The story of a sinking that will leave the reader buoyant

'Against All Odds' describes what many have called one of the greatest maritime rescues of all time and by the end of the book, your spirit will be lifted

24 November 2019 - 00:00 By Jessica Levitt

Published in the Sunday Times (24/11/2019)

Against All Odds: The Epic Story of the Oceanos Rescue ****
Andrew Pike
Jonathan Ball Publishers, R250

It's 1991 and more than 500 people have boarded the Oceanos expecting a cruise with good food, live shows and plenty of lounging around. Sure, the departure was delayed because of heavy winds and massive swells, but the captain made the call to set sail.

When, after a few hours, the huge waves crashing into the Oceanos resulted in mass sea-sickness, waiters tripping over themselves and dinner being hard to serve because the dishes kept falling, there was still some sense of "this too shall pass".

Even when life jackets were handed out as a "precautionary measure" and the ship was plunged into darkness, there was confusion but not panic. After all, it's not like the captain informed anyone that there was trouble looming.

Reality only set in when the entertainers, attempting to lighten the mood and still perform, saw the crew being lowered onto lifeboats through a window, and passengers then realised "oh, kak".

Andrew Pike is a maritime lawyer who was part of the investigation of the sinking of the Oceanos and so he pens with remarkable detail, authenticity and sincerity the events that led to the sinking of the Oceanos near Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Pike tells of how the captain and his crew abandoned ship, but also how many good folk took over in the face of a massive crisis: from the entertainers who led the charge (imagine co-ordinating a rescue when you're used to focusing on cool tunes) to the army, government officials and rescue crew who went over and above to make sure that not one person lost their life.

Against All Odds describes what many have called one of the greatest maritime rescues of all time and by the end of the book, your spirit will be lifted. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt