I b’ain’t dead

Just resting. In fact I am feeling much better, I think I’ll take a little walk…

No, I haven’t got the black plague, or even if the RAT tests are to be believed the modern equivalent (which doesn’t even compare – but you tell the young people of today that, and they won’t believe yer.) Just a cold and some bruising and aches. Surprisingly these are good things for writers, as I have more reason to stay at my desk. Of course my muse said ‘phaw! You think you are busy with a slew of other books, I will demand historical romance of you.’ But as I have been struggling to write at all, stress levels being up, I’ll take it.

Part of what brought this up was a trip out to a remote island off the north end of our island – 12 and bit miles offshore. About half a mile long, by 350 yards wide, with no easy landing spots, and rising to 200 feet – mostly of cliff, it’s not a place that sees a human very often. Being the sort of guy I am I looked up shipwrecks out there. We were diving on a reef that came up from 30 meters to two, with patches breaking at low tide. It was -in parts, entirely too much like diving down a cliff, swimming down a steep wall, with visibility fading away into deep blue murk, and me tugging at my dive-buddy’s fin and pointing up at about 15. There were, frighteningly enough, lots of small fish and no big ones. Think about that one.

Anyway, back to the shipwreck – there was one on ‘the reef that sticks out from Craggy island – possibly where we were diving as there are two reefs that could fit. We didn’t see any wreckage, but it happened in about 1860, and the ship was lost into ‘deep water’ (relative I suppose) after striking the reef, that she was swept over after losing her sails in a squall. There are no further details, but someone must have survived or even that would not be recorded. If they managed to get a small boat launched, well, it would have been in rough seas, and twelve miles of strong tides and currents, and a prevailing wind that has its next touch of land about a thousand miles off in New Zealand.

If they didn’t get a boat off, and ended with some survivors getting to the island (plausible, the reef breaks the force of the waves, and there are a line of rocks to the shore)… well, there are some plants between the rocks. There are no trees, but woody shrubs might give you enough to kindle a fire. There is no water, but the island has sea-birds and seals, and you can see Flinders Island twelve miles away. Curiously enough the island is infamous for fleas, which suggests to me at least the ship’s rats made it ashore.

Of course, in those parts, in the 1860’s, Flinders barely had a population, and the chance of anyone at the North end to see your fire (most settlement was down south, around the sounds, which has sheltered water and more rain, and a couple of streams) or on the smaller easy-to land islands off that coast, in the sheltered water, and with the island meaning you could keep you could keep livestock without fences) was mighty slim, and the little woody shrubs were not going make you a raft, let alone a boat – and without a sail or strong rowing, even a boat was going off across the Tasman sea, to New Zealand or South America.

I suppose there was a chance of another sailing vessel – but it wasn’t a good place for sailboats as there are many scattered shoals and isolated rocks close to the Furneaux group (there are 52 islands, and heaven knows how many reefs and isolated rocks. One I dive on is a mile from the shore, comes up to just below sea level (you can stand on it) from 10 meters – and is all of 2 square meters on the top. How it hasn’t caught dozens of vessels amazes me). I haven’t been able to track down the full story, but as we know where it sank and how, someone must have got back to civilization. Or there’d just be maybe a lonely cairn of stones, and what the birds and the rats left of any survivor. The island gave me a bit ‘cald grue’, if you know what I mean. I am not in a rush to go out there again.

Of course, that’s the vessel we know about. How many thousands of others set out, and just never came home. You can’t be a writer and go to spot like that without your imagination telling you stories.

17 comments

  1. Your description of the wreck contains nothing that would not have been visible from land,were there a witness. Lost sails are conspicuous.

    1. Twelve miles at closest from an island 50 miles long, with a population of around 100, maybe – most of whom lived on the 50 miles away end? In weather bad enough to rip the sails (so all there is to see is masts and tatters?)? with a complete enough description of striking the reef (200 yards long) and sinking in deep water?

  2. Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian singer, has a number of songs about men, ships, the sea, and how unforgiving she is. “Ghosts of Cape Horn” is one that gives me the chills, although “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is still colder. (Talk about great use of steel guitar. That and Ian Tyson’s [also Canadian] “Claude Dallas.”)

  3. *Grin* Yeah, nothing like breaking a writing hiatus with . . . something completely different from what you “ought” to be writing. I love it when that happens, and so far, my readers haven’t complained too loudly.

  4. Okay, I give up. I admit it, I’m a flatlander: I have no idea how the blue water behaves. Why is having lots of little fish but no big fish a scary thing?

    1. What ate the bigger fish, or at least scared them off? Something large, and predatory, probably a Shark (of Unusual Size.)

    2. I figured it out from knowing a little about land predator/prey relationships– and honestly it expands metaphorically really well to people predators*– where if there’s a group of animals missing but the next size lower is plentiful, there is probably a large predator for them around and it’s likely hungry because it ate all the bigger stuff.

      *Street thugs=> local gangs => big organized gangs.

      1. City kid here. It generalizes more than that. Any time the distribution of things you’d expect in a given environment is ‘off’, be very wary if not afraid.

        Fish population oddly distributed, same for animals going silent and vanishing in woods. Or not seeing women or children outside in nice weather in a residential area.

        In this case it has to be something removed or scared away the bigger fish but doesn’t seem to bother the small fish. So not lack of nutrients, etc, but something large, hungry and an effective predator. Or possibly somethings, more likely to make a clean sweep that way.

        1. Or not seeing women or children outside in nice weather in a residential area.

          Good point, I flatly rejected an apartment complex that was a great price, loved the apartment, right where we wanted to be…because I drove through at 2pm on a Tuesday, and there were only muscular males between the ages of 16 and 24 wearing Oddly Expensive Sports Clothing, including coordinated (spotless) sneakers.

          I may be a stupid country kid, but even *I* can catch on when the plumage is that bright.

  5. . There were, frighteningly enough, lots of small fish and no big ones. Think about that one.

    I’m the kind of person who thinks about THAT situation at the first hint of deep water, no evidence needed!

    1. Something big enough around those parts that it ate all the medium size and big fish… so big it doesn’t bother to go after the small fish.
      Something predatory, and a diver looks like a real big source of meat…

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