Saturday, 30 January 2010

Glimpses of the Guiana Wilderness - 1918


A. Hyatt Verrill.

Your Excellency, Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great deal easier to show interesting pictures than to say interesting things, and I have no doubt you would rather see my pictures than to hear me talk, so I shall try to show as many slides as I can and say just as little as possible.

The only trouble has been to select the pictures, for there are so many interesting and remarkable places and things to be seen in this colony that it's a mighty difficult matter to pick out the most interesting. Moreover, I have had but four days in which to select my views, have the slides made and colour them, and hence I am limited in the number I can use.

Every part of the interior is so different from every other part that in order to obtain an intelligent idea of the country, one must travel here, there, and everywhere. So I shall give you glimpses of various places and shall jump from spot to spot, regardless of time or distance.

It may be just as well to begin near home and I will start with the most important river, from a commercial viewpoint,—the Demerara. My first view is a typical scene on the Demerara River, a timber raft floating past Christianburg with its saw-mill in the distance. The only motive power of this craft is the tide, the long sweeps being used merely to guide the raft, and by this slow and tedious method the lumber is floated down to the coast from the distant forests of the hinterland.

The next slide shows a man felling a greenheart tree. Note the staging built about the tree so the chopper may work above the out-jutting, buttress-like roots. As yet the timber resources of British Guiana are scarcely touched, and there are vast forests full of valuable trees which are now worthless, owing to the difficulties of transportation, and which would prove a source of great wealth if railways were in operation.

Another picture shows one of my camps in such a section. From my hammock in this camp I counted 55 greenheart trees, every one of which would have squared to 18 inches or larger.

This next picture is not a parody of "Washington crossing the Delaware,'' but shows the people of Mallali going to church. For some unknown reason the church is on the opposite shore of the river from the settlement and the devout Mallalians risk a ducking every time they attend services. It looks as if these people had solved the problem of getting a quart into a pint, even if their pint is a punt.

Another glimpse of the Demerara River, shows a scene near the source of the river above Canister Falls and where the broad river, which flows past Georgetown, dwindles to a mere brook which one may step across.

But the Demerara is one of the least interesting of British Guiana streams, so we'll step across to the Essequebo and take a flying trip up the Mazaruni. Everyone who goes up the Mazaruni starts from Bartica and in this picture we have a couple of gold-diggers' boats preparing to leave Bartica for the placers far back in the interior.

The next picture shows one of the gold-diggers or “pork-knockers" at work washing out gold from the gravel of a placer. This particular pan rewarded the pork-knocker with over a pennyweight of gold, but often they work for days without getting a cent's worth. Pork-knocking is no “get rich quick" scheme and an average of one dollar a day is doing very well.

After leaving Bartica the first interesting spot we see is the Penal Settlement. Every inhabitant of Georgetown should envy the prisoners their situation. It's a great pity that the capital was not built on this high, fine spot or on some similar spot instead of on the mudflats.

Here is a view of the settlement while in the next we see the popular superintendent, Mr. Frere, being “filmed" for the motion pictures with the prison quarry in the background.

The Mazaruni is a very beautiful river; to my mind the finest in the colony, but navigation is slow and difficult owing to the numerous falls and rapids. Going up stream the boats must be hauled through the falls by means of ropes, except at Caburi, which is shown in this slide. Here a portage has been provided around the cataracts and the boats are hauled overland, as illustrated in the next picture.

Coming down the river, however, is far more exciting, and progress is swift, for unless the rapids are very bad the boats are run through them as illustrated in this slide. Marvellous skill is required on the part of captain and bowman when the boat dashes with express train speed through the rock-filled, tumbling waters. In a few hours going down one often covers the same distance which required days of toil in going up.

This is a famous landmark on the Mazaruni, known as "Crapo Rock" or "Frog Rock." Many of the rocks in the rivers are worn into grotesque shapes by the water and many strikingly resemble the forms of animals. Note the high-water mark far up on this rock and which indicates the rise of the river during the rainy season.

Between the rapids are many long stretches of still water such as in this scene. The marvellous reflection of the foliage in the dark brown water is the greatest beauty of such spots, for every detail is mirrored to perfection and it is almost impossible to say where water ends and land begins.

The Mazaruni is one of the best rivers of the colony for fish and game, and in the forests along its banks one sees many striking and beautiful birds and strange animals. One of the most remarkable of these is the giant ant-eater or ant-bear. This chap has an enormously long tongue with which it laps up the ants, as shown in this photograph. The queer creature is impervious to ant bites, and many a time, when I accidentally have stepped in an ants' nest, I have envied the ant-bear. He's a pretty formidable beast, too, and when angry or wounded can inflict terrible wounds with his powerful hooked front claws. Even the jaguar gives the ant-bear a wide berth.

But to me, the human denizens of the bush are far more interesting than even the birds and beasts, and it was for the purpose of studying the Aboriginal Indians that I have made my numerous trips into the interior. On the lower Mazaruni there are few Indians but above the falls, and back in the bush on the small creeks, are numbers of Indians living as primitively as did their forefathers before Europeans stepped ashore on the New World. My picture shows an Indian shooting fish, with bow and arrow, the common method of obtaining fish, and very expert the Indians become in this art. The most remarkable part of the feat is their ability to sec the fish in the foaming water of the rapids. Sometimes, when no fish are visible, the Indians call the fish by beckoning with their hands and whistling. I don't pretend to say why this attracts the fish, but it usually does so, nevertheless.

Another method of hunting employed by the Indians, is by means of the blowpipe and deadly poisoned arrow. With this silent weapon the Indians kill both birds and animals. They are incredibly accurate marksmen, and I have seen an Akawoia put five darts into a visiting card at 50 paces. The basket on the man's side contains the poisoned darts which are very carefully guarded, as cold or damp injures the poison. The Wurali, as it is called, is prepared with a great deal of secrecy and ceremony, and the exact method of its preparation is known only to a few individuals. It kills almost instantly, a bird struck by the dart usually fluttering but feet before it falls, but it is not poisonous to eat. It is said that, by administering doses of cane juice and salt its effects may be overcome, but I have yet to find an Indian who would demonstrate this antidote on himself.

Most of the Indians now use guns. Here is a husky Indian hunter of the Waika tribe bringing in a bush hog or peccary, but ammunition is expensive and far back in the interior the Bucks still use the blowpipe and bows and arrows to great extent. The hunter shown in this picture was a wonder and he performed one feat which still puzzles me. He started out with seven cartridges and returned with four bush hogs, two akuries, a parrot and three cartridges!

This picture shows an Akawoia in full dancing costume, feather crown, feather mantle, necklace and dance trumpet. The object on the end of the trumpet is a bit of wood carved to represent armadillo. Each dancer bears a different animal and in the dance is supposed to go through the antics and make the noises typical of the creature he represents. One can imagine the difficulty this man would have; think of trying to make a noise like an armadillo, or a lizard, or imitating a sloth!

Here is another Acawoia in a very different costume, that of the parasara dance, and which is made of palm leaves. This is probably the only photograph ever taken of an Akawoia wearing this costume. During the dance the head covering is turned down and conceals the wearer's face. The object in the left hand is the dance drum and that in the right is the rattlestick. After the dance the suits are hung upon fallen trees in the rivers or on stumps in the fields to keep off evil spirits.

But dancing is only a very small part of an Indian's life. He must hunt and fish, fell trees for fields to plant, build his houses, make baskets and weapons and perform many other duties, for despite popular belief, the Buck is not an idler until he is Christianized and civilized, and the women do no more than their share of labour. It is their duty to till the fields, prepare food, spin cotton, weave hammocks and rear the children. The principal food is cassava and the preparation of this staple is very interesting. In the picture is seen the first step in the process, a girl grating the roots on a grater made of a board into which bits of stone are fastened with cement-like wax.

The next step is to remove the poisonous juice from the pulp, which is done by means of the metapee, as illustrated in this photograph. The pulp is placed in the metapee which is then suspended and is stretched out by means of a lever and a woman's weight. The juice extracted is preserved and used in making cassareep and starch.

Next the compressed material is broken up and made into a coarse meal by rubbing it through a basket work sifter, as shown here, after which it is spread in round, thin cakes on a stone or iron and baked over a slow fire, as is illustrated in this picture.

How the Indians first discovered that a deadly poisonous root could be transformed into a nutritious food is one of the unsolved puzzles of Indian history. Certainly it could not have been by experiment, for the experimenters would have succumbed to their experiments long before they discovered the process.

This slide shows another Indian woman at another of her daily tasks, squeezing sugar cane in a primitive mill consisting of post and lever.

The women also do a great deal of the droghing and they carry as large or even larger loads, than the men. Here is a girl with a 140 lb. load ready for a 20-mile jaunt over a mountain. I was anxious to see how she descended the steep mountainside, bowed under her load, but she soon outdistanced me; the load apparently not inconveniencing her in the least.

To many people all Bucks look alike; but in reality, every tribe has distinct characteristics by which its members may be recognized. The pictures I have shown are all of Akawoias, a tribe peculiar to British Guiana. Very different are the Caribs shown in this picture. In many ways the Caribs are superior to all other tribes of Guiana. Their women are the only ones who do not wear the bead aprons or queyus, but instead use cloth laps. The men's laps are also distinctive, being ornamented and fringed, but the most characteristic mark of the true Carib is the tuft of white King Vulture down worn on the forehead, as may be seen in this photograph.

Returning to Bartica, we'll start off on another trip up the Essequibo. Nowadays few people travel up this river from Bartica on account of the dangerous falls between Bartica and Rockstone. It was to avoid these that the railway was built from Wismar across to Rockstone. But I have made the trip several times without mishap and think it one of the most interesting and exciting trips in the colony. When Mr. Runcie was here I carried him by this route to Kaietuerk Falls, for one of the principal objects of his visit was to film the boat trip through the Essequibo rapids, which I described in Harper's Magazine for January. This slide shows how our boat was hauled through an enormous whirlpool, while the next view shows the men building a rude palm-leaf shelter or "bush-tent” over the boat.

On the islands in the rapids of the Essequibo are many beautiful orchids. Here is a photograph of a fine specimen with over 180 flowers on one plant, while the next view shows a spider monkey on a dead tree being "filmed." A nearer view of the unwilling subject shows it trying to "look pleasant."

Among the most striking and typical features of the tropical forests are the "bush ropes" or lianas. The picture shows how large those vegetable cables grow and also how they are attached by roots to the trees and grow downwards. How these gigantic vines grow is often a puzzle to those unfamiliar with them. One gentleman told me he couldn't understand how slender vines could sprout straight up through the air and catch hold of a tree a hundred feet above the earth.

Having passed safely through the falls the traveller arrives at Rockstone, of which I show a view, and here I obtained some very remarkable pictures on my last visit, for I had the good fortune to see Indians eating "Cooshie ants." These ants swarm but once a year and the Indians consider the big, winged females, or queens, a great delicacy. It was a wonderful sight to watch the Indians hopping about among the ants, their legs streaming with blood from the bites, while they caught the queens and pulled off wings and jaws. When a good supply was gathered they retired to a safe distance and munched the ants in comfort. It was a sight few men have witnessed for queen Cooshie ants are so rare that only a few specimens are preserved in the great museums. To find a nest of swarming Cooshie ants and Indians on hand to eat them, was a coincidence little short of marvellous. The ants taste like condensed milk I discovered.

At Rockstone we were joined by Father Cary-Elwes and his Makushie Indians who accompanied us as far as Kaietuerk where he left us and continued on to his distant mission.

Never have I travelled with a more enjoyable companion, for Father Cary-Elwes is a most lovable, a most human and a most remarkable man. Throughout his wanderings in the wilderness he has not missed Mass in seven years and every morning a rude altar was erected, and Father said Mass for his three Makushies. Very impressive was this simple service in the dim forest with the pink sky of dawn overhead and the silvery chimes of the Bell birds ringing from the tree tops.

My next picture shows a bit of the Potaro River from the Tumatumari rest-house. Tumatumari is a beautiful spot with the four cataracts, separated by wooded islands, just beneath the rest-house windows. It could be made into the most attractive winter resort in the tropics, and if provided with adequate accommodations and easy and rapid transportation, it would draw countless visitors from the north, especially if a road was constructed from here to Kaietuerk.

People, who have never been far from the coast, are prone to think of British Guiana as a flat country, but a trip up such a river as the Potaro will dispel all such illusions. Here great mountains rise on every hand, often with their summits hidden in the clouds.

Kukuieng (Hawk's Nest) is perhaps the most striking, owing to it« castle-like form, but there are scores of others just as lofty and just as massive, and all converging to form a fitting gateway to the world's greatest cataract.

At Pakutuerk we accomplished the impossible and pulled our boat up through the falls and at Amuktuerk we found a big camudi coiled upon the rocks at the landing place as if waiting to welcome us. After being duly "filmed" he was killed and proved a good load for five husky Indians, as shown in the picture. He measured 18ft. 9in. in length, 29 inches in circumference and weighed 280 odd pounds.

Still another bit of luck was in securing this picture of a crocodile basking beside a pool, while a still more striking picture was obtained when, in hauling through a particularly bad stretch, we had as neat a washout as anyone could wish. It wasn't nearly as much fun at the time as it seems now, however.

But despite such little inconveniences we reached Tukuit safely in due time. Tukuit is in the midst of magnificent scenery and directly across the river from the rest-house. A cataract springs from the verdured mountain crest and plunges down for hundreds of feet to the forest above the clouds. This in itself would be considered worth the entire trip in most parts of the world; but in the presence of mighty Kaietuerk it pales into insignificance.

It's a fearful climb up the mountain-side to the plateau, and it's a shame that the way has not been improved and a road built from Tumatumari to the falls. Even a decent path from Tukuit would be a great improvement. As it is, one has to scramble and even crawl for several miles up a stony, slippery, log-choked, fissure-filled gully at an angle of about 60 degrees. In Kaietuerk you have an asset worth millions, a sight which should attract visitors from every corner of the earth, and yet, nothing to speak of has been done to exploit it or to bring it within reasonable reach of Georgetown. To be sure, Sprostons have advertised it and have attempted to attract visitors to it, but the service is so poor and the cost of the trip so unreasonable that it is practically prohibitive and only a man who has unlimited time and money at his disposal, and doesn't mind discomforts can afford to undertake the journey under present conditions. With a decent road Kaietuerk is scarcely two hours by motor from Tumatumari, and yet one must travel afoot and by boat for two or three days to cover the distance. Moreover, if modernly fast steamers or launches were operated on the rivers and a motor road was built, these stupendous falls, which have no equal in the entire world, could be brought within a day's travel of Georgetown. And it wouldn't cost a fortune to do this; fifty thousand dollars would be amply sufficient, and a mighty good investment it would prove. Imagine leaving town at 7 a.m., travelling through marvellous tropic scenery and dining on the plateau beside the falls at 7 p.m. the same day!

As a money maker I would rather have Kaietuerk than all the gold and diamond claims or all the timber lands, in the colony.

On the way up from Tukuit we stopped some time to admire and study those wonderful birds, the Cock-of-the-Rock. Several specimens were obtained for the purpose of preparing a group for the museum, which is now on exhibition, but we saw over 20 of the birds within a distance of half a mile. Their presence here was particularly interesting, as they were supposedly extinct, save in the most unfrequented and distant parts of the Colony. Since then I have found them nesting within one hundred miles of Georgetown.

When at last one reaches the plateau at the end of the climb one looks upon a totally different land from that below; a barren expanse of naked rain-worn rock with great lily-like giant bromeliads, strange orchids, nodding blue hair-bells and bracken; a flora peculiar to the plateau and unlike anything else.

But all interest centres on Kaietuerk and we hurried across the plateau to the brink of the gorge to gaze for the first time upon this titanic waterfall. All my life I have prided myself upon being able to look down from dizzy heights without any sensation of giddiness or fear. I have climbed to the trucks of ships' masts at sea; I have gazed from the skeleton frames of skyscrapers at the ant-like humans in the busy streets five hundred feet below, and I have stood on the brink of many a terrific precipice; but when I walked boldly to the edge of Kaietuerk gorge I gave one glance and beating a hasty retreat sat down at a safe distance.

I expected to look down for a vast distance; but I also expected to see a slope or a precipice, or some tangible connection between the top and bottom of the gorge. Instead I gazed straight down through space for a thousand feet and I could not overcome the sensation of the entire overhanging ledge tumbling into the awful abyss beneath. The feeling soon wore off to large extent, however; but still I preferred to get down on all fours, or hold on to a bush when near the verge.

In all the pictures of Kaietuerk the falls appear dwarfed and disappointingly small, but this is due to the fact that there is nothing for comparison and one has the same feeling, the same lack of power to grasp the size of things, when actually looking at the falls. The valley far below seems clothed with soft, green moss dotted with pebbles and not until you realize that the seeming moss is a forest of giant trees and the apparent pebbles are great masses of rock weighing hundreds of tons each, do you realize the stupendous size of the falls and the depth of the gorge.

So high are the falls that not an atom of real water ever reaches the pool beneath, the falling mass being transformed to vapour long before it reaches the end of its descent and looking far more like volumes of smoke than liquid.

But to obtain a true idea of the size of Kaietuerk note the man in the picture. Once we realize that this speck is a human being the stupendously overwhelming proportions of the cataract are impressed upon us.

I mentioned my sensations when looking over the brink of the gorge but Father Cary-Elwes was absolutely unconscious of any such feelings. He was anxious to secure a picture from a certain viewpoint and approached nearer and nearer the edge, finally planting his camera with one tripod leg resting on a jutting pebble beyond the verge of the plateau. Then all forgetful of his surroundings, he stooped down to adjust his lens with his back to the gorge and actually balancing on one foot on the very brink of eternity.

I have been asked by many to give my impressions of Kaietuerk, to describe the falls; but there are things which defy description and one of these is Kaietuerk, for words utterly fail to convey any adequate idea of the overwhelming grandeur of the falls and gorge. It is one of the things which must be seen to be realized and the finest pictures seem woefully poor and insignificant after viewing Kaituerk itself. It cannot be truly described as beautiful, rather it is awe-inspiring, sublime, almost terrifying in its grandeur. It is the very epitome of inconceivable power and titanic strength, immeasurable, irresistible, incomparable. In its presence one feels puny, helpless; a mere atom, and gazing upon it, one is filled with quaking, unreasonable dread and yet is fascinated, as by some gigantic savage beast of magnificent form and perfect grace.

Perhaps the greatest attraction of Kaietuerk is that it is never twice the same. Every moment it changes; with every breath of wind, with each variation of light, with every passing cloud it assumes a different aspect and to reproduce these in photographs is impossible. And then there is the colouring, for Kaietuerk is no foam-white cataract, but plunges over the verge of conglomerate in a mass of golden brown and amber which changes to cream and pink and saffron as it falls while the rising vapours veil it in clouds of prismatic hues, or bar it with a glorious rainbow.

In some respects the gorge itself is even more beautiful and impressive than the cataract. Here is a view looking down the gorge from the brink, while the next picture shows an Indian poised on the verge of the falls and wrapped in contemplation of the wondrous scene stretched out beneath him. And truly the scene before-him is one of surpassing beauty. From beneath his feet at the base of the mighty falls, stretches the great gorge to where its sides are lost in the blue haze of distance. In the very centre winds the silver thread of river, flecked with the white of rapids, while on every side rise frowning precipices cut with black ravines and topped by vast plateaus and everywhere covered with the endless forest of a thousand shades of green; purple in the shadows, golden in the sunlight; a panorama such as few spots in the world can boast.

On our return journey from Kaietuerk we ran everything, even Pakutuerk, and only screaked through the very worst spots.

Some idea of our speed may be gained from the fact that it took but four hours to run through rapids where we had spent four days hauling up. So accustomed did we become to running dangerous falls that when we reached Tumatumari we ran them also, a feat never before attempted as far as I can ascertain.

But despite all the beauties, all the wonders of the interior, one is always glad to reach civilization after weeks in the wilderness, and yet there is a strange fascination about the bush, a charm about the great, silent rivers, a something that grips one and makes one long for the wilderness, for the hammock swung under the tarpaulin in the forest, for the glow of camp fires, the smell of pungent smoke and the glorious sunsets reflected in the mighty rivers. Whenever I'm in the bush I long for civilization and just as soon as I reach town I'm just as anxious to get back in the bush.

It is a marvellous, a wonderful land that you have here in British Guiana, a land of untold wealth and resources, of magnificent scenery and of vast possibilities. Development is all that is needed to make it one of the richest countries on the globe. Sooner or later that development will come and then British Guiana will take the place it deserves. Let us hope that my last picture represents the beginning of a new era of prosperity for the magnificent province.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Phantom Radio - 1924

The Phantom Radio
By A. Hyatt Verrill
From Sea Stories magazine, June 1924. Digital capture by Philip Bolton Jr. and Doug Frizzle, January 2010.

When wireless telegraphy, or the radio and as it is now called, was first perfected, the value of its use on shipboard was at once seen. The following is the story related by the captain of a passenger vessel in response to the query that that had been put to him as to whether he had ever used it to summon help; in other words, sent out an SOS Call.

Steaming northward, the Grenada plowed steadily through a summer sea. Two days had passed since the last outlying islands of the Antilles had dropped from sight astern, when, with a clank, a burst of steam from the engine room, and a jar, the ship came slowly to a standstill, rising and falling helplessly to the long heave of the ocean swell, with her cylinder-head packing blown out.
From below came the sounds of oaths and clink of hammers as the black gangs sweated and swore and labored at repairs, while above, the impatient passengers fretted and fumed and wondered why machinery could not be devised so as never to fail.
Hour after hour slipped by. The passengers, lolling in the shade of the awnings, had tried to while away the time by telling stories of their various experiences at sea, and the captain had joined a group. Presently one of the wireless operators approached and handed the skipper a slip of paper. As he glanced over it he remarked:
“It’s a comfort to know we could get help if we needed it. The Zulia’s within twenty miles, but if it wasn’t for the radio we might all die of thirst or starvation, or go to the bottom without knowing the ship was within reach.”
“Yes,” assented a passenger. “Radio is a marvelous invention. Have you ever been compelled to summon help, captain?”
“No,” replied the skipper, “but I'd been called by other ships. The first time I ever received and S O S was near this very spot, and almost drove me insane. I hope to Heaven I never get another like it.”
“Spin the yarn, captain.” cried another passenger.
“Very well,” chuckled the skipper. “But remember, I’m no story teller, and this is a true yarn.
“At the time it happened,” commenced the captain, half closing his eyes and gazing thoughtfully across the dazzling blue sea, “I was in command of a little tuppence-ha’penny fruit ship sailing between New York and Central American ports via Jamaica. She wasn’t a bad craft, and could reel off her twelve or fourteen knots in good weather. She was called the Claribel, and was one of a fleet of five ships of the International Fruit Company and flew the British flag.
“We made fairly regular runs, stopping at Fortune Island on the down trip to pick up our black stevedores and, after loading bananas along the coast, we would drop the darkies off on the up trip.
“About that time wireless was just coming into use, and mighty few of the West Indian and South American lines had equipped their boats with it. I don’t know if their owners were stockholders in the wireless company, or what their reason was, but for some cause or another they ordered every one of their ships to be equipped with an outfit. The Claribel was the first to have it installed, and I felt properly proud of being the skipper of the first fruit boat carrying a spider’s web high up between her masts.
“I didn’t have too much faith in the thing, although I knew the big liners were using it, and when I was off Scotland light and dropped the pilot, and Dale, the operator, came and handed me a bundle of messages, it struck me fair ‘twixt wind and water –seemed uncanny to be reading letters that had come in over those wires aloft without my knowing it.
“I expect I must have looked a bit like a fish out of water and as I gaped at the messages and then at the aerial, for I saw Dale was grinning. So I hove myself short and tried to act as if it was an everyday matter.
“’Any messages you wish to send, sir?” he asked. “We’ll be out of our sending radius very soon, and if you have anything to get off, it must be sent immediately, sir.”
“Well, do you know, I’d been so busy, thinking about the messages he’d brought, that I had actually forgotten I could send messages back to land.
“’All right, Dale,” I said. “I’ll give you the messages in a moment, and, seating myself at my chart table, I scribbled off a few notes and handed them to him.
“I was anxious to see how he got the stuff under way, but we weren’t yet clear of the land, and I had to be on the bridge, and so I didn’t see Dale again until dinner time. We were pretty well out of soundings by then, and the first officer had the bridge, so I sauntered up to the wireless room and began firing questions at Dale.
“I asked him what he meant by ‘sending radius,’ and he started to explain how his machine could only send a certain distance, but could receive messages much farther.
“’Why,’ he said, ‘I shouldn’t be surprised if I could pick up New York.’
“He turned to his table as he spoke, clapped the tackle on his head, and commenced rubbing his instruments, and pretty quick began jotting words on a pad. In about five minutes he pushed the pad over and remarked: ‘There, captain. That’s what I heard.”
“I glanced that the paper and saw a lot of conversation written down, and laughed.
“’What’s all this, Dale?’ I asked.
“’One liner’s skipper chatting with another,’ he replied. ‘I didn’t hear a word from shore.’
“Who are the masters you have been listening to?’ I asked.
“’Don’t know, but I’ll find out,’ says he. And turning around, he commenced fussing with the machinery once more. Just as he touched it, there was a crackle and a flash of light blue overhead.
“‘Look out!’ I yelled. ‘Something’s gone adrift!’ You see, I’d never seen the apparatus under way before, and didn’t know ‘twas all part of the sending.
“Dale laughed and went on tapping away, and presently he swung around again. ‘One ship’s the Strasburg, Captain Grau, outward bound, and the other’s the Caledonian, Captain McBarrie, off Highland light,’ said Dale.
“By the great horn spoon!’ I cried. ‘That beats all. Say, Dale, this fal-de-dal business will save many a ship and life. Why, if we were in distress we could get another ship alongside two hours.’
“’Sure, that’s what it’s for,’ grinned Dale.
“Well, all the way down the coast to the Bahamas I kept poor Dale trying the wireless. But more often than not, he couldn’t pick up a message, for, as I’ve said, few of the southward-bound boats had outfits at that time.
“We had good weather, picked up our stevedores, loaded on the coast, and started back. I heard a lot of chatter about a revolution, but didn’t pay much attention to it, for as long as the Spigs didn’t run afoul of my hawse I didn’t care much what they did.
“Nothing happened on the trip up, and long before we sighted the Highlands we picked up the New York station, and Dale sent in my reports. It seemed mighty wonderful to me, and wireless was on my mind most of the time.
After we’d docked and everything was shipshape, I ran over to Perth Amboy to see an old friend. He was skipper of a tramp, and I found him aboard his ship, chinning with some dark skinned, black-haired chaps whom I knew were Spanish Americans, and so I made myself comfortable and smoked his cigars until he was through with his visitors.
“I’ve been to sea with Carmody —a big, red-faced, jolly chap, and liked him immensely, and whenever we were both in port at the same time I always managed to see him. He owned his ship —the Tortuga —and I always told him that was the best name he could have given her, tortuga meaning turtle, as you know, and she couldn’t make over eight knots, and was turtle-back decked: but a mighty good old hooker —safe and a fine sea boat —and sweeter engines I’ve never seen.
“Jerry was glad to see me again, of course, and like old shipmates, we got busy swapping stories about cargoes, ships, skippers, and what not, and I began to spin a yarn about my wireless.
“’That’s what you need, Jerry,’ I told him. “With a boat as slow as your old turtle it would be a godsend to let your folks know you hadn’t floundered or run off your course.’
“He chuckled a bit, but he didn’t take it seriously, and started to tell me about his last trip and his next cargo.
“’I’ll give you ten guesses, Frank,’ he said, “and I’ll wager a new sextant you don’t guess what my next cargo is to be.’
“’Then it’s no use trying,’ I laughed. “I know you too well to think that you’d bet me anything worth while if there was any chance of losing. So out with it and show your colors.’
“’It’s gunpowder and dynamite, Frank,’ says he. ‘The Spigottys you just saw are some of the Junta that’s kicking up a shindy down on the coast, and they’ve chartered the Tortuga to carry down their explosives.”
“’Great Scott, man!’ I exclaimed. ‘You’re running risk of seizure and confiscation. You’re violating neutrality laws and turning filibuster.’
“’No, I’m not, son.’ says he ‘I sail from here with a mix cargo for the islands, and ship the sinews of war outside the three-mile limit. The pay’s fine and the Dons take all the risks.’
“’Well, I’m glad they’re making it worth your while,’ I said. “But how are the folks at home, Jerry?’
“You see, I had an interest in Carmody’s family, for Kitty and I were engaged and were only waiting a bit until I had a better birth before getting spliced and starting on a cruise of our own.
“‘Fine and dandy.’ Jerry answers, ‘Come out to the house for dinner, and spend the time you’re in port with us. The missus will be as glad to have you as I will, and you know how ‘tis with Kitty. It’s getting along in the day, and there’s nothing more to keep me here, so come along and we’ll be homeward bound in no time.’
“After dinner Kitty was telling me how worried she and her mother were over Carmody’s new cargo, for Jerry had no secrets in his family, though he was mum as an oyster to outsiders.
“‘Supposing that Tortuga should catch on fire.’ said Kitty. ‘Just think what would happen! I’ll not sleep a wink until we hear he has discharged that awful cargo.’
“That gave me an idea, and I told her about the wireless, and she called in her mother, and between the three of us tried to talk Jerry into putting a wireless outfit on his ship.
“’Can’t afford it,’ he declared. ‘The cost would wipe out all the profits, and I’d have to hire an operator besides.’
“’Bother the costs, Jerry,’ I told him. ‘Make your Spigotty friends pay for it. They have money enough and to spare. I have it, mate! Tell them it’s going to make things safer for them. With a wireless you can tell if any one’s after you, and can keep in touch with the Junta until you’re well out to sea.
“This struck Carmody as a good scheme, and to make a long story short, he saw the Junta next day, and after a lot of argument, they agreed to install the outfit at once.’
“The Claribel was loaded and ready for sea before Jerry’s wireless was in, and the last thing he said, as I worked out of the dock, was to shout that he’d keep trying to pick us up if we’d do the same; and as we both followed pretty much the same course, there was a good chance we might do it. But I couldn’t get clear without a joke about his old tramp, so I cupped my hands and yelled back that we’d be in port again before he reached the Bahamas.
“We had a fine passage down, but head winds, and reached Fortune Island a day late. This time, when we meet the coast, I gave more heed to the revolutionary talk, and knowing of Jerry’s cargo, I soon made a landfall and knew they were just holding off the fireworks until the Tortuga showed up with the ammunition.
“We loaded and started back, but all across the Gulf, we had heavy weather, and after passing Jamaica ran into half a gale and head seas. I was so busy, looking after the ship, that it wasn’t until we were two days out from Fortune Island that I remembered Carmody’s talk of trying to pick each other up by wireless. So, calling to Dale, I told him to have a try, although I didn’t have much hopes, for I expected the Tortuga would be down in the gulf by then. He didn’t get anything, but in the afternoon we sighted smoke low down to the east’ard, and I had Dale try once more, and even shifted my course a bit to get a squint of the other ship.
“She was the twin sister of the Tortuga, but when we got near I saw she didn’t have a wireless, and showed a white funnel band, while Jerry had a red ‘C’ on his stack.
“About four bells I had Dale try again, for somehow or other I had a feeling that Carmody wasn’t far off. But Dale came up to the bridge deck, shaking his head.
“’It’s no use, captain,’ he says. ‘I don’t get any one, and know something’s gone wrong with the receiver. I can send all right, but the old tub’s been jumping fearfully the past few days, and I can’t fix the thing up until it calms down a bit.’
“I was peeved at this. Just when I wanted the machine it had gone bad, but it wasn’t any use talking, and Dale wasn’t to blame, so I passed it off and told him I guessed we’d tired the instruments out, using them so often.
“After dinner I sat down below with the passengers for a while, and at eight bells went to the bridge deck. The sea had gone down a lot but it was still too lumpy for the passengers to stop on deck much, and only a couple were in sight on the after deck as I passed up.
“Dale and the second officer were sitting together in the port alleyway, near the wireless room, smoking and yarning, and quartermaster was at the wheel. It was a bright, starlight night —clear as a bell, and the wind, though fresh, was warn and balmy. So I sat down in a deck chair, put my feet on the rail, lit a cigar, and leaned back easy and comfortable, looking at the stars and thinking about Kitty and home.
“That brought my thoughts around to her father and the Tortuga, and from them my mind shifted to the wireless and the trouble with it. After all, I thought to myself, if a thing gives out like this, it won’t be much use. Suppose a ship were in distress. She couldn’t let us know, and nine times out of ten things do give out just when their needed the most. Now if any one could invent a wireless that wouldn’t go wrong just when—
“My thoughts were cut short by a crackling sound and a blue flickering reflection on the deck before me. I jumped up and looked aloft. From the wires between the masts blue, crackling, sizzling sparks were darting out. For an instant I watched them, and it seemed to me that they came and went in some sort of regular order. Leaping to the rail, I looked over and saw Dale still sitting where I’d seen him a few minutes before.
“Dale!” I yelled “Come up here. For God’s sake, hurry, man!’
“In a moment he was on the ladder, and as his head came above the deck I pointed to the wires. He saw the sparks as soon as he saw me, and stopped short, staring at them.
“What’s that?’ I cried. ‘Can you make it out?’
“Dale waited a moment before he answered. ‘Hold fast a minute.’ He exclaimed. ‘It’s the distress signal —the SOS!”
“The next second he was dashing to the wireless room, but in two shakes he was back again.
“I sent a message asking the bearings, but I can’t receive,’ he panted. “I can’t understand it. I never knew anything like it before.’
“Again the blue flames were dancing in and out from the wires, and after a minute Dale announced:
“’It’s a ship on fire. I can’t make out her name, but the message says sail northeast by east. Come full speed, for god’s sake!’
“With one bound I sprang to the wheelhouse, roared to the quartermaster, ‘Northeast by east!’ and at the same instant yanked the telegraph for full speed ahead. Then, calling down the speaking tube to the engine room, I yelled to the chief:
“There’s a ship burning ahead of us. Put on every ounce of steam and let the boilers go hang!’
“No more sparks came from the wires, but Dale was still gaping at them open mouthed.
“‘Captain,’ he says as I reached him, ‘this thing’s ghostly. How can those wires send out sparks on a message being received? It’s scientifically impossible and, besides, how could the ship know where we are? I didn’t tell him, and yet he said sail northeast by east. It gets me captain.’
“I don’t know anything about your possibilities or impossibilities,’ I answered. ‘But if there is a ship afire ahead we’ll soon know it. I admit I don’t see how she knew our position if you didn’t tell her.”
“Dale stood still, watching the aĆ«rial, and I stepped to the forward break of the bridge deck and looked ahead with my glasses. Was I mistaken? No, it was certainly there —a dull red glare, barely visible upon the horizon. Calling to the second officer, I asked him to look. He saw it as soon as he put the glasses on it even while we watched it grew brighter and larger.
“We are now making a good fifteen knots, and eating up the miles every minute; but I knew it was a race with death, for the blazing ship was still fifteen or sixteen miles distant, and in an hour a lot can happen when a ship’s on fire.
“While I was alternately watching and stamping impatiently up and down, I heard an exclamation from Dale, and sparks again began to sizzle from the wires. Dale yanked out his note book and pencil, and with one eye on the sparks wrote rapidly. Soon the sparks ceased, and he handed me the paper. Taking it to the light of the binnacle, I read: ‘Fire rapidly nearing powder. Oh, Frank! For love of Heaven, save us!’
“I dropped the paper and leaned weakly against the wheelhouse. The burning ship must be the Tortuga! But how —how did they know I was near and was racing towards them?
“I turned toward the blazing vessel, and now through my glasses I could see the pillar of ruddy smoke, the flying sparks, and the leaping flames, while the red glare was clearly visible to the naked eye it.
“Once more the blue sparks crackled and again came that agonizing appeal for help. But we were making all the speed the old Claribel could, and half an hour more would bring us alongside the doomed ship.
“By now every one on board had heard of our race for life, and the rails were lined with crew and passengers, all gazing with tense faces at the red smudge ahead.
“’Clear the boats,’ I ordered the first officer, ‘and stand by to lower away instantly. Have everything ready —life belts and ring buoys at hand and boats swung free.’
“’Aye, aye, sir,” answers the officer, and, a moment later, every boat’s crew was busy, and boat after boat was swung clear of its chalks, stripped of its tarpaulins, the falls overhauled, and the boats ready to drop instantly, while the men stood waiting at their stations.
“How slowly the moments passed! Our ship seemed barely to crawl along, and yet, by glancing at the rushing water alongside, and at the black smoke belching from our funnel, I knew the old hooker was making such time as she’d never made before.
“Fifteen minutes passed, and now, looming large on the rim of the black, heaving sea, we could see the hull of the steamer, her masts and funnel sharply outlined against the lurid sky, while from bow to midships was a fiery, seething furnace.
“Then, once more, came the crackle of the phantom wireless, and Dale read: ‘Thank God you are near, Frank, but I fear it is too late. The fire is within twenty feet of the powder! The crew rushed the boats. Father and I are alone. Good-by, my love!’
“’My God!’ I cried and dropped helpless in a chair. ‘Kitty’s on the Tortuga!’
“With a tremendous effort I roused myself and stared ahead. Now we could see the blazing ship plainly. Her turtledback stern loomed black against the flames and on it, close to the jackstaff, and clasped in each other’s arms —a man and a girl.
“At the speed and we were making we would be alongside in five minutes. What should I do? Should I risk my ship and passengers by running under the stern of the blazing ship in a daredevil attempt to save the girl I loved? Should I launch my boats and try to reach the Tortuga before the leaping flames spread across those scant twenty feet of deck between them and the explosives?
“It was a question of seconds for decision. Either course was filled with deadly peril, either was almost hopeless. Never was a man faced with a more terrible problem. But in an instant my mind was made up. With a bound I reached the wheelhouse and seized—”
A hoarse bellow from the whistle drowned the captain's voice, cutting his sentence in twain, and before he could continue, a quartermaster stepped to the edge of the deck above the story teller.
“Chief reports repairs finished and ready to proceed, sir," he announced, touching his cap.
The captain leaped to his feet, tossed aside his cigar, and grasping the hand rail, sprang nimbly up the ladder.
"Oh, but say!” cried Heskith. "You didn't finish your story, captain! What did you do?”
At the head of the ladder the captain halted and looked back.
"Why, then I woke up!” he replied.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

January 2010 – More Tracks

January 2010 – More Tracks on the Trail of Verrill

Last time, a trip to New York brought us a few clues on A. Hyatt Verrill’s (AHV) life in South America. It ends up the archeological papers we discovered were from the journal Timehri. Here is one, but for now just the text version

These researches have stood the test of time, we have evidence of them being the basis of anthropological theories as recently as 1997. Warning some of these third party ‘references’ can be long in downloading and a little dry for a layman to read. You may want to skip this 1960 reference, Archeological Explorations in British Guiana

Courtesy the National Museum of Natural History, I took photos of AHV’s pencil and watercolour drawings of pottery from the Cocle area of Panama. These paintings were on cardboard and about 16” high by 12” wide. I am trying to get permission to use these. I hope they don’t mind me teasing you with one. Just in, 'permission granted' see all the images.

New this month is a clipping on AHV’s first marriage, an elopement at the age of 21 (1892). Even at this age he was very eloquent and made the news!

He divorced Kathryn Laura McCarthy in 1944, at the age of seventy three, later that year marrying Lida Ruth Shaw. He died ten years later after writing another nine books along with his other activities in South Florida.

The Sea Stories magazine ‘pulp fiction’ collection is coming along slowly. These pages were fragile, thus were photographed and unfortunately have not gone through my digital converter with any success. Those that know me, know that I can type as fast as I can think. More unfortunately, that means that these stories may be long in coming. But we do have I’ll Learn ‘em from 1923.

It is amazing and encouraging, that every month, if I work seriously on Verrill’s past, I am rewarded with some news, a gift story or some great deal toward adding to the Verrill records. So it has been again this month. We have added at least another six previously unknown works to the lists, and a few new articles are in the mail. But you will have to wait for the next ‘On the Trail of Verrill’ to find out the news.


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

AHV Secretly Married - 1892

The Hartford Courant, January 26, 1892


A Son of Professor Verrill of Yale Marries a Roman Catholic.

New Haven, Jan. 25 --- Considerable gossip has been caused here by the secret marriage in New York, January 21, of Alpheus H. Verrill, second son of Addison E. Verrill, professor of zoology at Yale, and Miss Kathryn L. McCarthy, daughter of Edwin McCarthy, a wholesale liquor dealer of this city. The first known of the marriage here was the marriage notice printed in Sunday’s New York Herald.

What gave color to the elopement theory is the fact that Mr. Verrill was known to be a Protestant while Miss McCarthy was a Roman Catholic, and it was inferred that their marriage in New York, unbeknown to their immediate friends, was to prevent opposition on the part of the parents.

An investigation into the facts of the case reveals that while the marriage was approved by the parents of the bride the match was strongly opposed by the parents of the groom, and the quiet marriage in New York was to prevent any attempt upon the part of the latter to put a stop to it.

Mrs. Verrill, before her marriage, was a teacher in the Davenport school. She has now resigned. Alpheus H. Verrill was interviewed this morning about the marriage and said: ---

“I have never believed in arranged marriages, and in taking the step I have I have merely committed my own wishes. As a matter of fact, I have during a long period spent in South America attended the Roman Catholic Church almost wholly, as there are no other denominations there, and naturally I, as a Protestant, feel less strongly about the subject. The fact that I was a Protestant in no way interfered with my marriage. We visited the Church of the Holy Cross in New York and explained matters to the pastor, the Rev. Charles McCready, and he secured a dispensation for us and performed the ceremony. Since our return to New Haven we have been living at this hotel and will continue to reside here until next Friday, when we leave for New York, and will embark on a steamer for Costa Rica, Central America, where we will reside in the future. I have secured an official position in the National Museum and I expect to reside there permanently provided the climate agrees with my wife’s health.”

Monday, 18 January 2010

I'll Learn 'em

I’ll Learn’em
By A. Hyatt Verrill
From Sea Stories Magazine, September 1923. Digital capture January 2010 by Philip Bolton Jr. and Doug Frizzle.

Not one of the four men in the boat had escaped unscathed. All were wounded, and Kemp was bleeding from a dozen ugly cuts and Cintron thrusts. But no one complained. Tough, hard, rough men, inured to hardships and suffering, the men thought nothing of flesh wounds, and not until the bark was hull down did they cease rowing and, resting on their oars, take long drafts from the keg of precious water and with rough skill bound up their wounds.

Captain Josiah Winthrop paced irritably back and forth upon the after deck and cast frequent apprehensive and appraising glances at the jungle covered bulk of land to leeward. On every side the sea stretched, smooth and glassy as burnished metal, under the burning, equatorial sun. The patched dingy sails hung listlessly from the grimy yards, and so breathless was the suffocating air that the smoke from the skippers pipe rose straight up in a thin blue spiral. For eight hours the dead, flat calm had continued, and the whaling bark Wanderer had lain helpless, rolling slightly to an invisible groundswell, off the island of Perang. Though no slightest breath had stirred the sails, yet hourly —dragged buy some wayward current —the bark had drawn nearer and nearer to the island, until now the steaming green mountainsides were a scant six miles distant. But it was not the possibility that his ship might drift within the danger zone of the breakers that was troubling Joshiah. Dangers of the storm or calm held no terrors for him. In fact, he scarcely saw the land as, each time he turned in his stride, he peered toward the island. It was the stretch of oillike intervening sea he searched, and loft, men whose eyesight had been sharpened by looking for the blowing whales, were also searching that six miles of shimmering sea.
And at last the expected hail came floating through the heavy air from the lookout on the fore-topgallant mast.
“Proa comin’ out from under the land!” he shouted.
With an oath, Captain Winthrop as sprang into the rigging, glasses in hand. One glance was enough. The half-naked horde of Malays who crowded the oncoming craft were plainly visible. All were armed to the teeth, and Captain Josiah knew his worst fears were realized. Malay pirates were coming to the attack. One proa full of the savage Malays would not have daunted the whalemen. Twenty-six Yankees, armed with muskets, whale lances, and irons, cutting spades and boarding knives, could have handled twice their number of the pirates. But back of the first proa came another and another —four in all —a full hundred of the brown, greased, armed savages.
“All hands to the rails!” bellowed to the skipper to Hen Winslow, the first officer. “Serve muskets and lances, and be ready to fight like hell.
Instantly all was bustle, as the officers and crew swarmed about, seizing arms, kicking off shoes, and gathering along the bark’s rails ready for the impending battle.
“Leave her be!” ordered the captain, as he saw Kemp, the second officer, call hands and start to swing in one of the whale boats that, earlier in the day, had been lowered in attempt to tow the bark from land. “No use usin’ up your beef h’istin’ of her in.” he continued, “You’ll need all of it for fightin’.”
Then, as the proas drew close and the whalemen stood waiting with ready weapons, “Don’t waste no powder and ball,” ordered the skipper, “Wait till their close alongside and pepper ‘em good. When the devils board us it’s each man for himself and the double take the hindmost.”
A moment later the foremost proa was within pistol shot, and the hostile intentions of the Malays could not be doubted. With shrill cries the naked boatman dashed toward the bark, the proas separating and approaching from both sides, from bow and stern. There was a roar of muskets from the Wanderer’s decks, and howls of rage and pain from the Malays, as the naked forms pitched forward or toppled into the sea. But the fusillade did little to check the pirates. With knives in teeth and grasping their wicked looking bolos, the Malays swept alongside the bark, and, leaping from their craft, seized ropes and chains, and, like so many monkeys, swarmed up the Wanderer’s sides. Throwing aside their muskets for more familiar weapons, the whalemen seized the razor-edged spades, the keen lances, the heavy boarding knives, and, standing on the rails or leaning over bulwarks, slashed, thrust, and cut down the browned bodies and fierce faces of the attackers. Through bone and sinew and muscles the spades sheared; lances were buried deep in the quivering flesh; boarding knives flashed and clove turbaned skulls; and grunts, screams, yells, shouts, and the clash of arms filled the breathless air.
But against a full hundred fanatical, death-defying savages, the handful of Yankees could not hope to hold back their own. As fast as a bleeding, mutilated, screeching pirate fell back, others took his place, and despite the slaughter, scores gained the deck unharmed and with thrusting knives and swinging bolos leaped at the whalemen. Like fiends both sides fought. Back to back one group of white men retreated slowly, fighting every inch of the way, to the very forepeak, their way marked by a trail of blood and writhing, dying men —white and brown. Captain Winthrop, with Winslow and two men, had been forced back to the after deck and there made a historic stand, facing a full twenty of the Malays. A creese flashed through the air and buried itself in Winslow’s breast, and the next second the thrower’s head seemed to leap from his shoulders as the skipper hurled a blubber spade with unerring aim and the broad blade caught the Malay full in the throat. Stooping, the captain seized the lance that the mate dropped, but ere he could raise it, a pirate sprang like a tiger and the skipper fell with his scull cleft by a bolo stroke. Ten seconds later, the remaining whalemen on the after deck had been cut down, and only the remnant of men forward, and Kemp with four men at the starboard gangway, remained alive. The decks were red and slippery with blood; dead and wounded men lay in piles and contorted, awful groups. It would be but a matter of minutes before the last white man would be butchered. Death was certain for all, not one of the whalemen expected to survive, and yet they fought doggedly on. With their victims aft disposed of, the Malays dashed forward to the aid of their companions at the break of the forecastle, leaving those engaging Kemp and four for men to their own resources. With a bellow of rage, the second officer hurled himself upon the nearest Malay and brought a handspike crashing down upon the fellow’s head. Instantly, the others closed around him. Knives and bolos flashed, but in the writhing, struggling mass friend and foe were too inextricably mixed for blows to fall, and back and forth the men swayed and fought. Kicking out with his heavy boots, the second mate cleared a narrow space, and, bending quickly, grasped the legs of the nearest Malay. With a grunt he straightened up; and using every ounce of his Herculean strength, he swung the struggling, screeching the man aloft, a blood spattered human bludgeon, he soon cleared away through the brown bodies. Towering above the pirates, with his human battering-ram cutting a swath through the leaping forms and flashing weapons, Kemp staggered to the ship’s rails. Three of his men still lived, and gathered around him. Facing them, awed for the moment, hesitating, were eight Malays. The respite was brief, but it was sufficient for Kemp to carry out the plan that had flashed through his mind, as he had fought, swinging that living flail. Below where he stood the whaleboat still lay alongside the bark, secured only by its painter, the oars still in their places. It was a desperate chance, but the only chance of escape, for a glance forward had shown the mate that the battle there was almost over, and in an instant more the entire force of pirates would be upon him and his three comrades. With hoarse, shouted orders to his men to scramble into the waiting boat and cut the painter, Kemp whirled his battered, bleeding club of human flesh, hurled it with all his strength into the face of the Malays, and leaped backward over the bark’s side. With a crash he landed in the boat, recovered himself instantly, as the Malays leaped to the rails with yells of savage rage, the boat was pushed from the Wanderer; oars bent to the strain of the bulging muscles, and amid a shower of flung knives and bolos, dashed from the doomed ship. With shrill cries the pirates rushed to their proas, and, tumbling in, dug paddles into the water and urged their craft in pursuit. But even the proas could not overtake the speedy whaleboat urged on by four desperate whalemen whose lives depended on their efforts. Each minute the distance between the pursued and the pursuers widened, and presently, finding the chase hopeless, the pirates turned about and headed back to the bark to loot, carouse, and destroy.
Not one of the four in the boat had escape unscathed. All were wounded, and Kemp was bleeding from a dozen ugly cuts and thrusts. But not one complained. Tough, hard, rough men, inured to hardships and suffering, the men thought nothing of flesh wounds, and not until the bark was hull down did they cease rowing, and, resting on their oars, take long drafts from the keg of precious water, and with rough skill bound up their wounds.
That they were alone upon the vast expanse of a sea, adrift in a tiny cockle-shell of a boat, with a scanty supply of water and dry biscuit, troubled them little. They were still alive, not seriously injured, and they knew that their craft, though small, was the most seaworthy type of boat ever built by man. The nearest land where friendly natives could be found was fully five hundred miles distant, but many a whaleboat filled with castaway men had covered thrice that distance in safety. But they had no intention of attempting to reach the distant land. Two days before the calm had set in, the Wander had been in company with a whaling ship Comet, and if —as Kemp thought probable —the Comet had also been becalmed, she would still be within one hundred miles —an easy row for the men in the whale boat.
So, having rested and done what they could for their wounds, the men once more bent their oars, and, though they suffered tortures from the heat and thirst, all hoped and prayed that the flat calm might continue, that no breeze might spring up to relieve them, and enable the ship they sought to move. Even as it was they stood but small chance for finding her —a tiny speck upon that the vast oily sea —but they knew that a whaling ship, when cruising, sails in circles, and, that unless some unusual event had occurred she would still be in almost the same spot as where they had last seen her, and that if she was boiling, the black smudge of smoke from her try-works would be visible for many miles during the day, and would serve as are red flair to guide them at night. All through the afternoon they rowed on; through the silent, star bright night they toiled at their long oars, and when the day dawned the sea still stretched, unbroken by land or sea, before their aching eyes. Almost like automatons they rowed steadily throughout the forenoon; never speaking, scarcely thinking; their brains sleeping though their muscles still worked on with the regularity of machinery; only stopping at intervals to munch a biscuit or wet their parched mouths with a spoonful of water. Now and then Kemp would rise, painfully, stiffly, from his seat, and with reddened eyes sweep the horizon; but still there was no complaint, no thought of giving up. It was mid-afternoon when as the second mate again staggered to his feet and peered about, he caught a faint smudge on the shimmering horizon to the north, and with a glad, half choked, gurgling cry announced the tidings. With renewed hope and vigor the men swung the boat toward the smoke, and when, half an hour later, they saw that the smoke remained stationary and that it was far clearer, they felt for a certainty that they had won, that the smudge was from the whaling ships try-works, and almost joyously, forgetting their aching heads and tortured muscles, they fairly lifted the thirty-foot boat through the sea.
Soon the mastheads of the vessel rose to view; the heavy yards and the smoke grimed sails became visible; the squat, bluff-bowed, weather-beaten hull appeared, and as the men’s practised eyes took in lines and rigging, they knew that the ship they sought was there, and that within the hour they would be upon the Comet’s decks.
As they swept alongside and painfully —aided by their fellow whalemen —reached the deck and told of the fate of their bark, a chorus of curses went up from the listening men’s throats that should have shriveled the blistered, scaling paint on the ship’s sides.
“By Judas!” exclaimed grizzled Captain Tilden. “I’ll learn ‘em, the consarned blasted heathens! I’ll learn ‘em to kill honest Yankee whalemen. Yes, by cripes, I’ll learn ‘em a lesson they won’t forget, and I’ll add interest for a murderin’ of Captain Josiah and Hen Winslow to boot.”
Although an eighty-barrel sperm whale was alongside, and not one half the blubber had been cut in, yet so thoroughly aroused were the whalemen, and so intent on evening scores with the Malays, that the carcass was cut adrift, and a light breeze springing up, yards were squared and the Comet wallowed eastward. With his crew of twenty odd men, Captain Tilden knew it was useless to attempt to deal with the Malays, but he knew where he could secure reinforcements, and was in a fever of impatience to obtain the needed force and hurry back to Perang. Lying in a bay at a small island off the Borneo coast were several Yankee whale ships, and on the third morning after Kemp and the survivors of the Wanderer had reached the Comet, the island loomed above the horizon and an hour later the yards and masts of the vessels were sighted just where the captain had expected to find them.
Scarcely had the Comet’s anchor dropped when her skipper and Mr. Kemp were rowing swiftly to the nearest vessel, the brig Ruby, and once more the second officer of the ill fated Wanderer told his story, Captain Crosby of the Ruby, and Nye of the Pole Star instantly and heartily agreed to aid Captain Tilden in avenging the massacre of Captain Winthrop and his men. No time was lost, and with fifteen men from the Pole Star, ten from the Ruby, his own 24, and Kemp and his three comrades —fifty-three in all —Captain Tilden felt he could handle any number of Malays that might appear, and, hoisting anchor, he set sail for Perang. Moreover, the skipper of the Ruby and Pole Star had placed all their valuable arms at the disposal of the Comet’s Captain, and every man aboard was provided with a firearm of some sort.
Very anxious had been Captains Nye and Crosby to join in the expedition of vengeance, but Tilden would not listen to it.
“This here’s my a couple of fish,” he declared with finality. “Kemp and his men come to me and, by Geoffry, I swore I’d settle them devil’s hash for ‘em and damme if I don’t. And sides, ‘twouldn’t do no tarnation good for the three us to go after ‘em. They ain’t no fools, and soon’s they see three ships they’ll take to the bush and never show hide nor hair of their consarned, devil born, blasted carcasses. No sir this here’s a one man job, and I’m the man what’s goin’ to put it through, so help me.”
The others realized the truth of the skipper’s words. The Malays would be far too cautious to attempt an attack on three ships, and so, wishing Captain Tilden godspeed and the best of luck, they watched him sail from the bay and head into the west.
In due time the bulk of Perang rose above the rim of the sea, and Captain Tilden gave his orders. As long as the ship was under control there was little likelihood of the pirates attempting to board her, and if they approached and saw an unusual number of men aboard, they would become suspicious. Hence the crafty skipper gave explicit orders that all hands except those necessary for handling the Comet should remain below decks, or out of sight, until called, and that that all should have weapons ready; and with grins of anticipation of the coming fight, the men looked to their arms and melted from sight. Bearing close in toward shore, Captain Tilden shortened sail, steered his vessel erratically, and presently, bringing her aback, had a boat lowered and manned, and a tow line paid out as though the Comet were disabled and he was making every effort to get clear of the island.
Anxiously he and his officers searched the shores for signs of proas. Would the Malays take the bait so tempting offered? Would they dash forth to attack, or would they suspect that those who had escaped from the Wanderer had reached friends, and that the Comet was a trap? No one could say, but Captain Tilden was hopeful. He had spent years in these waters; he was familiar with the ways of the natives, and he felt sure that, flushed with their recent victory and success, the pirates would come forth from their lairs, lured by a very apparently helpless, Comet.
And his deductions were borne out. Out from the shelter of the jungle covered shores came the proas once more, the naked brown bodies of their cutthroat crews glistening in the sun, bolos and creeses flashing back the light. Hurriedly the boat’s crew came pulling back to the ship. Word was passed, and from the hiding places the heavily armed whalemen poured out and, still hidden from the Malays by the ship’s bulwarks, took their places. Onward swept the pirates. Once again a hapless vessel was before them. Once more they felt sure they could satiate their lust for white men’s blood and rum, and confident of victory, they dashed alongside the Comet, leaping from the proas with wild cries and savage shouts, and swarmed up the ship’s sides. Not until the Malays’ heads appeared above the rails did Captain Tilden give the word to his impatient men. Then, with lusty shouts, worse curses, triumphant yells, the fifty-three whalemen sprang up. With blazing muskets and pistols, flashing spades and heavy lances, they fell upon the astonished pirates. Turbaned heads were sliced from shoulders by the broad-edged spades; lances were plunged through naked bodies; broad axes clove through skulls and limbs, and shot and bullets brought down scores. Not a Malay lived to set foot on the Comet’s decks. Not one remained alive or uninjured to drop back to the piratical proas. Dozens, terrified, utterly demoralized, and thinking only to escape the fearful weapons and the demoniacal fury of the whalemen, flung themselves shrieking into the sea, to be torn to pieces by the swarming sharks attracted by the blood that crimsoned the water. Within ten minutes it was over. Without the loss of a single man the whalemen had annihilated the Malays, had exacted a terrible vengeance for the murder of Captain Winthrop and his crew. With grim satisfaction Captain Tilden looked about upon the carnage he had wrought, as yards were swung, and the Comet headed for the open sea. Then he spat reflectively to leeward, glanced at the receding bulk of Perang, at the drifting empty proas, at the sharp black fins cutting the surface the water.
“I calc’late that’s what you might call a good deed well done,” he remarked to Mr. Kemp. “I said I’ll learn ‘em a lesson, and by Judas I done it.”
And he had. For years thereafter, no Yankee whaleship was ever attacked by the savage pirates of the islands. The mere sight of a dingy, weather beaten, bluff-bowed vessel would send them quaking with terror to their lairs, and for generations the natives of Perang spoke in awed tones of the white devils who bore charmed lives.

The End

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.