Davy Jones’ Locker
Thomas Calabrese – Don Ryerson was an elite Master Diver and currently assigned to Naval Base, Point Loma in San Diego, California. Master Diver is the highest warfare qualification obtainable by a member of the U.S. Navy diving community. During his illustrious 16 years career, Don accumulated extensive experience in all aspects of diving that included recompression chamber operations, underwater inspections, harbor, port and ship security inspections, submarine repair, expeditionary salvage and underwater demolitions. He possessed a keen intellect and analytical mind which was essential in comprehending the theories of diving physics, medicine, differential diagnosis and saturation diving techniques. Don also had been assigned at various times as a diving instructor for the Special Operator community where he developed long lasting friendships with many Navy Seals and Delta Force operators.
The deep-submergence research vessel (DSV) Carla was searching for a sunken freighter that went down between 50 and 90 miles off the coast of Oceanside during a violent Pacific storm on February 18th 1936. At the time of the maritime mishap, the USS Fallbrook was transporting 3,000 metric tons of gold bullion and silver coins from to the Bay Area to the San Diego Federal Reserve Bank. This massive transfer of wealth was done because the San Francisco Mint was shutting down operations in 1937. This legendary sunken treasure had fascinated adventurers and underwater explorers for decades.
Richard Ronson was a multi-billionaire explorer and treasure hunter and was funding the entire search and salvage operation. Even though he was born in America, he chose to make Singapore his primary residence because of its robust and conservative economy. Ronson made his massive fortune in computer chip manufacturing and being a visionary internet investor. He was also a major stockholder in Elon Musk’s Space X enterprise as well as dozens of companies. Ronson was a major political donor who supported conservative causes and candidates and gave millions to veterans’ charities and organizations. He was a polarizing figure, people either loved or hated him, there were very few who were ambivalent about this unique man.
When the DSV Carla experienced a severe mechanical malfunction, it sent out a Mayday distress call before sinking into the Horno Trench, an area of the Pacific Ocean that was almost 6000 feet deep. Besides Ronson, Bill Moreland, Jerry Doherty and Todd Van Pelt were aboard the watercraft.
Master Diver Ryerson boarded a Coast Guard chopper at Point Loma and flew to Camp Pendleton where Assault Craft Unit 5 was based. A new prototype air cushion vehicle was being tested at this location and it was decided by the Pentagon that it would be used in the rescue. There were representatives from the National Safety Board, Maritime Commission, Department of Defense and Department of State as well as FBI agents on site. Don immediately got a bad feeling when he saw so many bureaucrats loitering around in one place. He knew from previous experience that when you get these many political parasites in one place that it is not a good thing. Master Diver Ryerson sought out Captain Martin Nielsen, the Commanding Officer of Assault Craft Unit 5 for an initial briefing. When he found him, Don said, “Master Diver Ryerson reporting as ordered, sir.”
“Good to see you, Master Diver. As you can see we’ve got a circus going on,” Captain Nielsen said.
“I wish it was just a circus, it looks more like a clown convention,” Don shrugged.
As the two seasoned Navy personnel were conversing, a man approached. Brad Buergo was a senior official with Seaway Deep Ocean Salvage and had worked with Don in the Persian Gulf two years earlier. “Good morning, Master Diver.”
“Hey Brad, who called you?” Don asked.
Brad responded, “Ronson’s personal assistant, Lori Shepard. Can we talk in private?”
Don turned to Captain Nielsen, “I’ll get back to you.”
As they walked off, Brad commented, “I think there’s more to this than the government is telling us.”
“Don’t make me play 20 questions,” Don said.
“This may have been sabotage,” Brad said softly.
“That’s a substantial allegation for a guy who just got here,” Don said.
Brad said, “Lori Shepard, Ronson’s executive assistant is waiting for us at the Oceanside Harbor. She’ll explain it to you.”
Don and Brad drove off base and met with Lori at the Broiler Restaurant. She was an attractive and self-assured woman with a firm handshake who looked Don straight in the eyes when they met. “It’s a pleasure, Master Diver Ryerson. Your excellent reputation precedes you.”
“Don’t believe everything you read or hear,” Ron said.
Lori said, “I believe in the facts and that is why I used the adjective excellent.”
“Brad said that you have to something to tell me,” Don said.
Lori pulled out her phone and said, “I got this call five minutes after the Carla sent out a distress call.” She turned on the recording and while the voice was digitally altered, the message was crystal clear. This was no accident.”
Brad asked, “What do you think?”
“Definitely makes things more complicated if it’s true,” Don said, “Let’s get out to the site. I need a visual assessment before I make a judgement.”
Lori offered, “I’ve got a helicopter waiting.”
“One of my salvage vessels is on its way from Ensenada, “Brad said.
Back in Washington DC a group of men were sitting around a table on the sixth floor of FBI Headquarters. Leon Brennan was the Chief of Staff for the President and asked, “What’s the current status of the Carla?”
Victor Burris responded, “All we know so far is that it is resting on the bottom of the ocean.”
“What about Ronson and the others?” David Shapiro inquired.
“No debris or casualties reported so far,” Victor Burris replied.
Leon Brennan strongly emphasized, “There can be no survivors, understood?
“How do you want to do this?” Nick Carrington said.
Leon Brennan strongly suggested, “Since the sabotage didn’t work, we’ll just slow walk the rescue.”
“What should we tell the press?” Jim Hayden asked.
“Implement the usual protocol. Tell our usual favorable media outlets that unknown sources found several mechanical malfunctions. Emphasize that the Carla was not certified for this type of deep sea exploration. We wanted Ronson dead, but being trapped on the bottom of the ocean will also have its benefits so let’s adapt and take advantage of the situation, gentlemen. This gives us the opportunity to discredit him as a reckless individual with a total disregard for anybody’s safety. Blame him for everything and the gullible public will just think that he got what he deserved. Portray the other people aboard the submersible as just innocent people who trusted the wrong man. We’re going to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Don’t let the truth get in the way, all we need is a semi-believable lie,” Leon Brennan boasted.
David Shapiro asked, “You said you want to slow walk the rescue, any suggestions?”
“Tell our person on site to develop a plan, that way nobody can say we didn’t do our due diligence,” Leon Brennan laughed, “This can not be a Navy or Coast Guard operation so transfer jurisdiction to Homeland Security. We can manipulate the situation much easier with Director Butterfield in our pocket. Keep your eyes on the ball and never forget that our primary goal is to delay things until their oxygen runs out or until the pressure crushes the Carla.”
By the time the private helicopter made it to the site of the last known location of the Carla, the USS San Lorenzo was cruising nearby. Master Diver Ryerson commented, “I know the Captain, lower me down, I want to talk to him in person.”
After reaching the deck of the Navy vessel, Don went to the bridge to meet with Commander Jack Keaner.
“Good to see you, Master Diver,” Commander Keaner.
“Same here, Commander. What’s the status on the rescue?”
Commander Keaner, “I was hoping that you had something. The last order I received was stand down until further notice.” Don shook his head in disgust, “You know something that I don’t?”
“What I know you don’t want to know, sir. I need to get back on the helicopter,” Master Diver Ryerson commented.
Back aboard the helicopter, Lori asked, “What do you think?”
Master Diver Ryerson turned to Brad, “How far is your ship?”
Brad pointed to the south and replied, “There it is right now.”
The helicopter landed on the Acadia and Don, Brad and Lori went below deck. Lori commented, “According to our command center’s latest calculations, the Carla only has seven hours of oxygen left.”
Don turned to Brad, “Are you still testing your new rescue submersible?”
“Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but we’re not ready,” Brad responded.
Lori offered, “I’m prepared to pay each of you 20 million dollars if you go now.”
Brad asked, “Let me see if I got this right, you’re saying that even if we fail and we die in the process, you’ll still pay my family 20 million?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Lori affirmed, “You are Mr. Ronson’s only hope.”
Don volunteered, “I’ve always said I’m worth more dead than I am alive. I’ll give you the name of my next of kin.”
Brad got on the ship’s radio and announced to the crew, “Get the Aegeus ready. We’re on the clock!”
The crew was experienced and up to the task of preparing the submarine. Two hours later, Master Diver Don Ryerson and salvage expert Brad Buergo entered through the hatch and secured it behind them. They got into their seats and did an extensive pre-dive check to make sure that all systems were working properly. When finished, Brad radioed to the deck crew, “We’re ready for descent.” The crane lowered the small submarine into the water and it disappeared beneath the surface.
Back in Washington, Leon Brennan and his band of bureaucratic thugs were eagerly anticipating the official announcement of the deaths of the people aboard the Carla.
Aegeus used its highly sophisticated sonar system to locate the Carla. That was only the first part of rescue. Brad and Don still had to maneuver their submersible so that it was directly over the Carla. The bottom hatch of the Aegeus had to be perfectly aligned with the top hatch of the Carla before proceeding to the next step. Don tried to contact the occupants of the disabled submersible, “Aegeus calling Carla, Aegeus calling Carla.” There was no reply.
There was no answer and Brad voiced his concern,” Do you think that they are still alive?”
“If they are, they’re probably unconscious by now,” Don used a pneumatic wrench to remove the bolts that held the hatch in place. When that was completed, a special winch lifted the 1500 pound door. Don entered the disabled submersible and found Ronson, Moreland, Doherty and Van Pelt sitting peacefully in their seats and checked their pulses, “I need the oxygen masks, I’m hoping that cerebral hypoxia hasn’t set in.” (Cerebral hypoxia is the result of lack of oxygen to the brain and can cause long-term brain injury.) Brad handed down four hoses with masks attached and Don carefully placed them on each man’s face before giving them a 64 mg papaverine hydrochloride injection to increase oxygen to their brains.
Brad asked, “What now?”
“We should know in about 10 minutes if we got here in time,” Master Diver Ryerson said.
One by one the men slowly awakened from their unconscious state. They were disoriented and weak, but they were alive! Don helped each one to the open hatch where Brad pulled them up into the Aegeus. The men were placed into individual hyperbaric chambers (Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a type of treatment used to speed up healing of carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, wounds that won’t heal, and infections in which tissues are starved for oxygen.) and the oxygen masks were placed back on their faces. After that was done, Brad used the winch to lower the hatch into the right position and Don secured it back in place with the eighteen bolts he had previously removed. The Aegeus disengaged from the Carla and slowly headed to the surface and the main ship. It was like they were never there.
Two days later, a Department Of Homeland Security spokesman made the official announcement that the Carla mission was no longer a rescue, but a recovery since it was determined by ‘so called’ experts that the occupants of the Carla could not survived this long underwater.
It was no surprise that Homeland Security quickly relinquished their jurisdiction of the recovery of the submersible Carla to the Navy. By this time Master Diver Ryerson had returned to the staging area and was ready to offer his expertise. Nobody asked where he had been and he didn’t volunteer any information.
When the Carla was brought to the surface, Navy personnel removed the hatch and were baffled. Every news outlet in the world jumped on the story. How did the occupants get out? There were dozens of theories and assumptions, but only a few people knew the truth and they weren’t talking.
Leon Brennan and his cohorts in crime were desperate for answers, but none were forthcoming. Master Diver Don Ryerson decided this was as good a time as any to retire from the Navy. He had no desire to be involved any official investigation, especially one where he would lie if questioned. When they were well enough to travel, Ronson and the other men flew by private jet to an island in the Bahamas to figure out their next move.
Don and Brad flew down to the island sanctuary to meet with them four days later. Ronson confirmed the 20 million dollars that his personalassistant promised was waiting for them, “Just tell me where you want the money sent. I highly recommend my personal bank in Singapore, they are very protective of their customer’s identity. You don’t want the IRS coming after you for income tax invasion if you put it somewhere in America.” Ronson held up a sheet of paper with a long list of names and commented, “I do a lot of business in the Far East and I’ve been aware for a very long time about how many sweetheart deals that some of our politicians have with the Chinese Communist Party. It costs me a lot to get video and audio recordings and bank records, but it was worth it. Somebody must found have out that I have them and figured if they killed me, it would save them. My trusted assistant Lori used her impressive investigative skills to find out which member of my crew was coerced by the government to sabotage the Carla. It seemed that the Department of Justice threatened to put his son in prison on bogus charges if he didn’t cooperate with them. He was desperate and wasn’t thinking clearly. When his conscience got to him, he made the call about the sabotage. In a way he saved our lives. I’ve agreed to move his family out of the country if he helps me get the treasonous derelicts behind this. I know you don’t the need the money now, but I can use men like you.”
“I’m not ready to retire, I’m just reaching my prime,” Brad smiled
“It \was never about the money with me. I’m not saying it’s not nice to have a lot of it, but my loyalties remain unchanged, God, family and country,” Don added, “Just because I’m no longer in the Navy doesn’t mean my sworn oath to defend America against foreign and domestic enemies is no longer in effect.”
The man who sabotaged the Carla notified his contact in the current administration with the following information, “I know where Ronson is hiding and I’m willing to tell you where he is. Eventually he’s going to find out it was me who was responsible for almost getting him killed. I need five millions dollar to get out the country.”
Leon Brennan accepted the offer and contacted Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group. (the Wagner Group, officially known as PMC Wagner, is a Russian state-funded paramilitary organization composed of hardcore ruthless mercenaries.) He offered him 50 million dollars if his group attacked the island hideaway of Richard Ronson and killed the multi-billionaire.
One thousand heavily armed men arrived on a specially equipped freighter sailing under the Liberian registry. The mercenaries began climbing over the side into the landing crafts. Little did they know that a force of former Navy Seals and Delta Force Special Operators were waiting for them . The men of the Wagner Group men walked into a buzzsaw and were cut to pieces by overlapping fields of small arms fire and a well-placed mortar barrage. Master Diver Ryerson and Bruce Buergo used a small underwater sled to transport a 500 pound demolition charge to the freighter. They attached it to the center of the ship, just below the water line and left the area. After receiving word that the attacking force on land had been neutralized, Don detonated the bomb and split the ship open and it quickly sank to the bottom of the ocean.
Leon Brennan and his cohorts were taken captive after leaving Marcel’s an upscale eatery in Georgetown. They were taken by helicopter to a container ship cruising a hundred miles off shore and placed inside a shipping container and the door was locked. A crane lifted it up and dropped it over the side. The men slowly screamed for mercy as water seeped into their makeshift metal coffin. This was a fitting demise for these ruthless men who had no problem trying to perpetrate a similar death on Ronson and his companions.
Brad walked over looked down at the water and spit over the side, “The Deep Six is too good for them,” (Deep Six is an English phrase of likely nautical origins, most commonly used as a verb meaning: “To discard, get rid of, or cancel; to completely put an end to something.”
“There’s always room for a few more derelicts in Davy Jones’ Locker,” Don added.
Two months later, Master Diver Ryerson, Brad Burego and Ronson’s salvage team located the sunken USS Fallbrook and recovered the treasure. Don looked at the millions in gold and silver setting on the deck of the ship and smiled in appreciation, “You can’t always predict what life is going throw at you, but you can control how you react to it.”
It was 4th July, 2023 and to celebrate the monumental discovery and America’s independence, Richard Ronson had an elaborate barbecue feast and major fireworks display for the ship’s crew and salvage team.