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by Yuri Krymov

Arsen Tarumov and Musya Beletskaya are on night duty at the Caspian Shipping Line. Tarumov is the wireless operator, and Musya takes in and sorts the telegrams. Tarumov has a crush on Musya, and she seems not indifferent to him, despite the fact that she is married. Musya's husband is Basov the chief engineer on the oil tanker Derbent, a leading ship in the Stakhanovite movement.

At the moment, the Derbent is at sea, loaded with highly volatile Krasnovodsk light oil. It is towing another loaded tanker, the Uzbekistan, which is having engine problems.

At 1:57 A.M. Tarumov monitors an S.O.S. message from the Uzbekistan. A fire has broken out on board. Thye are losing stability. The Derbent inexplicably has cut the tow cable and is heading away, not answering any signals.

Tarumov relays a message to all ships in the area to come to the Uzbekistan's aide. Besides the Derbent, the closest ship is 30 miles away.

Then comes a message from the Derbent. Despite the danger posed by the fact that she is loaded with oil, the Derbent will attempt to rescue the Uzbekistan's crew.

Musya seems worried. Tarumov comforts her, saying that Basov is in the engine room and so will be safer. Musya says that Basov is no longer her husband--they have parted ways.

After some tense silence, there is another message from the Derbent. The rescue has been completed safely. There are many burn victims and medical assistance should wait for them at the landing. The message is signed by Basov.

For the daring, dangerous rescue, Tarumov parises the crew of the Derbent, particularly Basov. He suggests that perhaps now Musya and Basov will be able to reconcile.

Still, it's strange--why didn't the captain sign the telegram? And why did the Derbent first sail away from the Uzbekistan?

In 1920, Evgeny Stepanovich Kutasov was in Odessa, serving as captain of the deep sea vessel Vega. The town was occupied by the Whites, but the Reds were pressing the attack. The Whites were planning evacuation, and had ordered the Vega to take part. Kutasov, saying that they couldn't fight rifles with fists, was inclined to do as the Whites ordered. But the rest of the officers were absolutely against it. Reluctantly, Kutasov agreed to scuttle the ship.

But when the time comes and the Whites start boarding the ship, Kutasov is gripped with fear. Instead of giving the order to open the sea cocks, Kutasov rips the captain's cockade off his cap and runs away.

Kutasov is ashamed of his behavior, and, after the Reds liberate the town, he and his wife move to Baku. There, he takes a desk job at the Caspian Shipping Lines records office.

Kutasov works quietly for 15 years, until one day, the head of the company, Godoyan, summons him. A new tanker, the Derbent, is about to be commissioned. They are short of experienced captains, and Godoyan wants Kutasov to take the job. Kutasov wants to refuse, but--feeling somewhat intimidated--accepts.

Kasatsky, the newly appointed first mate of the Derbent, is on a train bound for the Caspian. He strikes up a conversation with a pretty young girl named Zhenya, who is a student at the oil institute.

Kasatsky says in the old days sailing was filled with danger, uncertainty, and romance. Now, he regretfully notes, ships like the Derbent are practically unsinkable, designed and built in labs and special chutes by scientists who have never seen a storm or even sailed. These new ships, he feels, are more like speed factories, manned not by sailors, captains, and naviagators, but by workmen, technicians, and engineers. The routine on the Derbent. Kasatsky fears, will be dully monotonous, day after day.

I prefer the romance of achievement. Divers bring to the surface ships lying on the sea-bottom. Ice-breakers cut a way to the Arctic. That's life! And the main thing is that there's no limit to the possibilities of man.
Zhenya differs, saying that she sees romance in achievement and is excited that today, mankind's possibilities seem endless.

Back in Zhenya's compartment, another young sailor--a motorman named Husein--is playing dominos with an old doctor. Husein admits that he has a drinking problem. On his last ship, he was irritated by the attitude of the chief engineer, who wouldn't answer his many technical questions about the engines. So Husein got drunk, got into a brawl, and missed his ship. As a result, he was expelled from the Komsomol and is being sent to work on the Derbent, where it is hoped that he will get his act together.

The doctor comments--and Husein agrees--that getting drunk and not having the will to give up drink breaks worker discipline. Husein is the member of a collective, and in a collective lack of good will is equivalent to a crime.

Stepping out into the corridor, Husein passes Zhenya, who is looking a bit ruffled. Apparently, Kasatsky made an inappropriate romantic advance. Husein offers to beat up Kasatsky for her, but Zhenya tells him not to.

Looking out the window at the heat and smoke of the steppes, Kasatsky thinks, "Where is your blossoming paradise? It's a bare-faced swindle!"

On the night when the new tanker Derbent lay for the first time at berth, it's new chief engineer, Basov, was pacing up and down on the docks forlornly, feeling that his life is a wreck, and he himself is a failure.

G.K. Ordzhonikidze
My moustache is better than Stalin's
also know as
Friend of Stalin -
Murdered by Stalin?

He remembers not too long ago when he was working in the port repair shops. The chief engineer Neuman got sick, and Basov voluntarily took on his numerous tasks. He successfully undertook things he never did before, and he demonstrated an innate ability to organize tasks and workers. He managed to get pistons loaded in a tanker faster than ever before. When Neuman got better, he could see that with Basov on the job, Neuman did not even need to be present. He noted approvingly, "Ordzhonikidze said the best organization is where nobody's irreplaceable."

Basov decides that it would be good if the men at the lathe knew the theory of cutting and what certain details they made were needed for. He is about to suggest this, when the district Party Committe decides on its own to undertake such education. Basov is put in charge of organizing training for the fitters.

When the time comes for the technical minimum examinations, Basov's fitters all pass easily.

Some time later, Basov meets up with one of the fitters, a small Azerbaijani named Zakiria Eybat. Zakiria says he's come up with a way to significantly save time while making pistons, but his foreman, Lukhnov, refuses to let him use the method, saying that it will ruin the lathe. Basov goes to see Neuman about the matter, but, to his great surprise, Neuman and all the other engineers support foreman Lukhnov, saying that he is enforcing discipline. Basov thinks this attitude is nothing but obscurantism and cowardice.

The engineers and technicians of the works have an evening party. There, Basov meets Musya for the first time and is immediately smitten. He just can't take his eyes off her. She agrees to let him take her walking the next night.

On their first walk together, Basov almost immediately asks her to marry him. She agrees, but only after first asking him to stop irritating people by alway trying to find what's wrong and fix it himself. Basov promises to work simply, like the others--only better than the others.

Prior to this, Basov's impression of weddings was that a couple purposely condemned themselves to discomfort so that the collective could have a good party. But he dotes on Musya and is happy with her, despite the fact that he must hide from her his continual dissatisfaction with things at the works.

Occasionally, Musya invites her friends over. Basov has very little in common with them, especially the perfumed, dandified, guitar-playing engineer Istomin, who seems to be spellbound with Musya, even though he is more taken with himself.

In January, ten tankers come in for repairs at the same time. Neuman says they can't handle so many and that half will be sent elsewhere. The works director as well as Basov and others are angry at this suggestion. Instead, everyone works round the clock to get the repairs done. Basov does not see Musya much with all his late night work...even more so because Musya starts working the night shift at the telegraph office.

By the end of January, the repairs are finished. The works holds a meeting to celebrate their achievement. Basov takes the opportunity to again press for Zakiria's idea. All the workers are hostile to him and the idea. Neuman says Basov's behavior borders on holliganism.

At home, a depressed Basov tells Musya about the meeting. She is greatly upset with him for making waves. She wants him to work like everyone else without trying to be original. She fears that Basov will never be a success and she has no confidence in what tomorrow will bring for them.

Some new tankers are sent to the docks. The diesel engines on board are rated to produce 1,400 horse power. But engineer Bronnikov can only manage to get 1,000 h.p. out of the first tanker, the Derbent. The same is true for the second tanker. Bronnikov writes a report on all the defects of the tankers and says that's the best that can be expected. But then Basov, working on the third tanker, the Agamali, gets the full 1,400 h.p. out of the engine. The works director is furious and wants to know what went wrong with the first two tankers. Neuman manages to cool the director's anger, whispering dark things about Basov. The director agrees to let things alone.

A request from the shipping line comes in for the works to attach one of their engineers to the Derbent just for its first voyage. Neuman cleverly suggests Basov.

Dull, helpless people think out limits to achievements to hide their helplessness. They make use of old, worn-out standards and false science. They league together, raise a fuss about imaginary dangers and stubbornly defend their own comfort.
Basov feels it is his duty to go on the Derbent, but is still a little sad that his reward for bringing the Agamali up to speed is exile from the works. Musya cries, saying that Basov never really loved her and that he is is a failure, a weak, ridiculous fellow who's gotten everyone in the shop against him.

Basov angrily shouts out for Musya to shut up. Then he calms down and says that while for the moment everyone shuns him, he's sure that soon all the workmen will come to see that they can in fact work better. Musya says she just wants something better out of life. Basov leaves and spends his last night ashore wandering about the town.

The first months of his service aboard the Derbent pass by in a dull monotony for Husein. The crew is a poor one--alcoholics and other riff-raff--who work lazily and smoke on deck despite the danger. There was no one for Husein to make friends with. He admires the five Komsomol members who have a love of discipline, remarkable tidiness in their dress, and that deliberate businesslike concentration typical of people who are used to responsibility. But they stay mainly to themselves and aren't particularly interested in Husein, especially when they hear how he got kicked out of the Komsomol. Their only advice is, "Show by your work what you're worth."

As on shore, Basov is surrounded by a blank wall of hostility here, too, because of his zealous dedication to improving things. He is very demanding and tries to get the mechanics and motor men interested in regulating the engine, bringing it up to proper speed. For a moment, Husein is interested, but, out of habit, he scoffs at Basov along with everyone else. When in port, Basov is also displeased with how the crew loads and unloads oil, knowing that it could be done quicker.

The Derbent is not fulfilling its plan. It is at the bottom of the list.

On a cold spring day at dawn, the Derbent arrives in Astrakhan late again. For half an hour, wireless operator Volovdya Makarov tries to contact the port to get their lighters. Finally, the shore calls to say that their lighters were mistakenly taken by the Agamali. Volodya and his fellow Komsomol member Kotelnikov, the chief electrician, both know it was just a trick to give the Agamali a head start. The Derbent has become a laughing-stock in the fleet. They get no respect and not a single kopeck in premium payments. In the last month, they have fallen behind the plan by a half-million ton-miles.

Volodya suggests that he and Kotelnikov leave the ship and go to Epron where they are raising sunken ships. Kotelnikov says it would be wrong for Komsomolers to just run off like that. Still, Kotelnikov is interested and tells Volodya to find out more about the Epron jobs.

As the Derbent's oil is unloaded onto the lighters, the bosun, Dogaylo, notes how over the years the waters all around have become so shallow that navigation is dangerous. Basov says that soon the authorities will dredge the area so that tankers will be able to dock right in Astrakhan without any trans-shipping. Dogaylo mocks the idea, saying that the winds and alluvion would immediately clog the channel with sand, making any dredging pointless.

It pains Basov to see his engine-room crew so listless, uninvolved, uncaring. He racks his brains for a way to improve things. He wants to somehow to keep the men on board while in port so that they can overhaul the engines and increase the revs.

Conflicts hurt me, and I am satisfied when I give in to others. Unfortunately, that is not what life demands.
The Derbent is in port loading. Kutasov's wife, Natasha, comes to visit him. He confesses to her that he feels things are going badly. Yesterday, they were very late and Kasatsky suggested that they send a lying message that the weather was bad. Kutasov knew it was the wrong thing to do, but he agreed anyway.

In general, things are slack. The political assistant is a good man, but he's ill. Kutasov gives orders, but doesn't know if they're ever carried out. He has a mild character and just can't force his will on others.

Bredis, the political assistant on the ship, ill with fever, stands on deck, filled with despair over his seeming helplessness to improve the sorry state of affairs on board. The Derbent transported 20,000 tons less than the plan. The deficeit was caused by small hold-ups in loading and unloading and insufficient speed at sea.

He discusses this with Basov and concludes that it is all the fault of the ship's Party members--himself and Basov.

Basov says the problem is that the men feel no responsibility for their jobs. He thinks, however, that by the end of the season they will be able to turn things around and overfulfill the plan. First they must shame the men and stress that they are getting no premium payment because of their lazy work.

Bredis thinks it is wrong to appeal to ambition and earnings. Instead, they just need to understand that the struggle to feed the nation's need for oil is equivalent to war. Basov thinks it's harder to ship oil than to fight at the front.

Husein goes into town for a date with Zhenya. She's been reading about the oil shipments in the newspaper and is very excited. She is jealous of Husein. As she sees it, he is involved in important, real-life work; and what's more, she sees his job as filled with romance and adventure. Husein laughs, saying that his work is dull, tedious, and unimportant. In fact, he admits, he's a bit of a shirker himself. Seeing that Zhenya is shocked at this, he immediately says that he was just joking. Then, much to his own vexation, Husein finds himself quoting Basov, saying that they can turn things around. They must regulate the engines, go without shore leave and overhaul them.

The crew comes back on board, looking sheepish. They had a run-in with the crew of the Agamali. They taunted the Derbent crew, saying that the Agamali would be setting out two hours later than the Derbent, but they would soon catch up and take the Derbent in tow.

And sure enough, after they set out, the Agamali soon passes the Derbent and tauntingly drops the tow cable in the water. The men on the Derbent are insulted. This time they listen to Basov and agree with him when he suggests challenging the Agamali to a competition. When they get into port, the entire engine crew will have to stay aboard to retune the enigines. Volodya wants to help, too, although he's not a mechanic. Basov accepts the offer.

It is night. The Derbent has stopped to load. Basov calls Husein to join him in the engine room. There, almost all the crew is gathered. Most of them normally have nothing to do with the engines, but Basov thinks it's good to have everyone feel involved. Kotelnikov and Volodya volunteer to carry tools.

Despite the fact that Basov has two assistants, he puts Husein in charge of changing the rings on three pistons. On the upper platform, some fitters are trying to lift up a giant spare piston so that they can slip the rings on it. They are trying to lift it manually because the chain on the crane has jumped off its track. Everyone is afraid to climb up the tall crane to fix it. Husein is afraid, too, but it does it nonetheless. The crane gets working and pulls the piston upright. Husein sweats profusely as he and his team hurry to clean the slag from the ring-grooves and fit on the rings.

Other workers open and clean out the cylinders. The pistols are hoist into place, and the cylinder covers closed just before the horn sounds, indicating the end of the loading. The engines start up as the Derbent sets out. The crew in the engine room watch anxiously. They are excited and enthusiastic as the revs rise to 112. The ship is traveling at full speed!

On deck, Basov tells Husein that getting the ship up to full speed was the easy part. Now they will have to maintain the engine, requiring the crew to forego more shore leave. Basov thanks Husein for his hard work. Husein humbly says he was only one of many. The men exchange a firm, friendly handshake.

The Derbent radios its challenge to the Agamali. The Agamali accepts, on condition that the goal be 25,000 tons above plan. This frightens the Derbent crew a bit.

Husein goes to see Basov, who is looking thoughtful. Basov tells Husein that he's not on good terms with his wife. Husein says he's trying to woo Zhenya, but figures he has little chance since he can see her only twice a month. Basov reassures him, telling him that plenty of sailors are married with kids. Husein tells Basov to practice what he preaches, so, in some embarrassment, Basov says he was joking about being married and is single.

Husein tells Basov about the Agamali's terms. Husein suggests that they can carry extra load by lightening the ship. First, they should carry enough fuel for only one trip, not four as they currently do. Also, they can get rid of some extra anchor chains and other scrap iron. The result will be that they can carry 350 tons more oil per trip.

With the engines running better, the Derbent saves five hours in the trip to Astrakhan. Kasatsky suggests to Kutasov that they send a boastful telegram to the shipping line trumpeting the achievement. For the first time showing some independence and courage Kutasov angrily says he's had enough of these lying telegrams. Kasatsky blabbers on about how wonderful socialist competition is, full of glory and valor, etc., etc. Bored, Kutasov agrees to send a short, dignified telegram about the good beginning to the socialist competition.

Kasatsky then tells Kutasov about Basov's suggest to lighten the ship by taking less reserve fuel. Kutasov is, at first, against the idea, but then agrees. Kasatsky calls Basov a vulgar crank, but thinks that Basov will probably make a good career for himself.

The last lighter comes two hours late to finish the unloading of the Derbent. Husein is angry that these lazy bastards on shore can nullify whatever time the crew has saved through its hard work. He gets even more angry when he hears about the ridiculous telegram the commanders have sent. As if they had undertaken the competition only to get glory!

Husein becomes depressed and thinks that perhaps their efforts will all come to nothing. He suddenly has an uncontrollable urge for a drink. So he leaves the ship and goes to a bar where he guzzles beers. Then, drunk, he smashes all his empty beer bottles on the floor and bolts from the bar without paying, smashing a waiter's skull against a door as he goes.

Aleksei Grigorevich Stakhanov
Four eyes.
A Ukrainan miner credited with
single-handedly mining 102 tons
of coal in a single six-hour shift
in August 1935. This achievement
gave rise to a nation-wide movement
to emmulate his achievement and
boost worker productivity.
The sullen Husein decides he won't go back to the ship. But then, another uncontrollable urge leads him back to the dock. Angry and disappointed, Basov helps Husein sneak back onto the Derbent. He gives Husein a firm dressing down, calling him a rotten good-for-nothing who nearly disgraced the ship. Husein promises that it will never happen again.

At a political instruction meeting aboard the Derbent, Bredis shows the men an old newspaper about Aleksei Grigorevich Stakhanov. The men are astounded with Stakhanov's achievement--1200% above the norm. Basov knows that Stakhanov was at first shunned when he suggested his new schemes and that Stakhanov had to overcome bureaucratic administrators clinging to antiquated technical standards.

Every Stakhanov worker produces far more than he himself can consume. That means that the other workers, who have not reorganized their work, are living to a certain extent on the Stakhanovites. But what honest worker will agree to live on another man? So it's everybody's duty to work like Stakhanov, according to his ability, naturally.
Bredis reminds that men that the Stakhanov movement is first and foremost a movement for the all-out exploitation of technique. It is a movement that started from below; the administration had nothing to do with it. Kotelnikov adds that it is everyone's duty to work like Stakhanov.

Durring dinner time, the Derbent and Agamali, going in opposite directions, pass each other. Unlike last time, the Agamali dips its stern flag in salute. The Derbent crew are triumphant, feeling that at last they are being treated as men. The Agamali is doing 12 knots, and the Derbent is doing 13.

Alyavdin, the navigator, tells Volodya that he thinks there are some latent possibilities in the navigation of the ship. On the way into Astrakhan, they make a big detour to the left of Zhiloy Island, because the channel to the right is too shallow when loaded. However, when they are empty, they could possibly make it through the shallows, saving 40 minutes.

Volodya likes Alyavdin's idea, but he doesn't like the fact that it came from Alyavdin, who had previously held himself aloof and originally scoffed at the competition idea.

Volodya conveys the suggestion to the other Komsomol memebers and Husein. Husein is also suspicious of Alyavdin, saying that he is only trying to grab some glory for himself.

When Basov hears of the plan, he seems dubious. But, he says, it's a serious proposal and they must discuss it. Perhaps Alvyavdin has been hostile to the collective, but part of the Party's job is to win people over. So, they shouldn't reject Alyavdin just because of his past behavior. Husein, Volodya, and the others grudgingly agree.

Later that night, Basov remembers Musya. He sadly thinks that almost everyone has someone in their lives. Only he is so alone.

Basov goes to the navigator's bridge to look at the charts. They he finds Karpushin, an off-duty helmsman, who is spying on the working helmsman and noting the many course deviations he is making--sometimes in excess of five degrees. Karpushin thinks they would save significant amounts of time if they eliminated these deviations.

At a general meeting of the ship's crew, Karpushin exposes the problem with course deviations of both the right and the left. The accused helmsmen get angry, and a brawl almost breaks out. Bredis, however, calms everyone, and they agree to minimize deviations.

Captain Kutasov says he's studied Alyavdin's suggestion to go through the shallow channel. Theoretically it seems feasible, but Kutasov is still a little reluctant. But since there are no concrete objections, he agrees to try it.

In port, theDerbent gets rid of about 100 tons of useless weight--old anchors, chains, spare parts, etc. Also, they take on only enough fule for one trip. This allows the loading of 300 extra tons of cargo.

In the engine room, they work on the fuel pumps and injectors. Husein asks Volodya, who is going ashore, to pass on a message to Zhenya.

Captain Kutasov begins to feel the excitement of the upcoming trip. But still he is apprehensive. So many new things are happening, which is against his inclination for the customary.

Kasatsky is acting strange. He smells of vodka and his eyes are somber and wicked.

Volodya comes back on board and reports that Zhenya sends her warm regards to Husein. She was very excited and interested when she learned that the Derbent was bout to make a Stakhanov trip.

Knowing that the Derbent is going on a Stakhanov run, the shore crew works fast. The tanker loads up in 3 hours and 17 minutes, faster than ever before.

At midnight, Kasatsky comes on deck and paces about. Mumbling to himself, he calls the Derbent a prison-house. He stops to talk with Khrulev, the sailor on watch. They snicker at Kutasov, calling him an old dodderer. Kasatsky comments that the newspapers are making Husein famous, as if he alone were fulfilling the plan, but that Khrulev will never be famous. Khrulev says that when he's on watch, he doesn't miss anything. Kasatsky says that's good because soon they'll be able to makes things right on the ship. He promises to have a talk with Khurlev when the time comes.
While at sea
Read Gorky's:

Song of the
Stormy Petrel

Kutasov comes on deck, saying he was just reading Gorky's Song of the Stormy Petrel. Kasatsky laughs, calling it rubbish.

Kasatsky invites Kutasov into his cabin for a talk. Kutasov can see that the first mate is drunk. Yes, says Kasatsky, there's nothing to do on this prison-house except drink and read the classics.

Kasatsky claims that he and the captain are both in the same position. And what are their choices? They can run and hide in the taiga. Or they can march along with those who want to carve out a better tomorrow. But it will all be a clown straining to lift up enormous weights, and sooner or later the people will find out that the weights are only paper, and the clown will be driven out to starve. Kasatsky says they are scoundrels of the past.

Kutasov calls Kasatsky an appaling hypocrite who's afraid of the sailors because they're young and happy and ready to sacrifice themselves. Kasatsky says he's not afraid of them and, besides, they don't have the brains to see through him.

Kasatsky swigs some more vodka, then tells a story about himself in 1906. He was just out of the naval academy and stationed at Kronstadt. Attracted by the excitement and romance of intrigue, he got involved in a revolutionary organization. But when the time came and a revolt was staged, Kasatsky betrayed his comrades, who were suppressed and hanged.

The shipping line radios the Derbent to learn its speed. Tarumov gets the answer: 14 knots! To the management, this seems to be a mistake. The best the Agamali ever did was 12 knots. So Tarumov radios for verification. By this time, speed is up to 14 and a half knots.

Newspapers start calling to ask about the Derbent, which makes it to Astrakhan in 31 hours. They unload, and turn around. On the way back, they surprise everyone by using their new route around the left side of Zhiloy Island, saving an hour. Tarumov and another wireless operator talk excitedly about the Derbent and her crew, made up of just ordinary fellows who are now doing extraordinary things.

The Stakhanov movement is about rational organization of labor, Tarumov says, and he starts talking about ways to organize his radio communication more efficiently.

Putting on an air of indifference, Musya suggests to Tarumov that they go down to the pier to watch the Derbent dock. A huge crowd is gathered there. Tarumov overhears snatches of conversation noting that the Derbent is carrying 125% of her assigned load.

The Derbent comes in, having completed the round-trip in 63 hours. Tarumov hurries down to the dock, but Musya remains behind on the pier.

By the second week of October, the Derbent tops the list of tankers. In the third week, the Agamali begins making Stakhanov runs of its own and threathens to retake first place.

Bredis's health takes a turn for the worse. He becomes weak and is coughing up blood. Basov says Bredis must go to the hospital. Bredis agrees, but only on condition that Basov takes over political duties for the two months remaining in the navigation season. Bredis advises Basov to keep his eyes on the Kasatsky. He has an uneasy feeling about him, but can't quite find anything concrete.

The Derbent receives instructions to proceed to Krasnovodsk, where they are to begin transporting light oil. The Derbent was not made to transport the highly volatile light oil, which is normally only shipped in petrol tankers. Kutasov, as usual, is indecisive and wants to consult Kasatsky, but the latter is alseep. So he talks it over with Basov.

Basov remembers that last year the oil tanker Partisan, also transporting light oil, exploded and was burnt out because either a sailor was smoking on deck or dropped a wrench. But still, the Derbent's hatches are air-tight, so they can't refuse the assignment and disrupt shipping plans.

A fierce gale comes over the sea. Violent winds blow, giant waves crash over the deck of the Derbent. On the foredeck, the canvas cover is ripped off one of the electric motors. Although it's not his job to do it, Husein volunteers to go out with Khrulev to recover the motor.

Khrulev and Husein crawl over the slippery, pitching deck to the motor and toss the canvas over it. As Husein works to tie down the canvas, Khrulev shouts something and runs away. Husein looks up and sees a gigantic, seething wave rising up over the side of the ship. The icy wave slams down on Husein, pummeling him, roaring in his ears, and knocking him across the deck. Almost unconscious, Husein manages to get up and starts running. He reaches a ladder just as a second wave lashes at him.

Husein drags himself up to the bridge. Kasatsky, with cold, laughing eyes, says Husein was very imprudent. Volodya points out that while everyone else was standing around talking about it, Husein went out there and got the job done.

Basov goes without sleep for 48 hours and stays in the engine room as the gale rages. The ship pitches so sharply that sometimes the screws are completely out of the water. At other times, the cooling pumps cannot take in seawater and the water coming out of the cylinder jackets is scalding. From time to time, Basov closes his eyes and dreams of Musya.

The wind knocks down the antenna and blows out the radio. But Volodya and Basov improvise some repairs. Then the fuel regulator in the engine room breaks down and Basov is urgently sent for. Grumbling about bad organization, Basov heads back to the engine room, but he is intercepted by Husein, who says he's already taken care of the problem. Husein then sends Basov to bed.

In Krasnovodsk, the Derbent takes on its load of light oil, which has a sickly sweet smell. Kutasov is in a good mood. Kasatsky, however, looking tired and ill and with brown pouches under his eyes, feels that no matter how good things are, something unpleasant is sure to happen.

They receive orders to tow back the Uzbekistan, another tanker loaded with light oil, which became disabled in the gale. Kutasov and Kasatsky go aboard the Uzbekistan to review the towing operation. They they discover that the Uzbekistan's holds are not air-tight and they have no gas vents. The smell of gas is everywhere. Kutasov thinks it would be criminal to transport oil under these conditions, but the ship has been approved for transport by the inspectors.

Also, the deck on the Uzbekistan is a bit of a pig-sty, with cables laying about everywhere and laundry hanging out to dry.

While the Derbent is loading, Valerian, the radio operator from the Uzbekistan comes over. He is very young and full of enthusiasm. He boasts of some radio experiments he was doing. He developed a very powerful radio with which he could communicate with ships on the Black Sea. However, he had to stop the experiments because the control station accused him of hooliganism on the air. He also works as a Young Correspondent and wants to interview some of the Stakhanovites on the Derbent. In the course of discussion, Valerian reveals how bad things are on the Uzbekistan. The crew of the Derbent are shocked to hear about the cracks in the deck and the lack of gas vents. It's too late to do anything about it now, but the Derbent crew promises to get in touch with the Party organization to discuss it when they reach Makhach-Kala.

It is night. The Derbent is towing the Uzbekistan past Chechen Island. Suddenly, there are a series of explosions on the Uzbekistan and it bursts into flames. Kasatsky orders that the tow cable be cut, and this is done. Husein comes up on deck and, assuming that the tow cable snapped, starts shouting for Kasatsky to stop the ship. Kasatsky tells Husein to shut up or he'll put him on trial for disobeying orders. Husein ignores Kasatsky and runs off to wake up Basov.

The crew gathers on deck, desperate to aid their comrades on the Uzbekistan. They can't understand why they are sailing away. Basov goes to the bridge, but Kasatsky bars his way. Supported by the sailors, Basov barges in anyway. Kutasov is crumpled up, frozen with fear. Basov tries to convince him to order a return to the Uzbekistan, saying they will all be put on trial if they don't attempt a rescue. Kutasov says he's ill and tells Basov to do whatever he wants.

Basov shouts out orders and the ship heads back to the Uzbekistan. Oil is burning on the surface of the water. Kutasov slowly regains his senses and begins ordering the proper course corrections.

Soviet sailors don't abandon their comrades! Understand?
Husein, Basov, and others get into lifeboats and row toward the burning tanker. They pull burnt and lifeless sailors out of the heaving sea. The burning oil gets closer, and the smoke gets thicker. Still, Husein pulls sailors into his boat. He is almost fried alive as a gust of flame and smoke blasts over him.

Everyone watches as the Uzbekistan rolls onto its side, then sinks, issuing forth fountains of burning oil.

On the Derbent, the burnt and wounded are tended to. Basov, his own hands and face burnt, thinks proudly and lovingly of how well the crew performed--a crew who, just a few months ago, he thought of as good for nothing, insincere and petty. Many ships are now starting Stakhanovite movements, and Basov knows that the Derbent crew will work hard to keep up. If Basov were to leave the ship, it would make no difference, and for that very reason he knows that he will stay...his is not irreplaceable. He grieves for those who lost their lives this night, but still Basov cannot stop himself from feeling happy.

Kotelnikov comes up to Basov and shows him a paper. It is a message written by Kasatsky and signed to Kutasov which they had given to Volodya to transmit with the fire first broke out on the Uzbekistan. It read: "Cannot help Uzbekistan because of strong wind and sparks. Send rescue ship." Volodya had refused to send the message, and now it will be used as evidence in a criminal trial against Kasatsky and Kutasov.

Although she tries to hide it from others, Musya is worried about Basov, whom she hasn't seen in over six months. She goes to the shipping office, but learns no additional information about the situation there. She sees a young woman there--Zhenya--crying. Musya tries comfort her, telling her that her husband is on the Derbent but she's not crying, so Zhenya shouldn't cry over a mere boyfriend.

When Musya gets home, a neighbor woman tells her that a young engineer named Istomin called for her. The neighbor smiles knowingly, but Musya heatedly denies that anything is going on between her and Istomin.

At night, Musya frets, remebering that she thought Basov was a bungler and a dreamer, but now the newspapers praise him. Also, Neuman has been exposed as a hinderer, rebuked publically at meetings. She recalls once seeing Istomin shamelessly trying to flatter and ingratiate himself with the higher-ups.

Musya understands that she was frightened by Basov's failures but also that she could not understand his necessity to do things the hard way. She goes to sleep dreaming of Basov.

The Derbent docks in Baku. The bandaged sailors from the Uzbekistan disembark and wave gratefully to their comrades on the Derbent before being taken away in ambulances. The last to leave is Valerian, who promises to write about the Derbent Stakhanovites.

Husein fights against a doctor. He wants to stay on board and not go to the hospital. Basov, however, reminds him that he just set an example and maintain discipline. Husein reluctantly agrees.

As the oil is pumped off the Derbent, wives and girlfriends flock on board. To Basov's surprise, Musya is among them. She says she didn't recognize Basov at first. He admits that he often thinks of her. Musya implusively throws her arms around Basov's neck.

Musya says that she is an ordinary human being and mistakenly thought Basov could only dream and was no good in things of everyday lilfe. So, she confesses, she is in the same boat as the hinderer Neuman, only people don't know about her and rebuke her publically for it.

She poses a question: If she were to ask Basov to come ashore for good, would he do it? Basov says no. This prompts Musya to declare her love for him anew. She asks Basov to take her to his cabin where they can be alone. But just then, the ship's horn sounds, indicating at all visitors must leave. Basov tells her not to worry. Normally, they'll have more time on their stops and soon they will have relief trips so that they can be together three days a month.

Husein comes running up. The Agamali is loading at another pier. They've overhauled their engines and are hoping to challenge the Derbent for first place.

Basov asks Husein to look after Musya as they two of them leave the ship. The gangplank is hauled up, and Basov and the Derbent set sail to continue their important on-going economic mission.


Biography of Yuri S. Krymov

Krymov, Yuri Solomonovich. Pen-name of Yuri S. Beklemishev, born in 1908 in St. Petersburg. His mother was a writer. Young Yuri also wanted to be a writer. . . (...Continued...)

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