Oceans and Seas

the work of author Michael Krieger

Vätterö: Mutiny and Murder – The Captain’s Story: Part 4

Posted on Jul 14, 2017

Vätterö: Mutiny and Murder – The Captain’s Story: Part 4

The weather continued to be hot and the humidity increased. Every morning gigantic banks of clouds formed and each afternoon they broke their wrath on the ocean beneath them in blinding torrents of rain.

The second morning in the Bay of Bengal a stillness swept the Diane. To Jan-Christer it felt as though he were alone on the ship except for those with him in the pilothouse. He sensed danger. Feeling in his pocket he found the key to the locked gun cabinet in the saloon. He located the bosun and told him to find Rashid and bring him to the bridge. Then the captain returned to his pilothouse, where Teodoro was on duty with a sulking Cypriot. The four men on the bridge silently watched the horizon before them. Periodically Jan-Christer or the bosun took a turn around the bridge deck, since from the pilothouse there was no visibility aft. Mohamed set out on one of these patrols, then almost immediately came racing back to the wheelhouse.

The empty Vätterö sails in Lake Malar after delivering a cargo of grain.

“Captain, you better come look. Men on number three.”

Jan-Christer and Teodoro followed the bosun to the aft rail of the bridge deck. A line of heads appeared behind the No. 3 hatch combing. More men were running, crouched, from the deckhouse on the poop. Two carried rifles.

Jan-Christer turned and looked hard at the first mate. “Are you with us or are you with them?”

The reply from Teodoro was immediate and with conviction. “Of course, Captain, I am with you.”

Jan-Christer gave Mohamed the key to the gun cabinet and told him to bring up the rifle, pistol, and cartridges he would find there. Teodoro ran back to the wheelhouse and returned a moment later with a welcome surprise, a revolver that he had hidden. So at least the four of them would be armed.

The captain saw Mustafa poke a rifle over the hatch combing. Jan-Christer dropped to the deck and a bullet smacked into the smokestack behind him. Then began a war. All the crew must have been armed. Bullets seemed to be crashing off everything, though most of the crew’s fire was very inaccurate. The captain and the first mate lay flat on the deck. Mohamed returned with a Winchester 30.06 and a pistol. Jan-Christer gave the pistol to Rashid and told him to guard the interior stairway that connected the captain’s cabin to the pilothouse. Mohamed kept the rifle.

Teodoro proved to be an accurate marksman. With his second shot he hit a fireman in the chest, bowling the man over backward into a winch platform. Jan-Christer fired his revolver, trying to hit Mustafa. He saw one bullet glance off the hatch combing in front of the engineer, who could not move laterally because of the men around him. The bridge offered the advantage of being able to fire down in the mutineers.

The shooting continued. Suddenly Jan-Christer dropped his pistol and clutched the side of his head. He thought it was on fire. His hands came away covered with blood. Big drops of blood splattered on the deck beneath him. Jan-Christer blotted his temple with a handkerchief and tried to keep firing. Fumbling with bloodstained hands, he reloaded from his box of cartridges. Mohamed’s 30.06 was deafening each time the bosun fired next to him. One of the crew yelped as a rifle bullet hit him in the hand. A minute later, Teodoro, firing slowly but with a steady aim, killed the second fireman.

Jan-Christer aimed at the hatch combing where he had last seen Mustafa. The engineer’s head popped up again and stayed up to train his rifle on the bridge. Jan-Christer carefully took aim, held his breath, and squeezed the trigger. Mustafa half stood up before his legs went out from under him and he toppled over. Even from the bridge there was no mistaking the hole directly above him and between the engineer’s gaping eyes. The mutineers’ firing slowed.

Jan-Christer, wiping the blood from the crease in his temple, called out to the men behind the hatch, “Take it easy now. Three is enough. No more shooting. Put your guns down.”

The men, without their leader, hesitated. Finally all firing stopped. Some of the remaining mutineers put up their hands. A few guns were thrown overboard; the rest were stuck in belts or inside shirts. There was a long silence as the crew behind the hatch and the three men on the bridge stared at each other.

The bodies of the chief engineer and the two firemen went seaside. Three other crewmen had been wounded, but not seriously. Jan-Christer brought up bandages and a bottle of whiskey and passed them around to those in need.

Two days later when the ship docked in Calcutta, Jan-Christer packed his suitcase and walked off the Diane. He never looked back.