Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chapter 2. - Rivits

After many days of rough passage, in the dark of the night, the Captain heard another sound over the winds. The sound was a crashing surf off to the starboard bow. He quickly turned the Drake starboard in hopes for shelter. The sound of surf grew louder and louder. The captain held the wheel hard over with all his strength and prayed. Abruptly the Drake slammed hard into something solid and popped rivets in a hail of shrapnel.

It wasn't a great landing, everyone was bruised and bloodied, but there were no fatalities. Within a short time the storm blew onward leaving them behind. There were just a few hours before dawn. Exhausted, bandaged and grateful to be alive everyone drifted off to sleep. What new peril would the morning would bring?

As dawn was breaking, so was the Drake. Amidst sounds of crashing surf could also be heard popping rivets, groaning metal plates, and straining bilge pumps. The shipwreck survivors slowly awakened from their exhaustion induced slumber. Slowly, as wits and strength returned, they made their way to the deck. They stood dumbstruck, gazing at what had stopped the projectile named RMS Drake.

Less than one hundred meters directly east was a pristine white sand beach that sloped upward and back into a dense tropical forest. Coconut palms, palmettos and ferns were abundant, as well as razor grass and other underbrush. The forest appeared very thick and deep, a quick breeze ruffled the tops of the trees as far as they could see. As they watched, a large flock of birds rose from the trees, screaming, diving and swooping, and disappeared inland. 

The beach and forest stretched for miles to the north-northeast, until it disappeared on the horizon in haze and mist. From the Drake's perspective, the beach and forest also stretched for miles to the south-southwest, until it too vanished at the horizon. This was not a caricature desert isle with its single palm tree, this was a landmass that speculation predicted could be immense. Why it was not on any map was a mystery to Captain DeKaban.

Pop! Another rivet hurriedly leaving its berth brought the Captain's attention back to the Drake. It was past time to offload material and supplies that would allow survival. Water, food and shelter were immediate needs. In these climates, exposure to the elements was not an immediate risk, except for the sun. He prayed that was the last hurricane he would see for a long while. 

The captain set his crew to gathering all the perishables that could be preserved and had them transferred into the two ships boats. Salvage of other material that would not be affected by water was delayed. The Drake was not going to sink, the storm had thrown her several hundred meters onto a coral reef. She was taking on water as the plates failed. The realization that survival may be a long-term activity had awakened in the captain's mind. He was determined to salvage every scrap of material that might prove useful. 

As the captain turned to enter his cabin, footsteps sounded loud on the deck planking. Two crewman, breathless, wearing lop-sided and hopeful grins, came hustling up holding a waterlogged pigeon cote. The captain, in what seemed like the first time in years, smiled. There were five pigeons still alive.

Looking closer, all three that Fairvictory had given him in Capetown were looking back at him. Somewhat bedraggled and confused, the birds appeared healthy. Enlisting Lady Sarah's help, crewmen Burke and Duncan went off to warm, dry and feed the birds. The captain continued on below, now focusing on finding his navigation tools. 

Sometime later, DeKaban used two of his precious carrier pigeons to send a message to Fairvictory. The second pigeon, was a cool gray blue with a confident eye. Everyone bade it good speed and fair travel as it mimicked a bullet toward the west.

RMS Drake shipwrecked on uncharted island.
All Passengers and Crew in good health.
14 46 30S 73 26 10E
Send help,

For several hours the two ship's boats were kept busy salvaging the Drake. Dolphins, playing in the surf watched the small boats swim back and forth between ship and shore. They chittered at the boats every so often but soon tired of the game. They went back to feeding and surfing. The boats continued the salvage operation. Late in the afternoon, the boats brought all passengers and crew to the beach. 

Snort stepped out onto a bright white sand beach, there was plant debris everywhere. Seaweed had been pushed high on the beach; undergrowth had been ripped loose and blown about by the storm. The scattered coconuts brought his attention to an immediate task. Survival would require food, shelter and fresh water. 

With coconuts and fish to be harvested, food was plentiful, if not exactly gourmet. A remembered image of the swarming birds returned to Snort. There would be game available, but the birds also meant there was fresh water somewhere near. A scouting party should be sent out, soon. Snort turned to help Sarah out of the boat.

Sarah extended her hand to Reginald and stepped out of the ship's boat onto the sandy white beach. This place was beautiful and sent her imagination running back to her childhood. She remembered daydreams of far off islands full of adventure. She remembered them as much more comfortable however, and her pragmatic side pulled her out of reverie. 

With Reginald at her side, she strode inland, until she was almost at the jungle edge. Looking around she found a few coconut palms that had been blown over in the storm. These would serve nicely as seating around a fire-pit. She began to gather material for a fire.

The next few weeks settled into routine, limited exploration and survival. Snort and some of the 213th Worcestershire soldiers explored the area. A little brook, that ran quick and clear, was found about a half-mile from their initial landing point. Construction of shelter close to the brook was immediately begun. Soon there were several buildings that offered a modicum of comfort.

As the days passed, Lady Sarah came to the realization that rescue may never arrive. She needed something to hold onto her courage. A remembrance from her childhood of a little white prick-eared terrier, with boundless energy and courage came to her unbidden. Her father had given her that dog, and told her that its name was Scimitar. She had not been able to pronounce that name, it tangled on her tongue and lips. Her father had smiled at the attempt.

During the evening meal, Sarah asked DeKaban if he had thought of a name for this newly discovered land. He had not. She described the memory and the link to her father and home that the little dog's name conjured. 

Capt. DeKaban was delighted with the story and hastily organized a ceremony. Shortly after dinner, with everyone in full military dress, Capt. DeKaban proclaimed "This new land is claimed for Queen and Country and shall in future be known as - Zimdar". A toast was raised and downed at the christening.

The RMS Drake is ruined, the shipwrecked company is on an uncharted island. Will they ever be rescued? Stay tuned.

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