Solent coastguards were warning all shipping in the Channel of a blazing Danish coaster carrying 400 tons of dynamite.
Two Royal Navy and two French warships were working alongside a French tug in the centre of the Channel between busy shipping lanes.
They were gingerly approaching the Hornestrand which had been abandoned by its crew of five.
As other shipping was kept clear of the floating time bomb, French coastguards considered options to end the hazard –such as a controlled explosion.
An urgent message was flashed to coastguards across the South as news came in of the drama.
RFA Engadine and Plymouth-based HMS Beaver were in the vicinity warning others to give a wide berth.
A No To Air Movement warning was given to aircraft, as explosion fears mounted.