Paul Allen 1953 – 2018

Floris Steenkamp

The death earlier this week of Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, is also of particular sadness for Walvis Bay. It was this billionaire’s super yachts calling at the port of Walvis Bay every other year which also assisted to place the harbour town on the map. The super yachts Tatoosh and Octopus were always a spectacular site as they entered the port and stayed alongside for several days to serve as an alternative accommodation platform for Allen who loved Southern Africa and never missed an opportunity for an African safari.

But, as the media reported worldwide on the death of Allen who was diagnosed in 1982 with lymphoma, another very interesting fact about Allen surfaced. His deep interest in naval history. Such a passion it was for him he invested a great portion of his wealth (44th wealthiest person on the plant at the time of his death) in the development of research ships and also deploying Octopus from time to time to search for famous naval ships sunk during the Great War (1939 to 1945). In fact, he solved a number of these naval mysteries through research and searching the deeps of the ocean in theatres of the ocean where fierce battles took place at sea between the Second World War’s Allied Forces and the Axis forces of Germany, Italy and Japan. The first Allied submarine to be sunk in World War II (Australian submarine HMAS AE1) was located thanks to Paul Allen’s interest on the subject. Then there were other famous warships located on the bottom of the abyss: HMAS Canberra, USS Lexington, and IJN Mushashi. Canberra was an Australian heavy cruiser, lost in the battle of Savo Island. Lexington was a US aircraft carrier, sunk after the battle of Coral Sea. Musashi was one of the world’s largest battleships.

Allen also had a passion for space

Paul Allen not only shared a love for the ocean’s deep abyss but was also passionate about space. His love for space was inspired by the 1969 moon landings which he witnessed as a 16-year old.  He funded the well-known experimental space plane project, SpaceShipOne, which won the X-prize in 2004.

Allen’s death also came as the countdown began of the first flight of the world’s biggest airplane, Strato-launch, another big Allen-project. Strato-launch is a giant six engine, twin fuselage place that will be taking off from a normal airstrip, flying at high altitude close to the atmosphere’s border with space and from there launch space applications like satellites. The plane returns to its base like any conventional airplane and is striving to completely re-place the space rocket, the current way of launching objects into space.



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