Sunday, March 7, 2010

Part 1-3 Preparing the Expedition Ship

The ship had to be able to weather through however many months it would take, and whatever stormy weather we might meet on the ocean. In preparing the ship for departure, the first thing is mending the hull and replacing the rigging.
You need navigation charts and books to cross the ocean: maps and detailed explanations of islands and ocean currents. We acquired precision machines from overseas to calculate our position, and also borrowed them from the navy and merchant marine school. There were three sextants, two chronometers and we also had an magnificent mariner's compass installed on board. It was beautiful, far better than the average fishing boat.
The crew were are hand picked veterans of the sea. Our helmsman was Sakutaro Sakakibara. He had rare and valuable experience from his tens of years working on the open sea. He was a fisherman who served sometimes as captain, sometimes as helmsman, and had some experience as a boatswain as well. Beyond that, he always conducted himself morally and had an outstanding personality. I could always rely on him as an adviser.
Our fishing captain was Koukichiro Suzuki. He had worked from the seven islands of Izu peninsula to the Ogasawara islands. With a rich background in the business and a degree in fisheries, he was a seasoned fisherman. He had also been in a few shipwrecks and was an industrious problem solver. Indispensable on a long ocean voyage, he was our front-line commander in action.
With all this hardening of real life experience, he was an exceptional, talented, but mild mannered boatswain.
Beside them, there were four who served on the Hokkaido Reclamation. They had been put through several years of toil and hardships from the Shyu-Mu-Shyu Islands' winter hibernation, and also had excellent experience in fishery.
There were two trainees, graduates of the Marine Institute. These two wanted to build up hands on experience and research, and then go on to make their own names in maritime Japan.
There were three Ogasawara Islanders, who had become Japanese citizens. They had blood from American whalers and had lived on the uninhabited islands of Ogasawara, which the whalers had made to a base long ago. In 1875 Ogasawara Island was made a Japanese territory, and the three longed to be Japanese, and in their hearts became Japanese while being born men of the sea.
The rest were three sailors and fishermen. These fifteen worked with all their hearts, and served my every call.

It was normal for a ship to not have a doctor riding on board. Because of this, boats out at sea sometimes fell into quite terrible circumstances.
On one seal hunting ship called the Hi-No-Demaru, every crew member was infected with the smallpox. When it looked like they were going to be wiped out, by pure luck the boat was washed ashore and they were saved.
On another ship in the south sea, called the Matsuzaka-Maru, the entire crew developed beriberi and became unable to move. Finally, three members somehow became able to move around the deck, and guided themselves to Ogasawara Island. There are several similar stories.
Japan's sailors eat white rice, so they develop beriberi easily, and often meet with disaster in the middle of the ocean.
On the Ryuusui-Maru, to avoid this terrifying beriberi, we swore to mix barley into our rice.
The rice barley mixture does not taste good, however for our country, we would ride far out on the Black Current. Barley-rice would make us strong, so we should eat it.
So we mixed rice and barley, half and half, and ate it eagerly.
Other food supplies and any other luxuries are not fit for veterans of the sea. Through the cheap, healthy and long months, and the voyage through the tropics, we would pick carefully through the provisions we had saved up and pack the rest back into storage.
We also resigned ourselves to "never, ever drink alcohol." We all swore to this adamantly.
Everyone saw a doctor and received a diagnosis and vaccinations. On board, in place of a doctor was me, the captain. For that work I equipped the ship with enough of all the necessary medicine and medical devices.
In a boat floating on the sea, you can measure the amount of life you have left by the amount of drinkable water. Bad water is the root of disease.
So we made one large and one small pure water tank. We would them filled from the Navy's water supply in the Yokosuka.
Shabby clothes were fine, so we prepared a lot of them and always wore the worst ones first.
We were especially careful about our bedding, and decided that every member sleep on a blanket. This is the standard, because although some fishing boats use futon, it can be bad for hygiene.

The goal of our voyage was to be fishing. There was no need to even mention preparation of fishing gear.
We lined up shark fishing tools and tools for collecting shark oil. Shark fishing hooks, line and bait have to be tried out in the field, so we collected ones used on Japan's coast, ones used near Ogasawara Island, and ones used in foreign countries. All were to be tried and tested.
The tools for catching sea turtles too, were ones used near the Ogasawara islands, and by other South Sea Islanders. We also prepared a kettle for collecting turtle oil.
In the hopes that we could catch a whale, we assembled the basic whaling gear needed to catch a well sized sperm whale. If you spot a whale on a lighter or a fishing boat, you charge the whale and engage it head to head and take it down with harpoons, hand spears, and harpoons equipped with explosives.
I, the captain, had whaling experience. The newly Japanese crew were the grandsons of whalers. They would always talk of their hopes to run across a whale while brandishing their harpoons.

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