A Mid Atlantic expedition uncovers a horrifying development and a gathering storm...
|The first thing Anna felt was the mini-submarine start to shake in the dark waters. Anna had been studying rock formations near the Lost City Hydrothermal site on the Mid Atlantic Atlantis Massif before the undersea quake rocked her sub. She turned to see Jack another geologist studying the sub's hydrophone with some alarm.
"What's going on Jack?" said Anna.
"These readings are off the chart, there's a massive build-up of heat from below the surface. The hydrothermal steam ejection rate has tripled in the last five minutes. We need to get to a safe distance," Jack replied.
Anna, who doubled as the pilot on the sub for this expedition, nodded her agreement and expertly moved them back about fifty meters, but the shaking continued. So she took an executive decision.
"Jack keep monitoring those instruments, I am going to surface. This all looks like some kind of eruption is imminent," said Anna. She piloted towards the surface some 700 meters away radioing in their findings as she did so.
"Mother ship this is Explorer 2 we are experiencing major seismic activity down here, tripled hydrothermal expulsions, and oh my ..." said Anna.
"Explorer 2, this is Mother ship, what is going on?" said the voice on the radio. She recognized it as the voice of the ship's First Mate Joseph. A nice kid on his first expedition. She'd recently told him that mostly these things were all quite routine. How wrong she was today.
"We just saw three more vents open up. This is big. We are surfacing. Be ready to take us on board and weigh anchor," said a startled Anna.
"Weigh anchor?" asked Joseph.
"The seafloor has risen 200 meters in the last few minutes. Be ready to leave the moment we board. At this distance from the surface, with so much steam being ejected, the ocean is going to boil pretty shortly," said Jack. He was now running all the instruments and recording everything.
"Roger that Explorer 2, make sure you collect the data. We will be ready to leave after retrieval," said Joseph. Anna thought he was handling his first assignment very professionally.
Onboard the Atlantic Surveyor, now steaming at fifteen knots towards Europe and away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Anna and Jack met with Jennifer, who was leading the expedition, in the conference room on the Atlantic Surveyor.
"So what do we know?" asked Jennifer.
"We have the water temperature buoys over the ridge recording temperatures of eighty Celsius on the surrounding seawater. The Atlantic Massif is now peaking at just 200 meters below the surface. That is a rise of some 500 meters in the last few hours. It is spewing out a colossal amount of superheated steam, at a rate that is now at least 100 times previous, and because of the shrinking distance to the surface this is not simply being absorbed but is bubbling out to the surface. As well as the Lost City Hydrothermal we now have forty-five new hydrothermal vents scattered across the raised massif that have formed in the last three hours since we surfaced. In total, they are heating an area of seawater now some ten miles wide," said Anna.
"What is the likely impact here?"
"Well I am no meteorologist but I think the implication is that we have plumes of hot moist air emanating from this point, the updraft is sucking in air from around. The effect is that winds are already building and have reached thirty mph where we are but this is accelerating rapidly. We need to get out of here right now. We are some forty miles now from the epicenter but the weather buoys we left there are already recording wind speeds of 100 miles an hour plus around the massif with a perfect calm directly over it. A storm is brewing the likes of which we have never seen before." said Anna
"Then we need to notify the authorities, including your ex in Westminster," said Jennifer. "Britain needs to be ready for what is coming," said Jennifer.
"Do I really have to talk to James, we did not exactly part friends when he went over to the dark side with Big Oil," said Anna.
"He is the friggin' Minister of the Environment and yes you are the best person to talk to him. People's lives are at stake Anna, this is not the time..."
"James it's Anna," said Anna. She looked at the telephone with some nervousness.
"I am just about to go into a meeting, can we do this later?" said an apparently distracted James.
"I wish we could, this is not a personal call. I am on the Atlantic Surveyor. We have a situation in the Mid Atlantic. In short, a superstorm is brewing here which we estimate will be far bigger than a Category 5. Wind speeds, on some of the models we have experimented with, could reach the speed of sound. We are trying to get away but we are probably not going to make it in time. So I guess this is also goodbye James. Sorry, it never worked out between us," said Anna. Despite herself, she went all soft in actual conversation with James and suddenly felt the old intimacy return. I guess it is the situation, she thought, nothing like the end of the world to help one focus.
"Wait, wait...Get out now! Can't you see I am on the phone?" James yelled at some staff. Anna knew she had his full attention now.
James now spoke to Anna directly, "Sorry Babe, what can I do to help? Whatever it takes. How many crew on board the Atlantic Surveyor? I can send a long-range helicopter to pick you up."
Anna reflected James always called her Babe when he was truly giving her his full attention. It was sweet that he still cared though she was still angry with his betrayal at taking that job with an oil company. Maybe none of that matters now she thought, time to make amends before we all die.
"Just five and it is sweet that you are thinking about me James but I do not think you understand how big this is. This storm will hit the UK with winds in excess of 300 miles an hour, it will flatten everything in its path and it will keep on raining and keep on blowing until the volcanic activity under Atlantis Massif stops superheating the eye of the storm. The waves that will pound the Atlantic coast are going to be mountainous. This storm could blow for months even years. It will change everything."
"I will send a submarine to pick you and the crew up. Send me everything you have got and I will get the country ready. But I am going to save you too, Babe. Now let me go to work." said James
Despite herself and their history Anna sobbed her reply.
"Thank you, James."
James spoke then in a gentler voice like he did not want anyone but her to hear.
"I still love you Anna and I am going to get you out of there even if it costs me everything." With that, he hung up.
True to his word James had a nuclear-powered Astute-class submarine, HMS Audacious, rendezvous with the Atlantic Surveyor within the hour. By this time the winds were about 120 miles an hour and they had to use the mini-sub to go down into the ocean, using the hatches to make the transfer. The ship although anchored and facing the storm was not expected to survive the night in the ever-growing winds. The submarine dived deep beneath the wind and the waves and towards the UK.
At thirty knots they would not reach the UK for some two days.
The sub made it into the shelter of the Portsmouth Naval Base on the European side of the Isle of Wight which bore the brunt of the waves and the wind at this time. By now the wind speeds were close to a sustained 170 miles an hour. James had relocated to the naval base, on the pretext of coordinating an action plan. He met Anna on a sheltered quay.
Anna flew into his arms suddenly feeling very feminine and vulnerable and grateful to see him take charge. He kissed her on the lips and she kissed him back the hurricane blowing all around.
Then he whisked her off to a secure site inland in an armed personnel carrier. By this time the streets were mainly clear but debris was flying almost horizontally across the road. The APC received several large thuds on its side as it drove.
In the secure house in the South Downs, they video conferenced with the PM.
The Minister of Defence gave a report to start the meeting in a dispassionate voice that jarred oddly against the raging of the winds and torrential rain outside.
"The Americans have shared imagery from their GOES-16 Weather satellite over the Atlantic. We have a superstorm that is now 4000 miles wide it is hitting New York and London simultaneously. The winds around the eye are blowing at about 550 miles an hour."
James nodded to Anna to give her report first introducing her.
"This is Anna Smith who was in the Mid Atlantic when this began and can give us a firsthand account."
"Thanks, Mr. Secretary, we were in a mini-sub over the Atlantis Massif a bulge associated with the Mid-Atlantic ridge when this began. The massif was at that time 700 meters below the surface. The latest data indicates it has since risen to just thirty meters below and that strong volcanic activity beneath the bulge is propelling an unprecedented amount of steam through hydrothermal vents to the surface of the ocean. A ten-mile-wide section of the ocean over the massif is literally boiling into the atmosphere. This is creating a moist hot air stream into the sky from what is in effect a permanent eye of the storm. This updraft is sucking in the surrounding air causing an anticlockwise cyclone to form. The storm will continue so long as that activity continues."
"Does anyone have a solution suggestion?" asked the PM over the Video link.
There were blank looks around the table until Anna raised her hand. James nodded for her to speak.
"Though it pains me to say this as someone who has dedicated her life to environmental causes there is only one real solution here. We need to drill a hole deep into the southern wall of the massif where it is steepest. Then we should detonate a nuclear missile in the hole to release the magma into the deep sea valley by that wall. At that depth, under the sea, the lava will cool normally and the effect should bleed away the magma pushing the increased hydrothermal activity. The massif should then sink away from the surface and the storm will die a natural death."
"I want a proper draft proposal for this and any other options as soon as possible," said the PM.
The feed from the cameras left on sight was mainly black as it stared into the ocean at 2500 meters depth.
Anna and James held hands under the conference table as they watched the screen.
"The biggest irony here is that we had to use a BP driller to make the hole. Big Oil saves the world," said Anna.
"Without your expert knowledge of the site born of a love of the environment we would not have known where to drill," replied James.
"Well maybe the world can unite for a good cause after all, " Anna replied. As the storm continued to rage outside, neither of them seemed to notice the massive flash of light and then white noise from the sea camera, nor the frantic appeals of the PM on the video conference screen for information, as they joined in a kiss.
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