Ortho Spiders

When I sailed on an APL ship, 70 day round trip New York to Singapore with lots of stops in between, crossing the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Red and Arabian Seas, Indian Ocean and Straits of Malacca the company produced a one page news summary for the sailors, which was downloaded and printed by the third mate and posted in the mess and common room. One trip the third mate was a young computer savvy kid and he and I stood watch together, way too many hours, and we dreamed up a fake news story for fun. This is what I wrote and then Carl somehow managed to insert into the week’s summary. I think we were somewhere slogging across the Indian Ocean toward Malaysia.

Ortho Spider Alert: Sailors are warned to keep an eye out for a new type of spider that has been reported in Southeast Asia. Apparently these spiders nestle in the valleys between the corrugated sides of containers and then drop onto the ship when loaded into the hold. They prefer dark places and will be found in the bilges, near fluids and grease. First spotted on ships leaving Ho Chi Min City, it is speculated these spiders are a variant of a jungle spider then affected by Agent Orange. They have most recently been reported as far west as the western opening to the Strait of Malacca. These spiders, the size of a small cat, are very fast, gather in groups, and have a paralyzing, agonizing  bite. They prefer exposed skin.

Carl inserted this story on the lower right hand corner of the news sheet and I scattered them about the ship. Soon enough, at mess, talk turned to Ortho Spiders.

“The size of a small cat? Really?”

“They won’t be on this ship, we’re headed toward the Strait, not away.”

“But we were there two months ago. If any got aboard there may be thousands down in the bilges by now.”

I was sitting at the table and I said, “I don’t believe it. This sounds ridiculous. This sounds like a made up story.” I was the guy who wrote the story.

Alex, a Russian AB, good sailor, and definitely Russian, shook his head violently.

“No, Charles, No! These things happen! Believe me!”

Strangely enough, after that none of we sailors wanted to go below to check the voids deep in the ship. Not even me.



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