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 Post subject: Castaway
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 8:46 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:19 pm
Posts: 636
Location: Masterton, New Zealand
It was pitch black and the wind was howling a gale as the old hull of HMS Corrugated inverted and sank within minutes of the alien strike. The beam had simply ripped out the side of the ship and there was no time for the conventional cry of “Abandon Ship”. I was lucky in that I was on deck at the time and the crew were unlucky in that they were all below decks in the storm. They stood no chance of survival and mostly went down while still inside the ship. More luck came my way as a Carley Float had broken away from it’s mount and washed overboard and I had hung on to the lanyards around the float and eventually dragged myself aboard. Luckily we were in the tropics so cold wasn’t a problem and the rain had been so torrential that the bottom of the float was awash with fresh water. I had been carrying a maintenance back pack when it had happened, but I had no food and I knew that the speed that the ship had sunk would make any SOS call unlikely. I lay in the bottom of the float and slept fitfully . I have always been lucky in that I could sleep almost anywhere in any conditions but that night was a challenge!
I was alone and I wasn’t even sure where I was- whether we were in a shipping lane or not, whether an SOS had been sent , if anybody at all knew of the ship’s fate.

The morning dawned a little quieter. Still a heavy sea but without the horrendous winds of last night. As the day dawned I looked all around the horizon for any sign of a ship or land, but it was well into the afternoon that I saw for the first time a grey smudge in the distance on the edge of the sea. I was, by now very hungry as there was not so much as a ship’s biscuit in my back pack, which was unusual as I am a greedy pig and usually manage to stuff some sort of candy bar or chocolate in to take with me for my rounds. I pondered trying to fish but I had nowhere to cook it and although I suppose in extremis I could eat raw fish, it did not yet appeal to me. Fortunately towards evening I could see that I was approaching an island that I had first seen as a smudge on the horizon, but now appeared to be where the now gentle wind was blowing me. There were paddles lashed to the inside of the float and I tried to encourage my float towards the island when I thought it would help. I endured another hungry night but by morning I could almost reach out to the island. I paddled furiously as it seemed my float might pass by the island and eventually I was on a beach thousands of miles from my home or friends.

On the beach I dragged my float up in case I needed it again. I didn’t want it floating away. I sat down for a while- pleased to have at last, firm ground beneath me. I could see palm trees, hopefully coconut , so driven by hunger I walked towards them and lo! Coconuts they were! I hit the trunk with a heavy piece of driftwood and one nut fell. A rock was all I needed to crack it open and I ate all the milk and pulp at one sitting, (although I lost quite a lot of the milk). There were crabs and shellfish on the rocky shoreline and in my pack was an igniter for my small butane solder gun, and a small tin containing assorted electrical fittings. I put the contents onto a flat topped rock, in case I needed anything later, put some salt water into it with the crabs and mussels. I used the igniter to start a small fire of dead wood I found on the beach. My meal was very healthy, even if short on greens and carbohydrates- masses of protein and lots of taste. I also found a custard apple tree with fruit on and a kind of citrus that I wasn’t familiar with, but was willing to try.
As night approached I used some plantain leaves to make a bed but I wasn’t too worried about the rain that might fall as it was so warm but one thing I had found in my shirt top pocket was my MP3 player- the battery was gone but with my maintenance kit from the back pack I found some copper wire and some zinc cable clips. Using the citrus fruit I inserted a copper wire at one end of the fruit and the zinc at the other and connected it with some wire to the contacts of the MP3 player. At least I had something to listen to as I passed the night away. Middle Eastern music has always left me spellbound and fortunately I had copied some to my player, which I had only recently discovered sung by Loreena McKennitt , a Canadian but surrounded by some very traditional musical instruments. Takes me straight back to Turkey, which I loved.

This little island, ( and I walked right around it yesterday) reminds me of my childhood in Bermuda. My mom , dad and I lived on Bluck’s Island for nearly a year. I didn’t go to school, my mom taught me and dad used to get picked up by a Royal Navy motorboat every morning except when he was officer of the day and he stayed at HMS Malabar overnight. We had a Paw Paw tree and I found a few on my walk around the island - I love Paw Paw but I’m going to have to figure out how to get them down, I don’t think I’m up to climbing palm trees nowadays. Nice fruit addition to my diet and I think it might take a while for me to get fed up with shellfish , crabs and lobster. All this made me reminisce about my mom and dad.

It’s been a hard day! Although the island isn’t tall, it only has a couple of low hills, the vegetation is very dense and it’s hard work doing what we would call, back home, ‘Bush Bashing’. I walked around the coastline of the island the day after I arrived but the interior may yet supply me with a fresh water source of some sort. There doesn’t seem to be any indigenous animals, just some brightly coloured birds and a lot of seagulls. Haven’t seen any nasty insects so that’s good, although I could probably eat them if there were. Quite nutritious insects are- you just need such a lot of them! From the top of the highest point I can just see what seems to be another island which at first I thought was a cloud on the horizon. That makes it probably about 30 miles away, a little too far to paddle unless things really get tough .

Today was exciting! I had fought my way through some very thick lianas still looking for a source of water as my solar powered fresh water machine was not producing enough to keep me fully supplied in this heat. Back from the beach I could see a depression in the island and I hoped that there might be some sort of catchment below my vision. When I reached the bottom of the depression the ground was damp so I dug a hole with my hands hoping water was just below the surface. I had barely reached 3 inches before I struck wood of some sort. It seemed flat and hard as I dug around it. Eventually I was able to clear the surface and I saw what appeared to be carved writing in the surface. Soon I could read it! My heart was in my mouth as it became clear what I had discovered. It was a wooden memorial!

Who was Morgan Bourke? Who carved the memorial to him? Is there further evidence of a previous castaway? Going by the date there would be no survivors less than 150 years old but there might be some sort shelter or maybe a written diary or some such. Anything which might help my survival would be welcome.

In the bush I saw some kind of wooden construction and the remnants of a path leading to it.
But only when I reached it did I find the body, or rather the remnants of it, of Morgan Bourke’s fellow castaway! Ragged clothes covered a skeleton and round the body a leather pouch, cracked and weathered by over a hundred years of neglect. I carefully opened the pouch and inside a rusty knife, some twine , a pencil and a very delicate diary with some pages stuck together , some completely gone . Only the last page was readable and then with great difficulty. There was no mention of the writers name but he mourned the passing of Morgan, his friend of many years, and of the hardships they had faced before the tree had fallen and killed him, and the loneliness he was left with. How he yearned for a friend , another human, a glass of ale and a loaf of bread and the companionship of others . The page was dated the 19th Of June 1879, two years he had been alone, with little water . The last page had been dated 28th June, in very shaky handwriting but nothing further had been written. I squatted on my heels for quite some time, thinking of Morgan Bourke and his un-named friend. It seemed a fitting , if limited purpose but I owed them that.

Today I saw a plane, high up in the sky - not worth lighting my signal fire. I’ve had it sitting there for 8 years and no cause to light it. I renew the plantain leaves as the dry up as I would need smoke for anybody to see it. I never realised how far off the sea lanes we were when the Corrugated sank. I had hoped that some kind of SOS was sent but it seems not. By now it’s probably been thought of by the rest of the world as one of those “Bermuda Triangle” events with all sorts of suggestions and theories, none of which really fit the bill. I’ve buried the remains of Morgan’s friend (I almost feel as if I know them both) but I don’t suppose anybody will bury me when it happens, as happen it will . I’ve been experiencing strange dizzy spells where I find it hard to stand up as my balance is haywire. I’ve been lucky I suppose in that this island has fed me and watered me for such a long time. I’ve experienced a few storms but my little bivouac has stood up well as it seems it had for Morgan’s friend. I wish I had known his name . Oh! Oh! I’m feeling wobbly………………………………..............................................

Civilisation is a veneer , easily soluble in alcohol.

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