Recently I received an intriguing letter from Adrian Das, Lieutenant Commander, USNR (Retired). LCDR Das has gracefully permitted me to quote his correspondence.
"In January/February 1973, I was in the U.S. Navy on board the USS Saratoga (CV-60) enroute from Singapore to Mayport, FL.
"We were on a northwest heading in the South Atlantic, having entered the Atlantic from the Indian Ocean. I had the mid-to-four Officer-of-the-Deck (OOD) watch, and had just assumed the deck, when the Junior Officer-of-the-Watch (JOOW) noted a strange series of three lines in the sea return. The first line was very pronounced; the second line somewhat less pronounced; and the third, still less pronounced. We were on a heading which had the lines approaching from about thirty degrees off the starboard bow.
"As the lines came very close, we could see they were actually very deep troughs. The ship's bow entered the first trough and the ship went about ten degrees bow-down into it. When we hit the far side, the entire ship shook like a leaf, and we took what I estimated was about sixty feet of dark water (as opposed to foam and spray) over the bow.
"Just as the ship settled out, we dropped into the second trough, which was not as severe, followed by the third, which was still less severe.
"The following morning, I learned from the Ship's Bos'n that about twenty feet of the starboard flight-deck cat-walk and about ten feet of the port side cat-walk had been sheared off, and additionally, several hull illumination light fixtures were carried away."
In an aside, LCDR Das mentioned, "I cannot remember if I even documented the event in the Deck Log, although I probably did, as it was my first watch as OOD. Needless to say, it brought the Captain to the bridge from his Sea Cabin almost instantly, and we all watched the radar as the second and third trough came by.
"I think they refer to these as the 'Three Sisters.'"