Cottage Grove sentinel. (Cottage Grove, Or.) 1909-current, June 22, 2016, Page 4A, Image 4

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Offbeat Oregon History
For captain and crew, catastrophic shipwreck was
luckiest break of their lives
For the Sentinel
hen their ship suddenly started
sinking beneath their feet, just after
nightfall on a winter day while crossing the
notorious Columbia River Bar, chances are
that Captain Canute Rommerdahl and his
crew thought their luck had run out.
They’d fi gure out later that the sinking
of their ship, the S.S. Drexel Victory, was
probably the luckiest break they’d ever
caught in their lives.
No one actually knows what happened to
the Drexel Victory that night, as she steamed
across the bar en route to Yokahama, Japan.
The ship was practically brand-new, having
been built less than two years before at the
Permanente/Kaiser shipyard in Richmond,
Calif. But she was a Victory ship — and that
gives our best clue as to what might have
suddenly happened to her at 5 p.m. on the
fateful evening of Jan. 19, 1947.
Victory ships were, essentially, souped-
up Liberty ships. And Liberty ships were
one of the most important reasons the Nazis
lost the Second World War.
The basic Liberty Ship was patterned after
a First World War-era British cargo steamer,
with the blueprints modifi ed to make mass
production possible. To keep costs down
and make huge production numbers pos-
sible, it was obsolete by design, using an
antiquated but reliable 2,500-horsepower
steam engine to shove a squat, blocky 441-
foot-long hull through the water at a barely-
adequate 11 knots. But it was capacious,
and it was cheap, and when production re-
ally got rolling the Portland shipyard alone
was cranking them out at a rate of one new
ship every three days. The Nazi submarines,
trying to choke off the torrent of supplies
crossing the Atlantic to keep the war go-
ing, soon found themselves inundated with
thousands of these ugly things, and no mat-
ter how many they sank, the numbers never
stopped increasing.
But an awful lot of them were getting
sunk. Slow and underpowered, they were
sitting ducks when a submarine got them in
its sights, and no amount of guns and depth
charges added to the upper decks could
change this.
Also, when a submarine put a hit on a
Liberty ship, the results could be quite dra-
matic. Part of the modifi cation of the origi-
nal British design involved having the Lib-
erty ships’ plates welded rather than riveted.
This resulted in a stronger, tighter connec-
tion between the plates, and a much faster
one to boot — but it meant something else,
too: When a crack got started, it could liter-
ally circumnavigate the ship. A Liberty ship
could crack in half. And plenty of them did
exactly that.
Of course, when a German torpedo hits an
unarmored cargo ship, she’s going to sink
one way or another, cracks in the hull or no
cracks in the hull. What was more alarm-
ing were the three known cases of Liberty
ships just breaking in half and sinking while
minding their own business, nowhere near
a German raider. One of these, the S.S.
John P. Gaines, broke in half and sank off
the Aleutian Islands, drowning 10 mariners.
And, of course, plenty more were lost in
storms and heavy weather at sea; it’s a good
bet that under the strain of hurricane winds
and mountainous seas a few other Liberty
ships went down with all hands and no one
the wiser as to why.
So it was with all these factors in mind
that the U.S. War Shipping Administration
commissioned a replacement for the Lib-
erty, just a few months after Pearl Harbor.
That replacement would become the Vic-
tory class. The Victory was an improvement
in every possible way. Thanks to a massive
power upgrade, it was over 50 percent fast-
er — 17 knots, which is roughly the same
speed as a surfaced German submarine —
so it was far harder to put a torpedo into. It
was bigger — 455 feet long and displacing
15,200 tons, versus 441 feet and 14,245, re-
spectively. Then, too, it was far easier on the
eyes than a Liberty ship, with a raked bow
and an elegant cruiser stern. And to help
address the cracking problem, the internal
bracing was changed to make the hull less
The very fi rst Victory ship, the S.S. Unit-
ed Victory, slid into the water at Henry Kai-
ser’s Oregon Shipbuilding Company yard in
Portland, in January 1944. From then until
the end of the war, a total of 531 of them
were launched from six shipyards — the
largest number of them built in Portland
— to join the 2,750 or so Liberty ships in
Uncle Sam’s wartime production records.
The Drexel Victory was one of the last
Victory ships built, in the waning months
of the war. Now, two years later, she was
making her way across the bar with a mod-
est load of cargo bound for Yokohama, Ja-
pan, when suddenly something big and loud
happened to the hull amidships — between
holds 4 and 5.
It was nothing as dramatic as what had
happened to the doomed Liberty ships, but
it was enough. Water poured into the ship;
plates bulged under the sudden pressure.
The crew got to the pumps and tried to keep
up, but the ship was clearly sinking.
By now the darkness was complete, but
fortunately the weather wasn’t too heavy,
so the Coast Guard motor lifeboat Triumph
and cutter Onondonga managed to get the
crew evacuated without any major trouble.
Then the Onondonga tried to get a line on
the drifting, unmanned freighter, hoping to
beach her or at least make sure she didn’t
sink in the middle of the channel. All efforts
failed, though, and the sinking Drexel Vic-
tory drifted out to sea, wallowing lower and
lower and fi nally sinking in deep water just
So, what happened? No one really knows
for sure. The captain was exonerated at the
subsequent hearing; he’d had his ship in the
channel, doing everything he was supposed
A new peace movement
We need a new peace movement, a movement to
bring both peace and peace of mind. A movement
that turns away from greed and force, because greed
and force are ugly in the eyes of childhood and our
better nature.
The world needs a peace movement to becalm its
waters and rinse its skies with cool, clean rain. We
Cottage Grove City Hall: 942-
Cottage Grove Mayor Tom Mun-
roe: 942-5501.
Cottage Grove City Councilors:
Mike Fleck, At Large: 942-7302
K. Michael Roberts, At Large:
Jake Boone, Ward 1: 653-7413
Jeff Gowing, Ward 2: 942-1900
Garland Burback, Ward 3: 942-
Amy Slay, Ward 4: 942-5501
need a world that acquires learning (for its own sake)
and makes peace (for its own sake), removes rocks
from its fi elds and sows for a tomorrow that we can
give our children as a gift. Our world needs a peace
movement because tigers love not the lamb, and
bloodshed lays salt upon the land.
Leo Rivers
Cottage Grove
Lane County
Faye Stewart, East Lane Com-
Lane County Public Service
125 East 8th Street
Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 682-4203
Fax: (541) 682-4616
Oregon State House of
Rep. Cedric Hayden (REP)
District: 007
900 Court Street NE
Suite H-288
Salem, OR 97301
Phone: (503) 986-1407
Fax: (503) 986-1130
Email: rep.cedrichayden@state.
Oregon State Senate:
Sen. Floyd Prozanski (DEM)
District: 004
900 Court Street NE
Suite S-319
Please see OFFBEAT, Page 10A
Salem, OR 97301-0001
Phone: (503) 986-1704
Fax: (503) 986-1080
Email: sen.fl oydprozansski@
Kate Brown
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047
Phone: (503) 378-4582
Fax: (503) 378-6827
United States House of
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (DEM)
District: 004
United States House of Represen-
2134 Rayburn House Offi ce
Washington, DC 20515-0001
Phone: (202) 225-6416
Fax: (202) 225-0032
The health risks of natural sweeteners
For the Sentinel
dded sugars come in
several forms other than
table sugar, such as evaporated
cane juice and high-fructose corn
syrup (HFCS). Calorie-contain-
ing sweeteners like maple syr-
up, honey, agave and coconut
sugar are marketed as “natural”
and often touted as healthier al-
t e r n a t ive s
added sug-
ars. Is there
any truth
Similar to
sugar, these
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alternatives are still low-nutri-
ent concentrated sweeteners;
they add substantial calories to
the diet while contributing very
little nutritional value. Maple
syrup and honey elevate blood
glucose similarly to sugar (su-
crose), leading to disease-caus-
ing effects in the body. Agave
and coconut sugar rank lower
on the glycemic index but are
still empty calories and have
other negative effects.
Repeated exposure to these
excessively sweet tastes dulls
the taste buds to the naturally
sweet tastes of berries and other
fresh fruits, which perpetuates
cravings for sweets and can
undermine weight loss. Since
some natural sweeteners un-
dergo fewer processing steps
than sugar, they may retain
some phytochemicals from the
plants they originate from, but
their nutrient-to-calorie ratio is
still very low, and they contain
minimal or no fi ber to slow the
absorption of their sugars. The
negative health effects of added
sugar and HFCS (high-fructose
corn syrup) are well document-
ed, including increased risk of
weight gain, diabetes, cardio-
vascular disease and cancer.
Agave nectar is marketed as a
low-glycemic sweetener, due to
its high fructose content (agave
is approximately 90 percent
fructose). Sucrose is half fruc-
tose and half glucose, made up
of one fructose molecule linked
to one glucose molecule. HFCS
contains 55 percent fructose and
42 percent glucose. All sweet-
eners (and fruits) contain some
combination of glucose, fruc-
tose, and the two bound together
as sucrose. Maple syrup con-
tains about 90 percent sucrose,
so it is very similar to regular
white sugar. Coconut sugar con-
tains 70-80 percent sucrose, and
honey contains 49 percent fruc-
tose and 43 percent glucose.
Fructose and glucose are
broken down differently by
the body. When fructose is ab-
sorbed, it is transported directly
to the liver, where it is broken
down to produce energy. Fruc-
tose itself does not stimulate in-
sulin secretion by the pancreas.
However, much of the fructose
is actually metabolized and con-
verted into glucose in the liver,
so it does raise blood glucose
somewhat (although not as much
as sucrose or glucose). Despite
its lower glycemic index, added
fructose in the form of sweeten-
ers still poses health risks. Fruc-
tose stimulates fat production by
the liver, which causes elevated
blood triglycerides, a predictor
of heart disease. Elevated tri-
glycerides have been reported in
human studies after consuming
fructose-sweetened drinks and
this effect was heightened in the
participants who were insulin-
resistant. Fructose, when used
as a sweetener, also seems to
have effects on hunger and sa-
tiety hormones that may lead to
increased calorie intake in sub-
sequent meals.
When you ingest any ca-
loric sweetener, you get a mix
of disease-promoting effects:
the glucose-elevating effects of
added glucose and the triglyc-
eride-raising effects of added
fructose. Sweeteners, unlike
whole fruits, are concentrated
sugars without the necessary fi -
ber to regulate the entry of glu-
cose into the bloodstream and
fructose to the liver. All caloric
sweeteners have effects that
promote weight gain, diabetes,
and heart disease, regardless of
their ratio of glucose to fruc-
tose, or what type of plant they
originate from.
Dr. Fuhrman is a #1 New York
Times best-selling author and a
board certifi ed family physician
specializing in lifestyle and nu-
tritional medicine. His newest
book, The End of Heart Disease,
offers a detailed plan to prevent
and reverse heart disease using
a nutrient-dense, plant-rich eat-
ing style. Visit his informative
website at
Submit your questions and com-
ments about this column directly
to newsquestions@drfuhrman.
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