Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Animal Stories: Unsinkable Sam

What was Unsinkable Sam thinking as he floated on a wooden plank through the choppy, chilly sea that May 18th in 1941? He was a cat, not a fish, not even a dog who at least is often confident in it's swimming skills. Sam though, was a feline accustomed to dry places and high places and hiding places, not the wet world of the open sea. He probably looked up and saw bunched clouds curling and billowing above him. He probably looked down and saw the outline of fish or the pink round eye of a jellyfish body bobbing up toward him. He probably heard behind him the cry of the sinking sailors and smelled all around him salt and brine and smoke.


Someone had brought Sam aboard the German ship Biscmark to be a feline companion. Maybe the night before boarding the ship, the sailor had a burst of dread seize his insides. He thought he didn't want to be alone, so he brought his cat friend. Maybe the night before the ship sank, Sam and his person curled up in bed together and shared a nightmare, the last thing they shared before Sam found himself floating through the sea and his person found himself sinking in the sea with 2000 other ill-fated sailors.

Sam was rescued by a British destroyer ship called the HMS Cossack. He had to learn that "good cat" meant the same thing as "Gute katze." He had to learn that tuna tasted even more delicious after almost drowning and almost joining all those swimming tuna in the sea below. While on the HMS Cossack, he had a different name: Oscar. It wasn't the name he had on the Biscmark, and it wouldn't be the name he had forever, but it was the name the British sailors said as they scratched his head or sneaked him a bit of cured meat.

It wouldn't be long before Sam truly earned his unsinkable stripes. A torpedo raged through the already raging sea and slammed against he Cossack, causing the ship to sink down toward that graveyard of ships below. With it, the ship took 159 sailors. But not Unsinkable Sam! He survived in a similiar fashion to his first survival. He clung to a wooden plank and floated to safety.

Sam probably thought to himself, 'That's it! i'm done with the sea and the salt air. I'm tired of clinging to planks as hungry sharks swarm below me!" But like most true sailors, that sea breeze and the persistent call for sea adventures gripped his heart, and his destiny was intertwined with the whims of the sea.

So he set sail again. This time on a ship called HMS Hark Royale. Maybe Sam thought to himself that this would be the one! The successful trip across the sea. But whatever his expectations, the ship sank. This time, Sam's crew mates had luck more inline with Sam's notorious good luck. Only one unfortunate soul succumbed to the merciless wrath of the sea. The rest of the crew, including Sam found their way to safety. Sam once again relied on his old go-to of drifting on a wooden plank. When he was found, Sam was described as angry but unharmed. Sam did it! But he was certainly very fed up with this song and dance.

Luckily, Sam was given compassion and was allowed to retire on land in the United Kingdom. He lived out his days at a home for sailors. Likely this home for sailors was on the shore, so the sailors could stare wistfully at the sea from their windows. Sam probably perched on the highest windowsill and peered down, searching the sea for sinking ships. At sunset, a sailor or two probably went outside and sat on a bench where they watched the sea and told each other stories about their travels at sea. Sam probably said "meow" which meant, I almost drowned three times! But I survived! 

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