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- 1952 Flying Enterprise 2002 -

Grandma's story

Dansk Danish version Deutsch

Deutsch ausgabe
My initial link to the Flying Enterprise goes way back. In my childhood I remember being told the story about a stubborn Danish captain who reluctantly stayed onboard his ship until it finally went under. An exiting story for a boy who recently had developed an interest for snorkelling and enjoyed his weekly meeting with Jacques Cousteau on the television.
But during history of sailing a lot of captains had done the same as Carlsen did. So one could fairly ask what made this particular event so interesting ?
From a Danish point of view the story definitely wouldn’t have made a lot of headlines had the ship been mastered by anyone else than a Danish captain. But when the news broke out the story quickly gained interest both on national and international level. Soon most of the western world papers and television news was covered with stories about the Flying Enterprise.
Everyone followed the exciting story and as the days went by it became clear that it was a race against time. In high seas the ship was listing seriously and although it seemed obvious that the ship was doomed the captain refused to abandon his ship and its cargo. I don’t think that anyone would have blamed Carlsen for leaving his ship to itself but he didn’t. Why ?
The quick presence of an US destroyer at the site of the foundering Flying Enterprise and the fact that Carlsen had chosen to stay onboard in order to save the ship at all costs, soon fuelled the rumours and speculations into what the ship could be carrying. Was it a precious cargo that had to be transported from postwar Germany to the US ? Was the cargo of such a value that it needed the protection of a US destroyer ? Had Carlsen received orders to stay onboard so the origin of the cargo was not revealed ? Or was Carlsen simply doing his job into perfection like any other captain would have done.
Questions like this flourished but they all remained unsolved when the Flying Enterprise slipped beneath the surface on the 10th January 1952 leaving Carlsen with only a split second to get off his ship. Carlsen had fulfilled his mission. He did everything possible in his efforts to save the Flying Enterprise and his conduct is certainly subject to a lot of admiration.
An idea turning into a project
In the summer of 2001 I came across the story by chance. As I learned that the 50th anniversary for the sinking was imminent I began the first preparations and inquiries into the possibilities of diving the wreck of the Flying Enterprise. My initial idea was to dive the wreck in the 50th year of the sinking and to document the wreck with video. In all the Flying Enterprise was to be my next technical diving project.
While reviving the story once told to me by my beloved grandmother I soon found myself in an archive room in Copenhagen (DK). Here I managed to identify a couple of old books, some newpapers and pictures all documenting Carlsen struggling in the big Atlantic swell. The story suddenly became very present.
Like it usually goes with technical diving projects the fragile idea soon turned into a lot of planning, historical research, fundraising, meetings with tv and other logistical activities. But all this is history so let’s focus on present day and move on to the project and how it all went on.

nolimitsdiving (c) 2002