Sunday, April 4, 2010

Part 1-12 The Tightrope Act Above The Waves

And so, we found we could not make it to dry land using the lighter.
We attached a life preserver to a long thin rope and let it be washed along in the current, the tide and waves quickly swept it to the boulder.
The two men on the boulder picked up the life preserver, and so the rope was spanning the distance between the boulder and the ship.
From the boat we tied a thicker rope made of Manila hemp to the thinner rope which was quickly reeled in to the boulder.
Like this the boat and the boulder were now connected by the stronger Manila rope. They secured the Manila rope to the boulder, and on the ship we heaved in the slack rope with an, "en-sa! en-sa!" pulling it tight, and then secured it to the boat.
We were making the Manila rope into a bridge---a ropeway. Now it was the rope that held our lives, opening a path to the boulder.
Next, we tied a strong rope to the ropeway, making a ring. We would hang from this. We tied a long rope to this ring, and sent one of it's ends to the boulder. Then we fixed the other end to the ship.
There were now two ropes spanning across the gap between the ship and the boulder. One line was the ropeway, with both ends solidly secured. The other followed along the ropeway, making an inhaul that could move the ring. If it was drawn in from the boulder and let out from the ship, the ring would move to the boulder. If it was drawn in from the ship and let out from the boulder, it would move to the boat.
We took turns pulling the inhaul attached to the rope to the boulder and then to the ship, this initial trial went well. We would all try to cross to the boulder in this way.
The youngest of us, Kunashiri the fisherman, sat in the ring first and we tied his torso securely to the ring. He grasped the ring with both hands and set off for the boulder.
On the boat everyone let out the inhaul, and on the boulder, the helmsman and the boatswain chanted, "yon-sa, yon-sa," and began to reel it in.
But the ropeway line was long. One end was fixed to a low point, the boulder. The other end should have been fixed to a high place, but the boat wasn't high enough. No matter how tight we pulled it, the middle of the ropeway drooped down under it's own weight and dipped into the water. We would be traveling down the ropeway tied to the ring, so under our weight it sagged down even more.
Kunashiri the fisherman left the ship, and was immediately submerged in the turbulent waters. But we waited resolutely; as long as he was secured to the ring, he would eventually be pulled out onto the boulder. If he was unlucky he would take several gulps of sea water and splash through the shallow parts being beaten several times against the boulder below. But it was safer than swimming. As long as the ropeway and the inhaul did not break, there was no danger to his life.
Kunashiri went in and out of the waves, and was slowly pulled further from the ship. Finally, by the strength of the helmsman and the boatswain pulling on the rope he was drawn onto the boulder. The men on the boulder untied Kunashiri from the ring and waved both hands high in the air to us. The crossing had gone surprisingly well.
On the boat we hauled the inhaul and pulled back the ring. This time we tied the oldest crew member, the Old Man of Ogasawara, to the ring. I gave them the signal to pull, and the three men on the boulder got to work, hastily reeling in the inhaul. Soon one more had made it the boulder.
Like this, one after another, my fifteen men gathered safely on the boulder.
There was no more need to worry about ropeway transport. Now we had to get the essential supplies onto solid ground. Alone on the ship, I waved for a few men to come back. First, the helmsman came up the rope, pulled only by me. Then the boatswain, the energetic Kawaguchi, and the naturalized Ogasawaran, Chichijima, who was an expert swimmer, came back to the ship. We threw in the supplies that would float into the sea, and they were quickly washed toward the boulder. I watched the men on the boulder as they waited ready for the supplies and then picked them up, quickly carrying them to the center of the boulder so that they wouldn't washed away by the waves. There was no need to transfer any supplies along the ropeway if they would float.
We thought to take out rations, but the food supply locker was near the bottom of the ship and already flooded, so we could not get inside. We found one bale of rice in the kitchen. The man who's turn it was to do the cooking had carried it up the evening before in preparation for breakfast, and it had been left there since. So I tried to think of a way of getting it to the boulder without it getting wet.
We wrapped the rice bale in two blankets, covered it with a rain coat, and then sealed it in a large wooden rice bin. Over that we spread oil, which would repel water, wrapped it again in a sailcloth, tied the sailcloth down with a rope, and threw it into the ocean. Like this it floated to the boulder easily and the rice did not get wet.
Next, we found a wet rice bale, but there were no boxes to float it in. To ensure that the bale did not break we wrapped it in a sailcloth and tied it with a rope, then tied two empty oil tins to it, stopping the spouts of the tins with shredded rags. The tins would serve as floats for the bale. We prayed for it to be delivered safely and threw it into the ocean. This too, was carried swiftly to the boulder. And so we learned that two oil tins had enough buoyancy to float a wet rice bale.
The five of us on the boat grew spirited.
"Well men, gather more oil tins!" I shouted, and we gathered tins from every corner of the ship. There were many onboard for storing turtle and shark oil.
We tied several things to the tins and threw them into the sea, sending them to the boulder. First were the pickax and shovel for digging wells. Then, the saw, rice kettle, binoculars, several blankets, the sails and sailcloth. Then a lot of rope and the food supplies that had been left out in the kitchen. The oil tins sent them all to the boulder.
Chichijima the swimmer dove into the water in the food supply locker, and brought up a wooden box of canned food. He loved sweet foods, so the very first box he took was labeled "Contents Milk." There were still twenty eight unused cans left in the box. On the second dive, he brought up a box of canned beef. Next was canned goat meat, and then canned fruit. He groped with all his might to pull out those heavy wooden boxes. All these precious cans made it to the boulder safely.
The fishing tools gathered at great pains by the fishing captain were swept away by the waves in the blink of an eye. This was a huge blow to everyone.

The boulder that we were sending the goods to was much bigger than the boat. On the side of the boulder facing the boat, the waves crashed and the bubbling white water tried to scale its edges, raving and sending up spray. However, on the opposite side was a cavity, and the ocean was calm because the boulder served as a breaker. The difference between the sea in the front and back of the boulder was truly shocking. As far as the sixteen of us were concerned, the quiet surface of the water behind the boulder was a peaceful harbor.
The lighter had been turn right side up, its water baled out, its steering oar and paddles collected, and was tied to the harbor in the shelter of the boulder. The goods that had been washed to the boulder were all piled atop the boulder.
If sixteen men rode on the lighter it would be full, and nothing further could be loaded on board. So I had also decided to make a long, thin, triangular raft to carry our goods. We took the materials for the raft from wherever we could on the ship, tearing it away and sending it to the boulder. The mast, spars, timber, large boards, the doors to rooms and other wood we threw into the sea, and they were all whisked to the boulder by the waves. The men on the boulder picked them up, and quickly assembled a triangular raft in the harbor in back.

As the time passed, the ship was gradually being destroyed by the waves. If we were too greedy and stayed onboard forever, our lives would soon be in danger. We had to bring it to an end. Also, we still we had to find and island that we could live on for several years.
The five of us, at length, left our hearts behind of the Ryuusui-Maru, and took turns riding down the ropeway to the boulder.
"All men assemble," I called, and had the men stand in a line on the boulder. I took a role call checking, everyone one by one. All men were there and not a single one injured.
I said, "well, what do you think? We've made it through these giant waves and there is not a single man with a scratch on him. It is absolutely by the grace of God. It is an auspicious sign that one day, without a doubt, all of us together will return to Japan. There is no mistake about it. Now we will find an island, and live there pleasantly. We should all study there as much as we can. I have no doubt that one day it will all be a nice memory. Everyone should be enthusiastic, and do more than just your part. Exactly as I said before, always be looking forward to your hopes ahead. The sailors of Japan do not lose their hope.
"Tie the raft here, and place the baggage on top of the boulder. After we set out from here on the lighter we will find an island, decide a the best place to set up and then come back for the raft.
"On the lighter you will put the tools for digging wells, six oil tins, matches, one box of canned food, chopped planks for firewood and in case the wind begins to blow, a sailcloth for a sail and a log for a mast. As soon as we are ready, we will set out."
Enlivened by my speech, the men acknowledged vigorously and got to work on the preparations for setting out.
The preparations were finished quickly.
"The lighter is ready," reported the helmsman in a loud voice.
"Set sail!"
With that one command, we sixteen men boarded the lighter and pushed away from the boulder.

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