Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Part 1-11 The Lighter and The Men in The Waves

Our prayers to God were rewarded, and finally the the night began to end. In the first rays of light shining over the horizon we could see that we were in the heart of the sunken reefs. Boulders were scattered far across the sea. The raging breakers sprayed through the air.
About one hundred meters from the ship there was a quite large, flat boulder breaking up through the surface of the sea. Between that boulder and the ship was a gulf of boiling and seething waves.
"We may be able to see an island, climb up the mast and have a look," I ordered, and two men climbed up the still tottering mast. The morning mist was obscuring their sight and no islands were visible.
I spoke to the crew from my memory of the sea maps and navigation charts. "There are no visible islands. First, we must move to that nearby boulder. From there we will go in search of an island. The captain is always the last to go on land, so if I cannot make it, you must all continue on to the north. There will be islands there. If there is no water on those islands, cross over to the next island in the north-west. That should be Midway island.
"Well, we're going ashore, make preparations. Don't forget to unpack any supplies. Everyone, bring as many clothes as you can. Wear you winter clothes and your summer clothes. Put on your socks and your shoes. Put on your hats, and tie towels and hand cloths firmly around your heads. Tie as much as you can around your waist, the more layers the better, so tie them tight. Be careful not to drop your jack-knives."
Everyone bundled up like eskimos. It was because from now on we would need these clothes, and they would also prevent injury if someone was knocked from the boat by the waves that pummeled over the reefs.
"Let down the lighter."
At last, when the crew heard the order they had been steeling themselves for, they grew tense. We were entrusting our lives to this one lighter, so we could under no circumstances allow ourselves to relax. Every man knew that if the lighter was taken by the waves, not a single one of the sixteen could expect to survive. The lowering of the lighter was a utterly sobering operation that meant life or death.
While carefully watching the intervals of the unending waves I would shout, "there," at the right moment, and we would drop the boat onto the sea. If we were unlucky and the timing was bad, the vicious waves would lift the lighter and hurl it against the side of the ship, smashing it to pieces. Or again, it could swallow the boat in a single gulp, sucking it to the bottom of the sea and that would be the end.

The first step of the operation was to pour oil into the waves to calm them.
Oil is commonly poured from boats in times of rough waters, because when oil spreads over the surface of water it will calm even the fury of waves enraged to the point of madness.
Raging waves are like several thousands of stampeding stallions, their wild stark white manes streaming on forever. Pour in oil and the white manes are hidden, becoming simple waves moving up and down. We knew very well that since long ago, sailors of all the worlds countries have used oil to cool the fury of the waves.
It was when whalers on a ship being toyed with recklessly by the sea thought 'this is enough,' and were ready to give up, when suddenly the motion of the boat slowed and the waves stopped battering them. They saw an area of the sea that appeared strange with a dead whale floating nearby, and they understood that the waves were being quieted by the oil seeping from the whale. They learned that oil was effective in silencing the waves. And furthermore, only a little oil is enough. Just a single drop will quiet two square meters of the sea. For the lowering of a lighter, dripping about half a liter into the sea is enough to quiet the water on all sides of a ship for one hour. In the terms of an academian, the oil spreads out to the unimaginable thinness of one micrometer, a millionth of a millimeter, and coats the sea, calming the waves.

So in this fashion, the crew of the Ryuusui-Maru set about calming the raging waves.
We put sea-turtle and shark oil into oil tins, and after opening several small holes threw two and then three into the ocean. However they had no effect on the waves frothing and curling up the stone of the boulders.
At last, the helmsman and the boatswain climbed into the lighter, and everyone slowly lowered them with the pulley they were hanging from.
Watching for a break in the waves, I finally chose a moment and we lowered them onto the water.
A crest like a mountain crashed toward them. Just one gulp. Before we could blink, the boat and the men were gone.
After, only white waves bubbled fiercely across the surface.
The faces of all the dependable men changed color. The lighter which was the rope that held our lives had been swallowed by the waves. The two leaders that we depended on, the helmsman and the boatswain, had been swept away. We would no longer be saved.
I, the captain, gave up. Of course there is no mistake that the other crew did as well. No one said a word. We were pale faced and soaking wet.
Would the Ryuusui-Maru, just like this, suffer the same fate as the lighter? We all stared in silence at the mad white dancing waves.
One second, two seconds, three seconds.
Suddenly, two or three of the men raised surprised voices. Other men were pointing towards the boulder, chewing their words. I looked, and at the base of the flat boulder rising a few meters above the waves, the bottom of the capsized lighter had come to the surface.
'Ah.' Two black heads were floating up in the white waves.
'They made it,' the two men were climbing onto the boulder.
No matter how loud a shout, with the roaring of the waves and across hundred meters, it would not be heard. Waving hands and jumping, they let us know that the two of them were safe, the lighter too was fine.
"Banzai!" Without thinking, the shout came surging out with pleasure.
"Ah, fantastic!"
Everyone looked at each other, relieved.

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