Each book in my trilogy of Angus McKinnon thrillers owes a small part of its plot to the fate of three ships.

I thought it may be of interest to present a few bare facts on each case, courtesy of Wikipedia whose terms and those of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, are fully acknowledged.

The first book in the trilogy is Sea of Gold. The fate of the Astro Maria described in the book is not dissimilar to that of the Lucona, sunk in the Indian Ocean in January 1977 by a bomb planted by Austrian businessman Udo Proksch, as part of an insurance fraud. Proksch, the owner of the cargo, also then owner of famous Viennese confectioners Demel, claimed 212 mio. schilling (ca. US$20 million) from his insurance company, saying that the cargo was expensive uranium mining equipment. He was subsequently convicted in 1991 of the murder of six crew (of the crew of 12) who were killed by the explosion, and died in prison. 

The second story, Dark Ocean, draws to some extent on the tragic fate of the Lisbon Maru, similar to that of the Lady Monteith in the book. On her final voyage she was carrying, in addition to 700 Japanese Army personnel, 1,816 British and Canadian prisoners of war captured after the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941. The POWs were held in appalling conditions … [those] at the bottom of the hold … showered by the diarrhoea of sick soldiers above.

On 1 October 1942 the ship was torpedoed by USS Grouper. The Japanese troops were evacuated from the ship but the POWs were not; instead the hatches were battened down above them and they were left on the listing ship. After 24 hours it became apparent that the ship was sinking and the POWs were able to break through the hatch covers. Some were able to escape from the ship before it sank. The ladder from one of the holds to the deck failed, and the Royal Artillery POWs in the hold could not escape; they were last heard singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”. Survivors reported that Japanese guards first fired on the POWs who reached the deck; and that other Japanese ships used machine guns to fire at POWs who were in the water. Later, however, after some Chinese fishermen started rescuing survivors, the Japanese ships also rescued survivors.

The third book is Black Reef and the Dalmatia Star of the story was inspired in part by the fate of the Arctic Sea that was reported missing between late July and mid-August 2009 en route from Finland to Algeria. On 24 July, the Arctic Sea, manned by a Russian crew and carrying a cargo of what was declared to consist solely of timber, was allegedly boarded by hijackers off the coast of Sweden. The incident was not immediately reported, and contact with the ship was apparently lost on, or after, 30 July. The Arctic Sea did not arrive at its scheduled port in Algeria, and on 14 August the ship was located near Cape Verde instead. On 17 August it was seized by the Russian Navy An investigation into the incident is underway amidst speculation regarding the ship’s actual cargo, and allegations of a cover-up by Russian authorities. The Arctic Sea was towed into harbour in the Maltese capital of Valletta on 29 October 2009.

The ship’s hijacking and subsequent events remain mysterious as no credible explanation exists of its disappearance and Russia’s conduct during and after capturing the ship. If ever confirmed to be an act of piracy, the hijacking of Arctic Sea would be the first known of its kind in Northern European waters for centuries.

All three books are available from Amazon:

SEA OF GOLD:  http://amzn.to/1jkQUYT

DARK OCEAN: http://amzn.to/2vIPRyJ

BLACK REEF: https://amzn.to/2zVBo4e