Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Part 1-10 The Long Time Coming Dawn

Our Ryuusui-Maru was washed onto a sunken reef. Still, the boulder had bitten deep into the bottom of the ship and the prow was pointed in the direction of the waves, so that the hull did not immediately break apart and sink. A ship is designed to push through the waves as it sails, so the prow is made especially strong for this purpose.
First of all, I predicted that we could make it through the night. Though if the waves began to come from the side the ship would immediately be destroyed.
I gathered the crew on the deck and addressed them in the darkness.
"We have been sufficiently prepared for a situation like this for a long time. Swimming to land in this black night, through the waves crashing madly against the boulders, would be a waste of our lives. When the sun rises we will go ashore. We will persevere for three more hours. Each of you will gather the goods that you think will be essential from this moment to the end, be it five years or ten years, for survival on a desert island." I spoke those short words while we stood fast on the deck, the waves raining down on our heads. Then in a loud voice I gave orders.
"The four fishermen will protect the fishing boat. Tie it tight. It must not be lost to the waves.
"The four sailors will protect the lighter. Our lives depend on that lighter more than anything else. Boatswain, you too, protect the lighter.
"Fishing captain. In these waves, even if we can make it to shore safely, we will not be able to transport enough food supplies. Fishing gear is precious. Gather as much as you can and prepare it to be loaded.
"Helmsman Sakagibara, you will assemble the tools for digging a well; a shovel and a pick. These are necessary no matter what. Also, don't forget matches, binoculars, a saw and a hatchet.
"Cadets. Spending several years living on a deserted island and then simply returning home safely would be a disgrace the country of Japan. The study you have been hoping for for so long, you will carry out fully. Gather as many textbooks as you can, and get them ready to be moved out. Bring out all the books in the captains quarters. The sextant and the chronometer too.
"Alright everyone, get to work."
The boat squealed and ground up the boulder, and at the same time, all of the lamps inside the boat blew out. We were being rammed violently against the boulder so that the books flew from the bookshelves and the cutlery rolled and fell from the cupboards, being strewn across the floors and decks.
No matter how many times we relit the lamps, they immediately went out again. There was no wind, it was the unending spray from the waves that put them out. Everyone groped in the darkness, gathering their things while being showered with sea water.
The hull made strange creaking and screeching sounds as it was battered by the waves. Every time the waves crashed, there was some place that was destroyed, and something stolen away.
The fishing boat that was tied so firmly to prevent it from being swept away was assaulted by a single gigantic wave and smashed to pieces, not even a splinter remained behind. But the four men protecting the ship, like the brave sailors they were, fought through the raging waves of the storm. They all survived and not a single man was injured.
I gave orders to everyone and immediately ran into the captains quarters. I gathered the essential texts into a pile, tied them firmly in a wrapping cloth and put them on the bed. After that, while I was out on the deck giving instructions, a large wave came smashing in over the starboard side, tore away the door to the captains quarters and swept it over the port side. Everything inside the room was literally washed clean away. The maps, the navigation charts and the compass were all stolen away by the waves.
The only thing still not taken was the lighter. It was the one thing our lives truly depended on. Only this, we must not loose. The crew put all their strength into protecting the lighter.
Even in these trying times all sixteen crew worked calmly, especially the Old Man of Ogasawara, who urged on the young men and laid the preparations for our going ashore.
On this one night time truly passed slowly, the morning was a long time coming. We prayed to God--while being rained upon by waves--for the day to quickly come.
Hanta, of Ogasawaran birth, asked me, "will there be drinkable water on the island?"
I was shocked. No coral reefs have fresh water. However, what kind of disappointment would it cause among the crew, if I said that after all of this the island would not have precious life giving water?
After thinking everything over and while knowing it was a lie, I answered only after a great long pause, "there will be water."
For all that, we still had to endure one or two more hours before the day finally broke. I questioned the chances of our hull withstanding the waves until then.
Every time the great waves came crashing in the boat trembled. The planks of the deck warped and bent one by one out of their seams, and even walking became dangerous. The mast began to totter as if it might fall.
The helmsman shouted, "keep watch on the mast!"

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