her and so bring on trouble."
The hearings that followed, held in the heat of war spirit generated by the event itself, were perhaps less than objective. Cunard was exonerated. So was Turner. But Turner himself never quite forgave the British Navy. In a talk with Bestic shortly before his death the old man acknowledged that he had expected an escort, and that the lack of any naval vessels in the area had given him false confidence. The Admiralty, he felt, had shirked its duty.
On this point, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, made himself heard. "Resources do not permit us to provide destroyer escorts," he announced.
Questioning revealed that twice in previous months escorts had been provided for ships carrying American horses.
America demanded that Germany disavow the sinking. Germany offered regrets but no apology. The vessel, she said, was surely armed. She was a naval auxiliary, built to carry guns. Thus she was a man-of-war under international law and subject to attack without warning. She was also carrying contraband munitions.
Wilson replied that the issue of contraband was irrelevant, that the attack violated the rights of man because the ship was not armed. The point was vital, since the German case rested on it. No one could deny that the Lusitania was designed to double as an armed cruiser. But Robert Lansing, soon to be Secretary of State, said: "The absolute fact is that [she] had no guns, mounted or unmounted." D. F. Malone, Collector of the Port of New York, so swore in court, as did Captain Turner. The British Admiralty and Cunard attested repeatedly to the ship's defenselessness, denying that any of the guns she could have carried were in place; 109 survivors testified in support of this point.
In New York, however, four witnesses came forward to deny it. The chief of these, a German national named Gustav Stahl, described in detail four hidden guns that he had seen aboard while visiting a friend before the last sailing. Stahl was believed to have been produced by German agents and his testimony was suspect. He was indicted for perjury by a federal grand jury in New York. On September 8 he pleaded guilty and was sent to prison, where he remained for 18 months.
The issue raised by the Lusitania's sinking was never resolved. To accept America's demand that no unresisting vessels be sunk except after challenge and search would have reduced Germany's undersea potential to nothing, since most British merchantmen were armed, and all (including the Lusitania) had secret orders to ram any sub that challenged them. Yet America would not tolerate torpedoing without warning. Not until two years after the sinking of the Lusitania did the U.S. enter the war against Germany. But as of that moment the possibility of war became a probability.
If the sinking was not a direct cause of war, it served at least to create a climate in which the decision for war could be made.
For 20 years the Lusitania lay beyond the reach of man, as quiet as the tomb she was. In 1935 a team interested in proving the merits of a new, pressure-proof diving suit found her hidden resting place and put a diver on her. Fie observed that he was standing on her horizontal side and was then retrieved. The expedition departed, its mission accomplished.
The following year, according to dockside gossip in Cobh and Kinsale, an Italian salvage firm had made a try at the Lusitania and was driven away by a British naval vessel. The firm, Sorima, says it was never there; it had considered the job but thought it much too dangerous.
For another decade the whisperings along the wharfs were still. Then came word that a British ship had depth-charged the hulk.
There were also faint echoes of American expeditions mounted during these years to remove a rumored treasure from the ship, but if they ever appeared the shore watchers did not observe them.
In 1950, however, the informal intelligence system of the coastal community was full of sound and stories about a British salvage firm that was reputedly hard at work on the wreck, setting off charges placed by a crane at the surface according to the directions of a diver suspended in a pressure-proof chamber. It was agreed that the salvors took nothing off the wreck and, in any case, the firm still refuses even to discuss it. Questions about their rumored undersea activities brought this answer: "You just cannot get any further with it. You're just wasting your time."
When John Light came to them later to seek advice about the Lusitania, he was told to mind his own business. Light, a stubborn, freckle-faced Yankee from Boston, reacted to this British rebuff by making the ship very much his business. In the course of his inquiry he found a crewman who claims to have been aboard one of the British company's ships when—as he tells it—she returned briefly to the wreck in '54 to put down a diver, set off a charge and leave after a general admonition to the crew to forget they had ever been there.
Light, going down with wet suit, flippers and air tanks, was the first free-moving diver to reach the contentious carcass of the murdered ship. He had come partly because the depth was challenging and the name evoked memories, and, of course, to make his movies of the famous Lusitania. But before he could find money and men to do the job he had to prove that the job could be done, for there was reason to doubt it.
Light provided proof on July 20, 1960, going alone to 245 feet, operating a camera, keeping track of his time on the bottom, despite heavy narcosis brought on by the pressure at that depth of nine atmospheres and returning safely after prescribed decompression delays on the way up.
A few weeks later light had two good men, a little money and a bare minimum of equipment. He began work at once, and at once encountered the fearful frustration of open-sea diving on a deep target. Because of the strong tide, dives could be made only at slack high or low water when the current was briefly still; bottom time was limited to 10 minutes; high seas made diving impossible four days out of five.
And there was the problem of buoys. To explore the enormous expanses of the hull the divers needed lines from surface floats to known points on the wreck. They tried manila lines with heavy anchors; the tide carried them away. Then they swam down the lines and tied them in at the bottom; the lines frayed and parted. They attached iron chain at the bottom to prevent chafing; fishermen broke the lines loose and stole them during the night. Steel cable was the only solution, and cable had to be shackled to the ship. Shackling is a simple procedure at one atmosphere's pressure; at 10 it requires formidable concentration. The first diver to swim down a well-placed cable "just didn't think to attach it."
With the season half gone they learned to do it. They also acquired from Cunard a set of deck plans ("Somebody made a mistake giving them to us," says Light), showing where guns were to be placed, if and when desired. They also got a transcript of the testimony of the German Stahl. Light noted that the positions described by the convicted perjurer jibed with certain of those on the published plans. He selected one for special search. It was just outboard of the children's nursery.
The divers placed a buoy near the spot and went for a look. There was no gun in sight. But as Light surveyed the scene with a trained salvage-diver's eve he found himself actually shaping the words, "Someone has been here before." In places the metal had been cut and he saw evidence of recent blasting.
Rare luck with tides and weather permitted a return to the same spot the following day, this time with little narcosis. ("You get a sort of tolerance," Light saws, "if you hit depths like that in quick succession.") The position checked out exactly. And in the side of the superstructure, directly below the hypothetical gun emplacement on the vertically tilted deck, was a hole some eight feet across, black and bottomless. It seemed to Light "as if some heavy object had dropped straight down after the ship had settled on her side. Maybe long after. The superstructure is made of light materials, and it looked as if something had just torn on through. And there were three steel cables leading into the hole that had been drawn so tight that they had sliced right into the surrounding metal. Maybe they were attached to whatever had fallen through. Maybe somebody was trying to hoist that thing away, and it broke loose."
The place to look was at the bottom of the hole, but time was up. Surely the next dive would show what was there. Tomorrow or the next day Light would know.
But the shadow forces that seemed bent on drawing a shroud around the Lusitania intervened. More than a year passed before Light saw the mysterious hole again. Between this dive and the next, seven days later, a strange craft was seen to heave to over the wreck. She was there only a short time.
"When she left," says Light, "I didn't have any buoys." It was reported to him that she belonged to the same salvors whose past involvement with the wreck was (and is) so hotly affirmed and so coldly denied.
Light was puzzled and angry. "Why would anyone care what a bunch of free divers were doing? We couldn't take anything away. We could only look. Maybe there was something we weren't supposed to see. I'd been studying the record of the old court proceedings, so I knew that some people at that time had thought the Lusitania's sinking was kind of peculiar—particularly the ship's behavior, which made things so easy for Schwieger, and the speed with which she sank. I knew the question of guns and munitions on board had come up. Guns would have made her fair game, and heavy munitions could have made her a floating bomb.
"A lot of pretty important people had insisted she carried no guns: the President of the U.S., the Secretary of State, the Collector of the Port of New York, the Cunard bosses and the Admiralty brass. Gustav Stahl went to Atlanta penitentiary for saving she did. Even at this late date it might be embarrassing if evidence turned up to show that these important people were wrong—or were lying."
Somebody seemed to think so, anyway.
The divers put out new buoys and went on exploring. They found a huge split in the hull opposite the point where the torpedo struck whose everted edges suggested an internal explosion greater than any torpedo could cause. They came across a cargo door lying on the side of the hull some distance from its doorway and obviously detached after the ship had settled into its reclining position. Cables and chains were found that did not appear to be part of the wreck.
Big lights were lowered to make pictures possible, and surely none have been made under more difficult conditions. The first light down was bitten off by a passing fish. The next hypnotized a depth-drunk diver, who had to be pulled bodily away from what would have been a fatal fixation. Another man was so dazzled that he surfaced with no memory of the dive he had made—and never made another. Exhaustion and pressure changes took their toll, too: the strongest diver of the crew once had to be hauled forcibly to the surface, and Light injured his sinuses so severely that he had to leave off diving. And so the 1960 season ended.
Back again in 1961 with more men and better gear, Light managed to set three cables in the first three dives, and on the fourth to reset one near the suspected gun emplacement. On the fifth he and a companion—an American Naval officer on leave—dived down through the hole, emerging over the littered bottom under the dark overhang of the superstructure. The other man suddenly tugged at Light's fin and pointed. Below, perhaps 20 feet away, was a long, tapered object slanting downward out of a mass of debris. And the time was up.
The two left promptly and discussed their discovery on the surface. Light wasn't sure; it could have been a gun, or a spar, or a pipe. The Naval officer, who had been closer, was quite certain of what he had seen. "I saw what I felt was a gun barrel and questionably a gun emplacement or turret near by: a semispherical piece of metal, riveted. I saw the gun just as it was time to come up, but I did take a quick second look." The officer then drew from memory a gun barrel and what could have been its shielding. But impressions were not proof. The next day they would bring a camera and lights. Then there would be no doubt.
The buoy over the spot sank that night. Other dives were made, but in the whole '61 season no diver got back to the long slender object.
So Light came back to Ireland a third time. In two months the wild sea allowed him only six dives. A ship struck and sank his best-placed buoy. A hurricane tore away the last of them. The boat contract ended and there was no more money to renew it.
And on the last dive of the season, the visiting diver, who had been peering curiously at the submerged stateroom window, got the bends. The dive itself had gone well, but the visitor, misunderstanding a signal, waited two minutes too long at the bottom of the ascending line for a man who had already gone up. The three divers followed the normal decompression routine, bouncing for many miserable minutes on the line below the wave-tossed buoy. Then all three climbed unaided into the boat, where the visitor began stripping off his gear, cheerful and excited. Two minutes later he stretched out on the deck for a moment's rest. Suddenly he clapped a hand over his left eye and peered at Light with the other. "You're vanishing, from the bottom up. Now you've gone. So has my eye...."
He sat up quickly and promptly pitched over to the left. "And so has my balance. God! My brain's come loose."
"O.K.," said Light grimly, "let's get the chamber ready. Fast. Go ahead and get him in there and wrap him up in blankets. Palmer, you're going to have to ride with him in the chamber."
Two men helped the collapsed diver into the recompression chamber, a steel cylinder the size of a hogshead in which a man can be kept under pressure until the bubbles formed in his body by a too-sudden return from great depths can be reduced and dispersed.
Light crouched at the chamber door, studying the Navy diving manual to determine which decompression schedule his patient's symptoms seemed to suggest. "Visual disturbance..." he mumbled, "vertigo,...shock sometimes followed by convulsions and...yeah. How's his eye?"
Williams shone a powerful light into it, covering the other with his hand. "Is it on?" the diver asked. Light slammed the door and dogged it down. The strident rush of air began. Williams nudged his half-conscious chambermate. "Stay with us, boy, you've got to clear your ears or they'll pop."
"That's all I need," said the injured man dimly. "Hey, my eye is back. Son of a gun! But I can't sit up, and if you move me I'll get sick. The shrill flow of air had ended. The depth gauge read 165 feet. In the dense atmosphere both men's voices sounded ludicrously high and girlish. The telephone rang; Light's worried eyes appeared at the chamber's porthole. Williams took up the phone to answer him.
"No, pretty weak. He can see, though. Looks like he'll live. What? Two days!...Now you tell me.... Oh, 20 hours if he doesn't go sour.... Even if he dies, huh? Or I get the bends myself?" He poked his motionless companion. "Man, are you dead?"
"Yes, I am. Mind what you say about me."
The sick man slept fitfully and at one point woke to announce in severe tones that some idiot had fallen off the goddam raft. During the night he managed to sit up and test his reactions as pressure was reduced. The vertigo grew less severe, but it would have to vanish completely by the 20th hour or a new treatment, this one of 40 hours, would be begun.
On the next quarter-hourly ventilation of the chamber a flood of oily air poured in and Williams grabbed for the phone. "If that air's the best you've got we'll take it," he said reasonably, "but we felt you should know you're poisoning us."
"Damn it," said Light, "I fixed that compressor just the other day. Don't worry, I'll switch you back to the other one. Hope it holds out."
As early as the fifth hour the patient had been able to nod his head without tipping over. Then as the night passed the other symptoms subsided. Finally, after 19½ hours the two divers crawled out into the earth's own atmosphere. Williams would not be allowed to dive for several days, the visitor for several weeks.
A full gale howled over the headlands and the wet trees writhed. In the inlet below the windows of the Rathmore House, where the divers were resting the day after the near-fatal descent, foam streaked the dark sea. Scud hit the hilltops.
Light watched the water and his fists bulged his pockets.
"Season's finished. So are we, for now. Right where we were last year. The payoff may be only two good dives away. I think the Navy officer will swear that he saw the gun. But we have to get a picture first. Then we can draw up the affidavits. That means we'll have to come back next year. We're too close to the end to quit. We're just too close."