A year after Somali piracy peaked with more than 100 ships attacked, the world’s navies have assembled dozens of warships to combat the threat. David Axe joins the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook in Djibouti, to observe firsthand this “global war on piracy.”
by DAVID AXE
That’s the voice from the pilot house of the destroyer USS Donald Cook, as the 9,000-ton vessel prepares to depart Djibouti. It’s bright and early on September 24th. After a night of liberty at Camp Lemonier in this squalid East African country, it’s time to get back to work. The warship, known as “DC” to her crew, is part of the NATO maritime group protecting the Gulf of Aden from Somali pirates. Today, DC will rendezvous with the British escort HMS Cornwall for a face-to-face with the group commodore, before heading off to DC’s own patrol box.
Idling pierside at Djibouti, DC’s powerplant is mostly shut down. Fuel, air and lube circulate, but the ship’s gas turbines — providing up to 100,000 ship horsepower — are off-line. Above deck, on the fo’c'sle, sailors are pulling in lines, and helping lash the destroyer to tugboats. As the pilot house counts down, the six engineers in the control room, pictured, stand by to fire up the turbines.
Ensign Justin Kelly, the turbine officer, describes the steps. First, the engineers switch on the generators. Then, the fuel pumps, filters, seawater pumps for cooling and the bleed-air outlet. The pilot house voice intones, “Three, two, one, mark.” And with the press of a button, Kelly’s engineers fire up the turbines. Donald Cook comes to life.
(Photo: David Axe)
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