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.