Excerpt from The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Vortex

A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation

by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian

The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian X
The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2022, 528 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 14, 2023, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


As water crashed against its gunwales and poured onto the deck, the Mahajagmitra had no way to find its bearings. The forty-eight-member crew secured every hatch and portal to the lower decks, in the hopes that a watertight ship might survive on luck alone after they lost control of the helm. Every eight seconds, the vessel pitched fifty degrees along its axis as it rode up the face of one wave and into the trough of another. Nesari would have tried to keep the bow facing directly into the threat of oncoming waves, but he couldn't do anything when the water came from all directions at once.

Two hours out from Gasper Light, just after noon, the radio operator of the Majahagmitra sent out another message. This time, it was a request for bearings. They were lost. If two ships responded with their positions, the navigator could try to ascertain the ship's place on a map by triangulating the signals. Yet any attempt would have been little more than an academic exercise.

By this time, the cyclone's tendrils brushed against the sandy islands that make up the Ganges delta, testing the point where it would eventually meet land. Though the storm was moving northeast, the wind hit the coast from the south as the storm circulated.

One hour later, the Mahajagmitra sent out another distress call.

WIND HURRICANE FORCE. ALL ACCOMMODATION AND STOREROOMS FLOODED. ALSO HATCHES MAKING WATER. NOW TRYING TO RUN WITH THE WIND MAKING APPROXIMATELY NORTHEASTERLY COURSE. PRESENT POSITION VERY APPROXIMATE. UNABLE TO GIVE INDICATION AS TO WHERE.

Hurricane force means gusts moving at speeds of at least seventy-four miles an hour, but this ship experienced far stronger. The wind carried almost enough force to take a man airborne. The vessel's prodigious storerooms took on water, making it almost impossible for the ship to maneuver. Their northeast course meant that the storm rode directly up their stern.

In the swells of anxiety and desperation, Machado might have summoned his bride up from the flooding decks below to the bridge, one of the ship's highest and driest parts. The couple would have watched helplessly as waves crashed over the bow. The captain may have tried to keep up morale, perhaps he brought the crew together in a song, or he might have laid out an action plan of how best to survive a sinking vessel.

The irresistible forces of nature dragged the Mahajagmitra into the very center of the cyclone, where it started to sink amid mountains of water. Jute bags floated in the storerooms and the wind drowned out the crew's prayers as they neared the cyclone's rear eyewall, beyond any hope of extrication. The old diesel engines could not power them away from their doom.

Ten minutes later, the Mahajagmitra's radio operator transmitted his last signal into the void:

WILL LEAVE SHIP. NO REPLY EXPECTED.



Act I
The Vortex

1
Hafiz Uddin Ahmad


DACCA, EAST PAKISTAN
FALL 1968
Two years before landfall


Thirty thousand fans erupted into cheers the moment that the football hit Hafiz Uddin Ahmad's chest. The ball dropped down to his feet with a featherlight touch. Hafiz raced forward with his precious cargo, commanding both the match and the crowd as he sprinted across the halfway line.

This was Hafiz's home turf: Dacca, the Bengali capital of East Pakistan. Clad in the green-and-white uniform of the Pakistan National Team, his back bore a big number 10 in stark white. He chose the number in honor of the Brazilian football superstar Pelé, who wore that same lucky number half a world away. Hafiz welcomed the comparison between himself and the greatest football player of all time. After all, to millions of East Pakistanis, Pelé was no Hafiz.

Today, Hafiz and his teammates—Pakistan's most talented players—hosted the mighty Soviet Union, one of the world's best teams. Hafiz dribbled around a Soviet midfielder and passed the center circle, paying the opposing player little mind. He kept his eye on the keeper's hands, fifty yards ahead. Hafiz had that rare sixth sense for knowing what opposing players were going to do a split second before even they did. He focused on the little details that everyone else missed. A keeper might twitch a finger and give away which side of the net they thought Hafiz might aim for. Pakistan was down 0–1, they needed an equalizer, and this was their best chance yet.

Excerpted from The Vortex by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian. Copyright © 2022 by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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