I have been following the blog gCaptain.com for a few months now. The site’s main contributer is a USCG licensed Master Mariner of Unlimited Tonnage (sort of like the ship captain version of a License to Kill), and he writes exhaustively about the current state of all things nautical. I don’t understand most of the junk that he talks about, but every once in a while he covers something that’s really interesting. For instance, today he has considerable coverage of the following oddball story that I guess happened yesterday:
Yesterday, five Chinese vessels “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity” to the U.S. Navy ocean surveillance ship, USNS Impeccable, as it conducted routine operations in international waters in the South China Sea. According to reports, two of the Chinese vessels closed to within 50 feet (15 meters) of the USNS Impeccable, waving Chinese flags and telling the U.S. ship to leave the area. The Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the boats in order to protect itself. It is also being reported that one of the crew of one of the Chinese vessels stripped to their underwear and continued closing within 25 feet.
So obviously this appears to be among the most mundane international incidents ever (if you change the players from Navy warships to teenagers in canoes, you basically get a lost Gidget episode), but the site follows up that post with a helpful video explaining what the hell everybody is actually up to.
The short version? The U.S. Navy has gotten a teensy bit antsy about the increased numbers of Chinese nuclear submarine patrols, especially since the November 2007 episode where a Chinese submarine surfaced within torpedo range of a US aircraft carrier (in the middle of a carrier battle group) apparently without having been detected by anybody, so they are aggressively using these surveillance ships to keep tabs on Chinese submarines. And I guess the Chinese don’t necessarily like the increased scrutiny.
Full disclosure: they never really explain the part about the Chinese Navy stripping to their underwear.
This particular water balloon fight probably isn’t all that significant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s cool to see that there are people out there who are actively tracking this sort of thing when it happens.