Sweet Sixteenth

Ten days ago, the stars and planets aligned in a configuration that was simultaneously auspicious (for some) and inauspicious (for others) in the Eastern Hemisphere.  First, the good news:  December 16th was the 413th anniversary of the heroic death of Korea’s Admiral Yi Soon-shin, slain by musket fire at Noryang while defending his nation from Japanese invaders.   Commemorative rites were held –as they have been for the last 412 years–  at Admiral Yi’s shrine in South Gyeongsong Province.

"Those who wish to die will live ... those who wish to live will die."

That same day, Korea’s first icebreaker sailed from Christchurch harbor in New Zealand en route to resupply a ROK research station in Antarctica.  The vessel MV Araon had been commissioned a few weeks previously, and the trip to the Southern Ocean was its maiden voyage.

Now the bad news:

The Russian fishing vessel Sparta, with 32 crew on board, hit underwater ice on December 16 that tore a 1-foot hole in its hull and caused it to list at 13 degrees.  [Since that time] the crew, made up of 15 Russians, 16 Indonesians and one Ukrainian … has been desperately pumping out near-frozen sea water while awaiting rescue on the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf about 2,200 miles southeast of New Zealand.

Finally, some Christmas cheer:

Search and rescue coordinator Mike Roberts said the South Korean polar research vessel Araon [has arrived] alongside Sparta and is transferring fuel to it to change its trim so the bow rises clear of the sea, exposing the damaged area of hull.  Crew from both ships will attempt to weld a “doubler plate” over the hole –one external and a second inside.  Weather in the area was calm, which should help the repair operation, Roberts said.

Let’s hope all goes well.   When the government of the Russian Federation formally expresses its gratitude for the assistance provided by the Republic of Korea, perhaps Admiral Yoon Jong-gu –or his son– will be on hand to dutifully accept the official commendation from the Prime Minister himself.   Lunghu’s looking forward to it!

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