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Carlsen’s wish is that his ashes be spread in the sea close to where “Flying Enterprise” went down

Jens Rytter was captain of “Jutlandia”. One day while he was on holiday at home on the island of Funen, the phone rang. It was from the East Asiatic Shipping Company’s office in Copenhagen. They asked if Jens would drop by to discuss a special job to be carried out on his next trip to the Orient. That was all they could say for the time being. Jens Rytter would receive more information about the manner of the job at the shipping line, but he had to set sail from Hamburg.

“What in the world can it be?” I said to Kirsten when the call was over. They’re not usually so secretive about the cargo. Kirsten Rytter knew all about life at sea. She had often accompanied her husband on the so-called “wife voyages”, both with the East Asiatic Company and for the last many years with the Maersk Line. Kirsten was also to go on the coming trip to Japan on “Jutlandia”, so she was just as curious as her husband. What could the cargo be? When Jens sat in the company’s office in Holbergsgade in Copenhagen, he was informed of the wishes Carlsen’s widow and his daughters Sonja and Karen had read in Kurt Carlsen’s will. Now, the letter from the famous Danish seaman lay on the table.

“They are asking us to launch him at sea, and it should be done according to very precise instructions from Kurt Carlsen himself,” B. Myrthue, nautical Department, said. “Here is the letter with Carlsen’s wishes and the necessary procedures, and you can acquaint yourself with the ethical regulations about burials at sea. Carlsen’s wish is that his ashes be spread in the sea close to where “Flying Enterprise” went down on January 10th 1952. Even though Carlsen has been an American citizen since 1938, he wants to be sent into the sea under the Danish flag, Dannebrog, to the sound of the Danish national anthem and “All your life be true and bold”. Carlsen is there on the table. You can take him back to Funen with you.”

Captain Rytter is in his home on the outskirts of Odense looking through the album containing memories of the unusual journey that ended up being quite different than anything the family or the shipping company could have imagined. The album took him back to the shipping company office in Copenhagen.“I must admit that in a long life at sea I have never experienced anything like it. It was the greatest honor accorded to me by any shipping company, since I chose my path in life at the age of fourteen, to be asked to undertake the task,” Jens Rytter confesses as we re-live the voyage at the dining room table.

The painting of Dancy and Carlsen running down the almost horizontal funnel was painted from an aerial photo taken by a US Navy plane. When Kurt Carlsen returned to Woodbridge after the hero’s welcome in England, The US and Denmark he thought of the idea of a postcard – the postcard that for decades to come was sent to thousands of ham operators all over the world. Jens Rytter thought of this and the task ahead as he departed from Hamburg heading for Rotterdam. He did not like the situation. The weather forecasts for the Channel and the western Atlantic predicted gales and winds of hurricane strength. Maybe even a full hurricane. Just like when “Flying Enterprise” was hit several times and finally had to succumb, not far from the world press waiting in Falmouth.

Jens Rytter had received the exact position of the shipwreck from Lloyd’s Maritime Information Services Ltd.: 49°38’ N – 004°23’ W. He had permission from the shipping company to change his course slightly in order to “launch” Kurt Carlsen exactly above the wreck of “Flying Enterprise”. “Even at the time of departure from Rotterdam there was no doubt in my mind that this task would be very difficult, if not impossible to complete, and my misgivings were confirmed when we reached the open sea. It would be irresponsible to stop the engines and let the large ship drift in the gale. There was only one thing to do.” The wire to the East Asiatic Company headquarters in Copenhagen explained in very short and precise terms that the assigned task could not be completed.

“Taking Carlsen to Japan”. Then Jens Rytter and his crew of 28 continued their journey to the ports of Hong Kong, Singapore, Kobe, Nagoya and Tokyo. Christmas and New Year were celebrated on the way, but his thoughts kept returning to uncompleted task. What if there was yet another gale and hurricane in the Channel? What should be done with Kurt Carlsen’s urn? What would the authorities say in the ports they entered, if there was “dead weight” so to speak? Where should the urn be placed to show sufficient respect for the task and the deceased? The engineer conferred with a minister he knew back in Denmark.

“I decided to lock Carlsen in the safe, and there he waited for the next couple of months. I never did tell the port authorities about my stowaway.

 

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