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"Did any of you ever go golfing at Goony Dunes, or bowl in the famous Midway bowling alley with it's sand on the approach? Or did you go fishing on the Mauna Kai and catch one of those famous 70 lb Wahoo's or Tuna's and then have a big Wahoo or Tuna Steak grilled on someone's bar-b-q?

I mean, what did you do in your spare time? Did you play softball at Hartley Field? Did you fall off of your horse trying to dodge a goonie bird? Did you tip a few at the E M club" Or go trick or treating from house to house on Halloween?

What are your memories of the many pleasures that took place on Midway Island?"

Gary Scott

The Mauna Kai in the harbor at
Midway Island.

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John Cammeron's Odyssey - Chapt. 9

For your amusement I submit the two chapters from John Cameron's Odyssey that pertain to his travels and subsequent shipwreck on Midway Island.

Enjoy!

Gary =0)


ON THE "WANDERING MINSTREL," A CURIOUS SHARK
FISHER, I TAKE UP MY WANDERINGS ANEW



Scarcely had I returned to Honolulu when the British bark WANDERING MINSTREL, bound from Hongkong on a sharking expedition, arrived off port and anchored outside the reef. Once again the course of my l8fe was to be profoundly changed: this vessel was to take me into strange waters and singular adventures, int suffering and not a few narrow escapes from death. Here, with a vengeance, was the novel experience I had been craving.

Captain Frederick Dunbar Walker was master of the MINSTREL and had been promoter and organizer of a syndicate t buy the vessel at Hongkong and send her fishing for sharks and beach la mar in the long chain of rocks, atolls, and reefs that extends northwesterly from the eight islands of Hawaii proper. He had drawn a glowing prospectus, a copy of which I saw: it stressed the enormous profits to be gained from the cruise,---nine short months, said Walker, would suffice, though four were already spent; it marshaled an impressive array of figures, and so persuaded many to listen, since fortune ever lies over the next hill or just below the horizon. Thus the company was formed, the WANDERING MINSTREL, long idle and decaying, was acquired; and she sailed notwithstanding some late difficulty because of debts.

From the day she left Hongkong Captain Walker and his officers had not been able to get along; that trouble, or something approaching mutiny among the crew, had forced her into Honolulu. There a consular court of inquiry was held, the two mates were discharged, and I was requested my Major James Hay Wodehouse, the British commissioner, to join as first officer for the return voyage of four months to Hongkong. On arrival at that port, the major emphasized, I was to report to the British authorities in detail what had occurred on the passage.

To accept or not? An old friend advised me to take the position" would I not learn what sharking had to offer? Certainly I did' but much more valuable knowledge might have been gained with less woe. After a little thought, however, I told the commissioner that I would sign the articles, provided the terms were satisfactory. On the next day, December 8, 1887, I met Captain Walker. Staggered by the wages I demanded, though I asked only the current pay of Honolulu, he began to protest, whereto I retorted by steering for the door. At this juncture the British consul, Thomas Rain Walker, held a whispered conversation the skipper, who immediately became less brusque and ended by accepting my terms. "Now, Mr. Cameron," said he, "if this venture is a success, you will be handsomely rewarded; your salary will be a mere trifle." "Ah, Captain," returned I, "I never build air castles. The word 'salary' is sweet to to my ear."

Once aboard the MINSTREL, I discovered that the crew refused duty, were practically mutinous. Regarding this pretty kettle of fish the old fox Walker had forgotten to warn me. There I was, nevertheless, and must make the best of things, as I hoped I could do with the aid of the new second mate, Hanker, a former officer in the service of the North German Lloyd or Hamburg-American Line, a competent man and a thorough sailor. I the crew there were thirty-two foremast hands and three Chinese stewards; and we mustered eight whites: Walker, Mrs. Walker three sons, about thirteen, eleven, and nine years old' Hanker, myself, and Frank Lord, an American, who described himself as a cook.

A choice lot of cutthroats were the men. Scrapings of every port in the Orient had been assembled, with Filipinos predominating; but there were also negroes, Chinese, and even one man from Mozambique. They could have fitted perfectly into a picture of buccaneers of the Spanish Main if they had only had red sashes about their waists, cutlasses in their belts, braces of pistols in their hands, and above them the Jolly Roger. Without success I tried to persuade them to resume duty; they would not work and demanded leave to see the British consul. By declining to grant this Walker placed himself in the wrong.

While master and men were getting more at logger-heads I took an inventory of the stores. There were coils of Manila rope of many sizes' a large quantity of canvas; miscellaneous articles--sufficient gear, in short, for three WANDERING MINSTRELS. The food was good, though the cook was incompetent' and there was enough liquid refreshment--if I had been permitted to taste it--to make the ship a merry one. What I had found this far impressed me favorably, however unnecessary some of the stores were; but soon I discovered other equipment that puzzled me. "What are these two large pressing machines for?" I asked Walker. "To extract oil from the seals we'll catch," he replied. "Captain," I observed pessimistically, "only a few hair seals are to be found on the islands. You'll not catch enough to pay for one of the presses." Astounding indeed were fifty cases of Florida water. "What on earth!" I ejaculated. "Ah, they," explained the skipper,--"the Florida water is to suppress nasty odors when we're trying out {that is, rendering oil from} sharks' livers." Such a use for perfumed toilet water, the idea of making a fishing vessel's decks mell like a woman's boudoir, amused Hander and me enormously.

A note from the British consul, summoning me to his office, put a stop to my observation of the extraordinary ship on which I had signed. At the consulate I found the British commissioner, the counsel, and a former consul, T. H. Davies,--quite an impressive array of authority. hey read a letter from the crew complaining that the food was insufficient, the forecastle deck leaked, the foremast head was sprung, the captain drank to excess. What was my opinion of all this? I had just joined the vessel, said I, and hardly could reply satisfactorily; but so far as I had observed the food was good; the carpenter easily could repair the forecastle deck; and though I knew nothing of the condition of the foremast head, entries in the logbook regarding gales and typhoons encountered on the voyage from Hong kong indicated that there could be no serious defect. As for the captain's drinking, I preferred not to commit myself; so far I had seen him take no more than a little beer.

"What shall we do?" demanded Major Wodehouse. " British man-of-war is in the harbor," said I. "Apply to her commander for assistance." No sooner said that done. With a letter from Major Wodehouse to Captain Oxley of H. B. M. S. CONQUEST I boarded that vessel. Captain Oxley's reply, in the form of a letter addressed to Walker, was that he should first appeal to the civil authorities for aid in dealing with the drew' if the people did not act, the warship would. After reading this communication Walker requested me to interview the police. My representing him, I pointed out, would appear strange. "I've had enough of the damned shore!" he exclaimed, no doubt with reference to a heckling he had received at the consular court of inquiry. So to the marshal of Hawaii I went. "The men are a bad lot," I informed him. "Take a force to meet any emergency." That led him to increase his detain from ten husky Hawaiian policemen to fifteen, and under command of the deputy marshal we set out for the ship.

 


Walker unfolded details of the situation and asked the deputy especially to mark two negroes, who should be imprisoned on shore. Then I mustered the crew. The deputy smiled quizzically at me when he observed their miserable appearance and diminutive size. Each man was asked whether he refused duty; each replied doggedly that he did, whereupon irons were clapped to his wrists. Bumpety-bump, the two negroes were dragged, heels first, down the accommodation ladder to a boat; and we marched the others forward and shut them in the forepeak, a dark place of evil smells and a proper sweat-box under a tropical sun. To make sure that they did not escape, we spiked heavy scantlings across the entrance to the companionway; to complete their torment, we put the fellows on a diet of a pint of water and half biscuit a day each.
With this done Walker directed me to report to the consul. That gentleman was none too cheered by the news. "We are no nearer a solution," he lamented. But I assured him that our treatment would cure almost any mutineer. As time passed, however, with the crew apparently determined to hold out, my forecast seemed about to fail. Then I determined that we must have decisive action. "I'll resign if we don't start our voyage," said I to Walker. His rejoinder was that we could not heave the anchor so long as the men remained in irons. "Can't we?" I retorted. "Well, let us see as to that." It is true that we had few hands available: Hanker, two boatswains, the cook, three stewards, the Walker boys and myself; despite that I mustered and put them at the windlass, expecting that they would be able to do no more than take in slack chain, but that this would make a noise which could be heard by the prisoners in the forepeak and might cause them to beg for liberty.

Mindful of this possibility, I passed in front of the barred entrance, ostensibly in the execution of some duty. A sidelong glance at the companionway I stole, however. and saw extended hands beckoning. I paid no heed. After a few minutes I again walked close to the forepeak door. This time the men shouted entreaties that they be liberated and pledged that they would work faithfully. Only six did I free; added to the man power already available, they were enough to get up anchor and handle the bark under light canvas, and yet were not too many for me to manage if they proved unruly. To the others I said that they would remain in confinement on their scanty allowance.

From Honollu we started for our fishing grounds under easy sail. So willingly did the six foremast hands work that I was confident they would give me no further concern. A generous meal cheered them immeasurably, to such a degree, indeed, that Walker's tear ducts were opened, and he ordered me, then begged me, to release the others. This I would not do--refuse I could, since I had the keys to the handcuffs--until, after ten days, we sighted French Frigate Shoals, about five hundred miles northwest of Honolulu. At last I mustered the remaining prisoners on deck and warned them that severe treatment awaited them if they were not respectful and obedient. To a man they pledged themselves to behave and to do their best. And they kept their word: not even a pretext did I have to find fault with them. Willing as they proved, however, they were not seamen, but ocean laborers, and poor specimens at that Yet to whip and bully them, cajole them, to restore discipline after Walker had let them run wild, was a source of great satisfaction to me, mangy dogs though they were.

At first sight French Frigate Shoals resembles a brig under full sail, a fact that is held to blame for having lured more than one vessel to her grave on the reefs. As one approaches, the brig becomes a two-pinnacled rock, one hundred and twenty feet high, a sentinel over a number of islets. Thirteen there are, or were, for counts have been so variable that it seems currents must be continually rearranging the sand. These islets and their encircling reef extend about nine miles in one dimension and five in the other. Nowhere in the vicinity was there an anchorage really safe, for the shoals were much exposed and the low islets afforded little protection. At length, as the best of a bad bargain, we selected a berth in eight fathoms amid shoals.

 


Fish in abundance could be seen, likewise sea fowl and green turtles; but sharks were few and small, not more than six or seven feet in length. Consequently we did no fishing; yet our visit was by no means wasted; Walker and his family cruised in the launch and had a merry picnic time. If he was neglectful of the MINSTREL while thus engaged, I was not. I realized that our situation would be bad in the event of rough weather. "Seek another anchorage!" rang my perpetual cry in Walker's ears. Lightly did he hear my croakings, either because he feared no danger or was indifferent to the fortunes of his command. Yes, indifferent. Else why should he have discussed the construction of a schooner from the wreck of the MINSTREL if she came to grief? Why did he harp on the sufficiency of gear and tools for such a purpose? We could sail to South America, he rambled on, and sell the schooner.


For a time, while we had good weather, it seemed that my fears were unfounded. After a week sea and sky became threatening. One evening I called the skipper's attention to our situation and again pressed him to depart from our berth on a lee shore. Again I spoke to no avail. My disquiet had been increased because I repeatedly found the riding pawls unshipped; thus the whole weight of the vessel, should she strain at her cables, would be cast upon the windlass. A boatswain, whom I charged with neglect, informed me that Walker had ordered the pawls thrown out; the captain, in turn, assured me that the MINSTREL had ridden out two typhoons in Hongkong without them. Thereto I retorted that the windlass would be smashed if he persisted in such stupidity, and that I intended to see that the pawls were always in place.

During the night the weather became more ominous; wind and sea increased to such an extent that I insisted we depart while we could, the breeze having veered and now affording us an excellent slant. But Walker pleaded that the crew should have breakfast first. "Damn breakfast!" said I. Even the men, always hungry after the fashion of sailors, added their entreaties to mine. With the skipper's reluctant consent gained we did not delay in heaving anchor and making sail. In the bare nick of time did the vessel clear the reef, for the wind backed into the old quarter and blew hard. We had, however, got away; ere long we had plenty of sea room and headed for Midway Island, six hundred and eighty miles to the northwest.

 


On the fourth day out from French Frigate Shoals we sighted Midway. It consists of two islets surrounded by a reef, with a passage on the west for light-draft vessels into Welles Harbor and on the southeast an entrance for boats into the lagoon proper. That body of water is about three miles long by one wide, and from three to eleven fathoms deep. Sand Island, on the west, is about one and one-eighth square miles in area; at its greatest elevation it is some forty feet high. In my time it was nothing but white sand, with a few sunted bushes here and there: a hell of light, where land, sky, and sea joined to blast one's eyes. So devastating was the glare that on my return to civilization I had to bend spectacles. Eastern, or Scrub, Island is about one-half square mile in area and twelve feet high; back in 1887 it was covered with coarse grass and brush reaching to the shoulder. In the waters fish abounded, mullet the most plentiful. Sea fowl were innumerable: frigate birds, gannets, boobies, tropic birds, guillemots, gonies, curlew, snipe, plover, water wagrails. Does the reader surmise from these details that I made a longer stay on Midway than would be expected of a man paying a call in a shark-fisher? The reader would not be wrong in such a conjecture.

While we were closing in on Midway and skirting the reef we saw a man on shore waving a rag (it proved to be his shirt) frantically, desperately, he desisted only when we hoisted our ensign in response. That was the first of a series of strange events.


Many false openings into the harbor were likely to lead a vessel astray, as we discovered when we sailed past the narrow channel. At evening we headed offshore under easy sail, intending to attempt the passage in the morning. During the night the weather changed to a gale, which compelled us to reduce canvas. With our miserable crew that was long and difficult; both Hanker and I were required aloft; we spent the greater part of the night in snugging the vessel down, something that would have been child's play to one-fourth as many white men. Our heterogeneous crowd might be adept at climbing coconut trees, were helpless when it came to furling sails in heavy weather. For three days we lay outside waiting for the blow to moderate. When we did attempt to enter the harbor the wind, lately a gale, died completely, and the vessel drifted dangerously close to a breaking reef. In water of exceptional clarity we could see boulders at depths of eight, nine, and ten fathoms, with deep crevices between. Those coral caves led me to urge that we should not anchor, as I was sure we would lose our hooks and Walker approved my suggestion that our three boats tow the vessel clear. They were making gradual headway when a breeze extricated us from our plight. Before the wind we ran for the passage; we still had trouble, however, with a heavy swell, which broke on both sides of the channel and rolled over our bulwarks. At length we got to an anchorage in Wells Harbor and moored with both anchors in five fathoms; but the locality was unsatisfactory: we had little riding room; the bottom was sand, a poor holding ground and the pace was exposed to the northwest, a quarter from which the wind could blow with a vengeance.

After dinner the captain, his family, and I went ashore to call on and take food to the Robinson Crusoe of Midway, who had so desperately signaled to us. We found him in a small wooden building, the sole inhabitant of the island. To my astonishment he greeted me by name. "How do you do, Captain Cameron? My name is Jergensen. I met you in Honolulu." I had no recollection of him. "How did you come here?" I asked. "On the schooner GENERAL SIEGEL," said he. "We were bound from Honolulu on a sharking cruise. The vessel was wrecked, and my shipmates cleared out, leaving me behind." After his solitary stay on Sand Island, Jorgensen was profoundly moved at seeing men. Small wonder! He accompanied us to the vessel, each minute growing more voluble, even hysterical: he rambled in his talk, darting from one topic to another, as though all his life would be too short for him to relieve his mind of the multitude of thoughts and emotions stored therein while he was king of a desolate island with none but himself to rule. No sooner were we on board ship than he began to follow me about the deck with the aim of unfolding his story. I begged him, however, to belay his jaw tackle until work was over for the day and I could listen in peace.

Supper having put sufficient food under his vest, we got up steam in our pipes, to the castaway's great pleasure after tobacco-less months. For the good week, let me say, there is no substitute: within a few weeks I myself was driven to smoke leaves and grass but they burned my tongue so severely that I had to stop.--This strange being, then, began his story.

His name, said he, was Adolph Jorgensen; he was a native of Denmark; by trade a ship carpenter. His age, I estimated, was twenty-seven; he was a giant of a man, more than six feet one inch in height; fair-haired and blue-eyed; his shoulders were slightly stooped, no doubt from swinging a broadax in the shipyards of Hamburg, where he had been employed for some time. He was of a powerful build, muscular and rawboned, without an ounce of fat. I soon discovered that he was a kind and obliging nature, eager to please others, and himself easy to satisfy.

"You must remember, Cameron," said he, "that the schooner GENERAL SEIGEL was fitted out in Honolulu more than a year ago for a cooperative sharking expedition to the nor'-nor'west islands. There were seven of us in the venture. On our way here we had fitful success. Bird Island, our first call, was a barren rock swarming with sea fowl but having few sharks. Neckar, which came next, had many sharks and a few hair seals, the flesh of which was excellent bait. Cheered by our luck, we continued to French Frigate Shoals, where the sea was alive with sharks and many turtles could be seen in the islets. By and large our cruise was succeeding; on board ship, too, all was going well. Our stores were ample, and we had plenty of fish, turtles, eggs, and flesh of seals.


"From French Frigate Shoals we sailed for Maro Reef, a wicked place, the rocks of which showed through breaking surf like so many fangs. Rewarded by a small catch there, we headed for Laysan Island. It has a good harbor for small craft, safe enough except from October to April. Then a heavy swell rolls in from the northwest. At Laysan our luck was fair; sharks were numerous, though rather small. We took advantage of the harbor to clean the schooner's bottom, overhaul our sails and rigging, and give all hands a week ashore before proceeding to Lisiansky. At that island there is a large lagoon, in which we remained for six weeks, pushed on with our fishing, and caught many sharks, besides some turtles and a few seals. With almost a full cargo we came to Midway. Here we intended to complete our catch, take on water, and generally prepare for the run to Honolulu.

"Since Welles Harbor appeared safe, we anchored closer in than the WANDERING MINSTREL is lying; and carried on with our fishing, until we had a full cargo. Up to this time there had not been the slightest trouble; every man had done his level best. How dissension arose I don't know,--probably because we didn't have enough work to keep us busy; but there was no serious quarrel until after the schooner was wrecked. That happened on the very day we were to sail for Hawaii. We had been busy getting the vessel shipshape, and were chaffing one another as we planned what grand sprees we'd have in port. You know, Cameron, how sailors on their homeward voyages look forward to one devil of the time ashore."--Dear Bacchus and Venus, did John Cameron not know!

"Air castles I'd call the sprees we planned," said Jorgensen. "Down they tumbled. Before daybreak a heavy storm set in, and a tremendous sea burst through the passage until everything was white with spume and spindrift. The poor old schooner pitched, rolled, surged back and forth, and strained at her anchors, while seas swept her decks and made clean breaches over her. We hoped, of course, for the best; we were fated to have the worst. As the storm became more violent and the waves higher, both chains parted, and the SEIGEL drove upon the beach. Luckily for us she ended on sand, so we had a chance to save our clothes, food, and some other supplies before she broke up, only an hour after she struck. She had seen her best days, and could not stand much pounding.

"There we were, our venture, which had promised so much, ended in wreck; ourselves on a desert island, with prospects of rescue not the brightest. We did find shelter,"--This was a house of redwood, roofed with redwood shingles, built thirty years or so before American scientists who had come to Midway to observe a transit of Venus. That the structure was still in good condition speaks much for the wood.

"In the house we took up our quarters," Jorgensen went on. "We would have been comfortable enough if we could have agreed. But in our idleness we couldn't keep from bickering. Our quarrels ended seriously and strangely. One of the crew, an old man, Peter Larking, went fishing with dynamite. I suppose he forgot himself as he watched the movements of a shoal of fish or maybe the fuse was poor."--Could such a thing have been? Is it possible that some manufacturer did ship fourth-rate fuse to Hawaii?--fuse that would burn slyly down a side or shoot like a rocket from hell through the center and cost some earnest dynamiter of fish an irreplaceable hand?

"Peter Larkin lost a hand, Cameron," said Jorgensen. It was torn to shreds. Not pretty, that stump. We dressed it as well as we could; yet we were no surgeons. In spite of our bungling, Larkin seemed to be getting on well, although he did complain much, as almost any one would. One afternoon, when his pain was great, he groaned and screamed. This seemed the last straw to Jacobson, who acted as captain 'I'll soon fix him!' said Jacobson savagely. He got a dose of something for Larkn from the medicine chest. Immediately after swallowing it Larkin began to cry that his stomach was afire. For two hours he yelled and writhed. Then he died. He wouldn't bother Jacobson any more. I came to the conclusion that the captain poisoned him. What do you think, Cameron?" I can form no opinion, Jorgensen," said I: "go on with your story."

"After Larkin's death," Jorgensen resumed, "a Dane named Brown hinted before Jacobson that Larkin had been poisoned; but the captain seemed to take no notice. One day, however, he and Brown went to Eastern Island;---and the captain returned alone. To our questions he replied coolly that Brown had shot himself by accident and that he had buried the body where it fell. Of course I suspected murder, and I made up my mind to learn the truth. On the next day I went to Eastern Island with Jacobson and a German boy. The captain showed me the grave; I dug up the body, keeping a weather eye on Jacobson as I did so; pulled the corpse from the pit, scraped off the sand that stuck to it, and searched for a wound. It was a bullet hole--in the back of the head. No man can shoot himself from behind, Cameron. Jacobson looked on indifferently------"

I myself have never been able to conceive of the captain's bearing in this ghastly ordeal: accompanying Jorgensen to the islet, indicating the grave, waiting while the corpse was disinterred, an examination made, and that conclusive bullet hole in the back of the head disclosed. And this "indifferently"! What assumption shall illumine this tenebrous affair? God alone knows the truth.

"Jacobson looked on indifferently," said Jorgensen, "as I scraped the sand from the body, looked it over and buried it the second time. I said nothing. The fact is, Cameron, that I was in deathly fear of the skipper." Yet the reader may retort that Jorgensen had courage to uncover the corpse and expose that tiny break in the skull through which brain and life had oozed. What is truth? Pilate asked the same question.

 


Nevertheless, despite all that had occurred, Jorgensen and Jacobson several days afterward crossed once more to Eastern, this time to get eggs, since there were none on Sand Island, all the sea fowl, frigate birds and gonies excepted, having flown to sea, not to return for nesting until November. "When I gathered many eggs," Jorgensen's tale ran, "I sauntered to the boat and sat waiting for Jacobson. He did not return; I searched for him: no trace could I find. I returned bewildered to Sand Island and reported his disappearance. To my horror, my shipmates accused me of murder. I protested my innocence; but they roared me down

"On the next day all went to Eastern Island to search for Jacobson. It seemed that he had vanished into the air. And while I was hunting for the captain the others cleared out, leaving me without food and water--which on Eastern Island is unfit to drink-- and with no means of kindling a fire. My mates, besides, knew I could not swim: they had left me there to die.

"It appeared impossible for me to cross to Sand Island, though I almost went crazy raking my mind for a way of escape. Finally it occurred to me that I might tie together some drift logs, which had been washed above high water, and so make a raft. But where could I get lashings? I wondered, too, whether I could move the logs to the water After a terrible struggle I managed to roll, drag, and slide them over the sand--the hardest work I ever did. With my suspenders and strips torn from my clothes I bound the logs together; with a light piece of wood as a paddle I began my voyage across the lagoon. I made good progress until I was halfway; then a breeze kicked up a choppy sea and held me back. Soon the raft grew logy; next the lashings parted, leaving me with a single log and it well submerged.

"Sick with terror,---that's what I was, Cameron, when I thought that the lagoon was full of sharks. How I got to the beach I don't know. It was after an effort so fearful that I fainted. Not until late afternoon did I come to. I found myself on the sand, barely clear of the water unable to rise to my feet. When I could get up, after lying there for a long time, I still had to fight off a deadly fit of dizziness, which left my head aching horribly and spinning like a top. If you had seen me on my way to the cottage you'd have thought I was drunk. That's how I was staggering. My brain burned with hate of my shipmates. At that time I had a mind to kill them all. That would have been no crime; only just punishment for their attempt to murder me with starvation and thirst. Little by little I reeled toward the house; stopped often to rest;---and went on.

"Within the hut I could hear the others talking and laughing, no doubt because they had been so clever in tricking me. Bursting upon them, I took them completely aback, so little had they imagined I could escape Before they could recover from their astonishment I caught a glimpse of my rifle in a corner; I leapt for it and brought it to bear. Not to kill anyone,---I was cooler then; just to frighten the cowards. That I certainly did; they sat paralyzed. Only when I demanded their reasons for abandoning me did they speak. They were, said they, not safe with me. 'Fools and cowards!' said I. 'So many, to be afraid of one! Here is my rifle. Take it.' And I handed over the weapon. 'I'll harm no one. For God's sake, behave like men!'

"Some days afterward we fitted out a boat for a voyage to the Marshall Islands, fifteen hundred miles distant. It had drifted on shore, probably from a wreck'---the name DUNOTTER CASTLE was on the stern. It was a strong clincher-built, double-ended boat, only slightly damaged." "The DUNOTTER CASTLE," I was able to inform Jorgensen, "was lost on Ocean Island, fifty-five miles westward, about two years ago." "A fortunate wreck for us," he remarked. "I repaired the boat and strengthened it thoroughly to withstand heavy weather; in fact, I made it strong enough to sail around the world.

"But when everything was ready my shipmates said that I could not go in the boat. I was too dangerous! 'This was staggering. I begged not to be left behind; I prayed to them;---they would not listen. I even offered to let them tie me hand and foot and keep me bound during the voyage. Nothing moved them. One evening they started without me; but anchored a short distance from shore and next morning made an early departure. During the night I searched madly for a punt we had used in good weather, with the aim of paddling out to the boat for one last appeal. Not a trace of the punt could I find. No wonder; a few days afterward I ran across it, filled with stones and sunk by those devils of men. They had overlooked nothing; and I--what a fool! How I damned myself for surrendering my rifle! Twice those fiends had tried to murder me. They'll be a pretty score to settle if ever we meet.

"Here was I, left with only a few boxes of matches,--everything else had been taken. What would become of me? Would a vessel find me before I died? Would I go crazy? How can I describe my hopes and fears? My mind was a hell while I wandered all day about the island, muttering and cursing, to return to the house at night, then to fall exhausted, yet unable to sleep. Finally I became seriously ill. How long I remained so I can't say. I must have been delirious for quite a time; my calendar, at least, is out nine days as compared with yours. Then my recovery was slow. My food, nothing more than sea birds and their eggs, helped me little to rally. Weak as I was, I could hardly search for anything to eat. Even after I grew better I felt impelled to kill myself. Time and time again I debated suicide. In the end, after harder and more sensible thinking, I decided that i needed work.

"What better job could I do than repair and strengthen the dwelling house for the winter? I could get material from some lighters, though they were nearly three-quarters of a mile from the house and were almost buried in drifting sand." "Those lighters, Jorgensen," I interposed, "were left here by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, or more probably by the U.S.S.SAGINAW, which was sent from the States to deepen a channel through the reef, so that the Pacific Mail could use Midway as a coaling station. The SAGINAW was lost on Ocean Island in 1870. I have a faint recollection that some of the crew went in a small boat to Kauai. But all the men except one were drowned when the boat capsized. That lone survivor got word of the wreak to Honolulu, and the crew were rescued.

"To keep my hands and mind occupied," Jorgensen resumed. "I decided to build a veranda about the hut. My first task was to clear sand from the lighters. This proved I was far from well. Still I carried on, increasing my work as I improved, until I was able to go a full day without tiring. It was not pleasant to trudge in yielding sand between the hut and the lighters; that, however was only the beginning. Clearing away the sand was no easy job; then came the hard task of dismantling the lighters with the few tools I had. Once the planks were off, I still had to get them to the house. They were two by ten inches by twenty feet long, heavy, and they taxed my strength, though I am not a weak man. Yet I stuck to the work until I had the material I needed.---All this time, Cameron, I had observed one day as Sunday: I needed rest and also set apart the day for giving thanks that I had been saved from death. Now I know that this "Sunday" fell on a week day. But God would not hold such a mistake against me.

"Construction of a veranda went forward as well as a one-man gang could manage. I lost no time. Eight-hour day! I worked from dawn to dark, and slept,---God, Cameron, how I slept! Well, you saw the veranda. What do you think of it?"

"An excellent job," said I. "It took muscle. Voluntary slavery, that task was. But you knew you would be snugger and safer in the westerly gales of winter. How did you manage for food?"

"Fairly well," replied the castaway. "Seabirds were plentiful. The breasts of frigate birds are very good, a fair substitute for beefsteak, tender when cooked; for a change, delicious grilled. I easily caught the fowl and also fish, which I had in great variety. They were tasty boiled, fried, roasted, or steamed. Nor did I lack eggs. A soup to smack your lips over can be made from small birds, which I snared, with well-beaten eggs added when the liquid was slightly cooled. Fish soup I made after the same recipe. As for the eggs alone---sometimes I boiled them, or fried or roasted them; or again made them into a pancake on a frying pan improvised from an old shovel. Tea and coffee consisted of beaten eggs in hot water."


"You're a first-rate carpenter," I remarked, "and an excellent cook. Many men have died of scurvy on fare no different from yours."

"My good health," Jorgensen explained, "is due to work---to that and not worrying after the first few weeks. My one trouble was a shortage of matches. How to use few was my special study. But with much driftwood and coal [also left on Midway by the Pacific Mail or the SAGINAW] I seldom let the fire die. Each night I banked it; in the morning a little raking started blaze.

"When the veranda was done I put in a stock of eggs, for there would be many bad days during the winter when I couldn't forage. About the first of November the gonies returned to rest. Each hen laid two or three eggs, a trifle short of a pound in weight, one of which she ate while she was hatching her chicks. If the eggs were taken she would lay one or two more, but smaller. Trouble enough I made for the birds. In November alone I stored more than ten thousand eggs, and have almost that many in the house to-day [January], packed in dry leaves in boxes. You may see and taste some to-morrow. I think they are all right; at least they kept me from going hungry at times, and they always gave me a change from fish and birds.

 

"By the time the WANDERING MINSTREL hove in sight I was resigned to whatever might happen. Things were a bit trying in bad weather, when I couldn't work. Then my single amusement was a rat, the only one on the island. He was as lonesome as I; and we became fast friends. He ate from my hand without fear; and he and I held long conversations; at any rate, I talked, and he as a listener was perfect, for he never interrupted.


"Ah, yes, I have something else to tell you. Soon after the boat sailed for the Marshalls I caught a shark, about eight feet long, and cut it open to get the liver for lamp oil. In the stomach was a man's shoe with the foot still inside it. The boat, I knew, was Jacobson's. He had been drowned, I suppose, and the shark had eaten him, but hadn't digested the leather of the shoe. Some day I'll show you where the foot is buried, close to the cottage."

About this stage sleep overpowered me. How long Jorgensen talked I do not know. Early next morning he made a fresh start; I was, however, to busy to listen. One thing and another prevented my seeing the foot. For that matter I was not in the least interested; and the Dane never alluded to it again.

So here I have given Jorgensen's yarn as he spun it in the wardroom of the British bark WANDERING MINISTREL at Wells Harbor, Midway Island. No doubt the reader will weigh the story and form his own conclusions, which may be modified by what I shall say later of Jorgensen. This I will add here: Three years afterward I met one of his shipmates in the Marshall group. He laid all the responsibility on Jorgensen; yet closed like a clam when I asked him some pertinent questions. I told him that Jorgensen was in the archipelago and would certainly kill him should they meet; for my part, I concluded, I would not blame the Dane in the least.

 

 


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John Cammeron's Odyssey - Chapt. 10


AT MIDWAY THE "MINSTRELL" ENDS HER WANDERINGS,
AND MINE LIKEWISE PAUSE UNEXPECTEDLY



On the day after Jorgensen told his story Walker and I made a surveying cruise in the steam launch to Eastern Island and about the lagoon. Thus familiarized with Midway and its reefs, we began to land gear for shark fishing, Hanker being in charge of one boat and Jorgensen of another. We took ashore a great quantity of thin boards and scantlings, which we intended to use in building sheds; two fifty-gallon pots for trying our sharks' livers; a few hundred knocked-down barrels for oil; a blacksmith's forge and grindstone; and innumerable other articles necessary and unnecessary. All hands pitched to this preparatory work, eager to get to grips with the sharks; and while we were working, Walker and his family went picnicking in the launch.

After such an excursion Walker rushed on board in high excitement. "Our fortunes are made, Mr. Cameron!" he exclaimed. "Get rakes, with nets attached, ready at once. The whole bottom of the lagoon is swarming with beach la mar!" Now at that time beach la mar was worth about seventy-five cents a pound in the markets of China, where it was, and still is, highly esteemed as an ingredient of a delicious soup. But I knew that scarcely any beach la mar was to be found at Midway; nevertheless had equipment prepared, with which Walker began his hunt. After a hall day he and his fishermen returned with a large quantity of ordinary sea slugs, worth possibly ten cent a hundredweight as fertilizer. In order to convince him of his mistake I asked, and with difficulty won, permission to make an expedition of my own. For a whole day, I made a thorough search of the entire lagoon; my spoil was a half dozen specimens of true beach la mar. Yes, Walker at length admitted, he had been wrong.

In general everything was running smoothly; the men were contented, they had plenty of eggs, fish, and turtle flesh in addition to usual ship's rations; they obeyed orders willingly; and all of us were anxious to begin our fishing. A dwindling store of water did not inconvenience us, for by sinking headless barrels in the sand we got an inexhaustible supply. Indeed, fresh water could be found in the sand beach only ten feet from the salt tide.

But all could not possibly go well for long. One morning, in the altercation with Walker, Hanker used vigorous language and added a few pointed and truthful accusations. Goaded to fury, Walker shouted, "Bring the handcuffs, Mr. Cameron, and put this man in irons!" "Here you are, Captain Walker," said I, handing him the irons but never dreaming that he would carry out his threat or that Hanker would submit to such degradation. To my stark amazement, however, the second mate meekly extended his hands; nor did he make the slightest protest as the captain snapped the handcuffs to his wrists. "Take him forward," Walker ordered me. "He's no longer second officer. Confine him in the forepeak; secure the door. I'll teach him who is master." Without a word Hanker walked forward and descended into the forepeak, where he seated himself to brood over his misfortunes. "I'll be damned if I'll lock the door," said I to him. "Give me your word that you'll not go on deck to raise hell with Walker."

When Hanker had pledged himself to make no trouble I went aft to remonstrate with the skipper and to urge that he release the mate. The only reply I could get was that irons and imprisonment were necessary for discipline. "Why not note the trouble in the log?" I demanded. "Why not send Hanker to his room as punishment for insubordination? He did not use threatening language; he is not a dangerous person. He'll never be able to control the crew again." "He's no longer an officer," retorted Walker. "I'll appoint Jorgensen in his place."

Taken aback though I was by such summary disrating, I continued to argue with Walker and at length won his engagement to free Hanker if the mate would apologize; but this Hanker steadfastly refused to do. "He'll wish himself in hell before I'm through with him!" cried the skipper. Having expressed himself thus kindly, Walker rushed below, to return with a fathom of quarter-inch chain, which he ordered me to put about the prisoner's ankles and secure to a stanchion. "I deliberately refuse," said I. "There go your chain lashings overboard. Do your own dirty work." Surprised into speechlessness, the skipper went below and did not reappear that day. Next morning he greeted me cordially,---neither of us alluded to Hanker.

Jorgensen proved himself a hard worker and an efficient second mate. With his assistance the work of landing gear proceeded expeditiously. During most of January and the first part of February we were busy preparing for our great sharking venture. Except for occasional rain and wind the weather continued good; but Jorgensen warned us that it would be dangerous to remain in Welles Harbor too long; and I decided to ascertain whether we could get the vessel into the lagoon, where we might moor in safety. Between us and a satisfactory anchorage were many rocks above and below water; still I believed that I could find a passage. A survey disclosed sufficient water for the MINSTREL Little danger was to be apprehended in calm weather and a smooth sea, provided only that the craft was handled properly. Apparently impressed, even elated, when I reported my findings, Walker decided to move into the lagoon at the first opportunity.

Favored by good weather, we landed all gear safely; then began to build sheds and assemble our knocked-down barrels. Yet I did not neglect to impress upon Walker the urgency of changing our berth. Finally, after much persuasion, I won his grudging consent. Early one morning, when the weather was quite good, we raised steam in the launch, hove the anchors, and with me in the launch as pilot, began to tow the MINSTREL into the lagoon. Everything was propitious; not a breath of wind blew; not a ripple flecked the water. We were making good headway, to my gratification, when Walker dropped anchor in five fathoms of water, and not content with that, permitted too much chain to run out and thus left a foul moor. "It's too risky," he said when I asked why he had anchored. "I've decided to remain in Welles Harbor." Knowing that argument was useless, I contented myself with warning him of probable disaster. We then swung the vessel's head and dropped the second anchor after which I called Walker's attention to the length of chain that had run out with the first. "Nonsense!" he exclaimed. "The anchor isn't foul."

Within two days stormy weather opened. In a heavy swell chains and windlass were subjected to hard strains. Each night I examined the windlass to make sure that all was well, and I gave the boatswains strict instructions to see that the riding pawls were in place, for I had scarcely forgotten that Walker had unshipped them at French Frigate Shoals. One midnight there occured what I had dreaded and half expected: a boatswain called me to report that the windlass had been smashed. It was indeed out of commission for the remainder of the voyage. Although everything had been in order when I went below, the riding pawls were not in place: the captain, the boatswain explained, had unshipped them and had ordered that they be left alone. As a consequence of this criminal folly the anchor chains were run out to the bitter ends, but since they were well secured and nothing could be done in the dark with our apology for a crew, I went below to wait sleeplessly for dawn.

After coffee had been served I roused the men out; got two coils of four-inch Manila rope, each of four hundred fathoms, specially made for the WANDERING MINSTREL in Hongkong; and with three- and fourfold purchase blocks reeved tackle to extend from the waist of the ship on each side to the anchor chains. This would enable us to heave in superfluous chain and would ease the strain on the broken windlass: and the considerable give and take in the rope enabled the vessel to ride comfortably enough. In no wise put out by the mishap, Walker commended me for rigging such an effective riding substitute. Yet I felt sure that he realized I had penetrated his scheme, which was nothing less than to lose the vessel in such a manner that he could not be brought to book. He did not wish to return to Hongkong; of that I am convinced. Already the expedition was a failure: six months had passed of the nine he allowed himself; only three months remained in which to make good his promises of fabulous wealth. No wonder he would have welcomed a fortunate accident. Not at all; Walker was left in no doubt as to what I thought. That came within a few days, when more moderate weather permitted us to shorten our mooring chains. While this was being done my fingers were jammed in the gear because Walker gave the men an unexpected order to pull. After making the air blue I quit work for the day. In the evening the skipper sent a box of cigars as a peace offering: a surprising gift, for in the morning I had accused him pointblank of attempting to wreck the ship.
During the next few days we had better weather, but that did not deter Jorgensen, a born pessimist, from predicting disaster; and I was inclined to concur. If trouble arose we should need every man. That consideration,taken with Hanker's increasing despondency, led me to beg the skipper to release the second mate. Walker, however, still demanded an apology, while Hanker was determined to make none. Soon he developed a high fever and became delirious. Walker refused to give me the keys to the handcuffs; he did surrender when I threatened to cut the irons from Hanker's wrists. I freed the poor devil; gave him a dose of ship's medicine which Walker at last let me have after pleading that he did not know what to prescribe; and all in all I made Hanker as comfortable as I could. Then I set a man to watch him, lest he harm himself or the vessel. Within a few days, when he was well enough to be up, I assumed the responsibility of allowing him to go to the wardroom.

Again we had stormy weather, and this time I anticipated a prolonged siege, the month being February, a season of high winds in the latitude of Midway. Increasing wind and sea compelled us to give the MINSTREL more chain in order to forestall her dragging her anchors, inasmuch as a flat and rocky bottom, covered with a heavy silt of sand, was hardly good holding ground. A gradually falling barometer and the actions of the sea birds, which hung about the island and would not put to sea, foreboded weather still more nasty. For it we took every possible precaution; battened down the hatches; secured the steam launch to the davits; braced the yards up sharp; overhauled the riding tackle. Notwithstanding these precautions I had a presentiment that, unless a miracle intervened, the MINSTREL would come to grief. Our anchorage was far too exposed to gales from the northwest, which prevailed in the winter months, and was open to the sweep of the sea through the channel when the wind blew from quarter.

Not merely a high gale but a storm of typhoon force was forecast by the barometer. Soon the wind was strong enough to alarm us, for less than two hundred feet distant a reef was breaking with heavy surf. It was a most disquieting outlook; should the vessel drag her anchors at night she would pound to pieces in no time, and all hands certainly would perish. Even now she was rolling hard, broadside to the seas, since a strong undertow, running from the reef, swung her stem well up into the wind. To her sore labor the weight of the launch contributed materially. If the boat was lowered into the sea water and allowed to drift over the reef into a smooth sea, where we could anchor it with a tripping rope, the ship would be immensely relieved, I said to Walker. His assent given, we put the idea into successful execution. Relieved of the weight, the MINSTREL resumed an even keep and did not roll so hard. But this was merely a palliative and no remedy. Our situation, as a blind man could see, remained most grave. With all available anchor chain paid out and a jagged reef dangerously close, we gazed fascinated into the jaws of destruction.

Now the room was blowing with hurricane weight, accompanied by squalls of increasing violence which I do not know how to describe, seeing that "hurricane" and "typhoon" are the strongest words knows to a seaman. The roar of the surf, coupled with the shrieking of the wind through the rigging, shattered our nerves. What would happen at night we could only conjecture. Nothing remained for us to do but pray that the anchors and chains would hold. Yet we apprehended the worst, such was the fury of the blasts and such the tremendous force of the gigantic waves rolling in from the deep sea.

 


Then the skipper, finally realizing that we were in precarious straits, showed the white feather. "What shall we do?" he asked. I replied, "The vessel's stern is well up to the wind. Set the lower topsails, slip the anchors, run inside the lee of the boulders, where the water is smooth, and drop the spare anchor. It will require less than a half hour. After that the ship will ride in safety. But my suggestion appalled him. Was it too daring? We were in a perilous state. With a ragged reef, foaming white with heavy breakers, on our lee, we had to attempt something to ward off a closer and deadlier acquaintance with those rocks. After much consideration, however, Walker dismissed my plan as impossible to success with our crew. "Too desperate, Mr. Cameron." he added. "I am afraid the bark would sag upon the reef before gaining headway." In answer I demanded, "How can that be? The wind is in her favor; as soon as the topsails are sheeted home she will forge ahead. The chains are all ready to unshackle. Come, make the attempt. Let me set one topsail before slipping the chains. I'll stake my life on the outcome." Still he demurred: "We would drift down upon the reef and meet with the very ruin we are trying to avoid." Further discussion was useless, for he was determined not to try what I firmly believed could be accomplished, aye, and was ready to risk all our souls, my own included, on the result. But Walker was not the first man who awaited a miracle; and I was the last to hope that God would save those who made no effort to help themselves. Surely the Deity and Storms expects man to play a man's part.

Walker rejected my expedients; yet he himself, press him as I would, had nothing to offer. "Then for God's sake," I cried, "run to the sand beach. The ship will not be damaged much and can be refloated when the gale has passed. To leeward of the boulders there is little swell, not sufficient to harm her. Slip the cables, and run!" No man of decision and courage would have hesitated. But Walker still protested. He refused to attempt everything that promised salvation: he and he alone was to blame for the ensuing catastrophe.

No signs of the tempest's abating were apparent: the barometer continued to fall; the MINSTREL labored ever worse in the huge seas that hurled themselves into the harbor; outside, as far as we could see, the ocean was a seething, heaving mass of white-crested waves that broke furiously on a long expanse of shoals. Again at dinner I urged Walker to adopt one or another of my plans. "You see that the weather is getting worse," I argued. "Not yet has the full force of the storm struck us. When it does, mark me! the anchors can't hold. The bar will be smashed to pieces in a short time. I would give her no more than two hours after she struck. God help us all if that happened at night. Not one would be saved."

Again Walker returned an uncompromising negative. "One other course, and one only, remains," said I with all the finality I could muster. "Cut away the masts. With them over the side the bark will ride out the storm." "My God, Mr. Cameron!" exclaimed Walker. "That is a last resort with a vengeance. Some of the crew inevitably would be killed." "Some had better die than all," I countered. "We could secure the spars, Captain, and give the vessel a jury rig afterward. Grant me permission to cut away. I am confident that none of the men would be hurt. Dismasting is neither difficult nor dangerous. With it done, even though the vessel should drive upon the reef,--as I don't believe she would,--the hull, relieved of the strain of the masts and yards, would hold together long enough for us to take to the boats."

 


Receiving his unqualified rejection of this plan, because, he said, "we might weather the storm," I went below for a smoke. Jorgensen's renewed croaking of disaster rang in my ears as I began my watch on deck. Ominously the night opened. One squall on the heels of another tore through the rigging, while amid their wail arose the unbroken roar of the surf upon the reefs. What a night!--and a long one, for I had no sleep. It was as black as "the Earl of Hell''s riding boots," except when prodigious flashes of lighting disclosed a scene wild enough to terrify the most courageous.

At daybreak on February 8, 1888, the wind was extremely severe. Spindrift, driving before it, stung our faces like hail. Still the barometer fell, until the sole question seemed to be how long our anchors would hold, not whether they would; but at dawn the lead line showed that the MINSTREL had not dragged from her position of the night. That and the day, though feeble and wan in a world of raging tempest, cheered me immensely. Different indeed is a man under the light of the sun from the same man at night, when terrors are hidden and magnified.

As the weak daybreak waxed, the wind blew with renewed fury; seemingly in accord the breakers mounted to overwhelm us: storm and sea gathered to annihilate the WANDERING MINSTREL. To my dismay the lead line now showed that our position was appreciably altered. Therefore I ordered the cook to hurry breakfast, and told the men that the meal would be our last on the vessel and that they should stow away plenty of food; but the poor dolts, instead of doing that, went to pack their kits,--which they were compelled to leave behind. How strange that a man should risk his life for a little trash when the world overflows with trash to be had for the taking! Greatly agitated, the captain appeared on deck; his courage, however, was raised when he handled the lead line and detected no movement of the ship. But a brief abatement in the high severity of the storm misled him; and I, completely disgusted, made no response to his optimistic report.

On the heels of that lull a rain squall of cyclonic fury brust upon us. Heavy black clouds, close overhead, twisted and hurtled down to leeward, turning the dim day into sullen dusk. "Now for it!" I ejaculated. "The MINSTREL can't stand this!" Even as the thought ran through my mind the bark bumped and shivered from stem to stern, while her masts and yards whipped like cane in all directions. Wave after wave, roaring from the sea, drove us ever closer to the reef, and after each heave the MINSTREL pounded hard. She was doomed, yet we could do nothing to save her; we could hardly lift a finger to save ourselves until the hull, by fixing itself solidly on the rocks, should give us a lee for launching the boats. In such circumstances I could think of nothing better to do than stand in a sheltered place and watch my predictions of catastrophe being borne out to the letter.

Walker rushed forward with an infantile question" "What are we to do, Mr. Cameron? She's struck! "Save lives!" said I; "save lives, you damned idiot!" "Oh," he wailed. "how can we? No boat could live in that surf. Captain Walker, what other chance have we" I inquired. "Oh, he replied, "the weather might moderate before the vessel broke up. I prefer to remain on board rather than risk landing in a boat." "Yes," said I most softly, "and Elijah may carry you aloft in a feather bed. Listen to me, Captain Walker," I barked, "the vessel will be in pieces before many hours have passed. Go immediately and assist your wife and children to get ready to leave the ship. They must go ashore in a few minutes. We now have a good opportunity, for the ship is well up on the reef with a smooth sea on the port side."

Even then he hesitated; so I ordered him to start, then caught him by the shoulders and propelled him aft. Lying broadside to the reef, the ship did offer an excellent lee and gave us the best possible shelter for launching the boats. "Pack only useful articles," I called after Walker's retreating form. "We can't overload the boat." At the same time I instructed Jorgesen to place a bag of biscuit in the craft. This he did;--and the imbecile of a captain threw it out to make room for something of far less value.

When the boat was ready I ran to the cabin to prod the Walkers. Delay was becoming dangerous, what with seas sweeping the weather bulwarks and the wind casting spray above the top mastheads. On the steps to the cabin I met the skipper. "My wife insists that I accompany her and the children," he informed me. "You can go to hell for all I care," said I; "my cone concern is for your family." I succeeded in getting them into the boat, and Walker followed; the men, however, refused to start without me. I agreed to go; but leapt back to the MINSTREL as the lines were cast off; and once under way the boat could not return. Even as it left the ship's side Walker gave me some final instructions, senseless like the rest. In a few seconds the craft met the surf and then, thank God, his voice at last was drowned.

Our other boats, which offered the only salvation for those who remained aboard, were on the weather side, exposed to the storm. To get them to the shelter of the lee side was difficult; it entailed the hardest driving of the terrified crew. When the boats had been moved a more trying time began. Scared out of their wits, the men were unable to help themselves, even to carry out my orders except under threats, some of which had to put into execution. That I also was frightened I confess now, but I was too proud to let any one suspect the truth then.

As we were about to leave the ship it occurred to me that tobacco would be relished on shore, and ordered a Chinese boy, who I had christened Moses, to fetch a box from the storeroom. He returned without any: the storeroom, said he, was flooded. "Come, come, Moses," I chided him; "make look-see." Sure enough, the room was full of water, while boxes were washing about as the vessel reeled. Hazardous indeed it was to secure anything except tobacco, but I was determined to have. "Go ahead, Moses," I encouraged him; "can do. I look out for you." "No can," he wailed in mortal terror; no go," I retorted grimly. Then I threw him into the maelstrom. He emerged with a box of tobacco, on which, I suppose, he had happened to fix a grip of death. Fortunately he was not injured. I relieved him of the precious package; nor did I fail to praise for his involuntary courage. "You velly smart fellow, Moses." That tobacco was all I myself took from the wreck, except for the clothing I wore, and it was in ribbons when I landed; but Jorgensen,, foreseeing that I would be occupied with the crew, packed with his own effects some of mine, including my sextant. Within a few months it was to be useful enough.

By this time the storm was howling fiercer; the seas were rolling on board in greater volume; the surf arose higher and blew, before harder blasts of wind, in a solid smother of foam between us and the beach. No man could have said where air left off and water began. At any moment it seemed that the masts must go, while the aged vessel's hull groaned in torment even above the tempest. Hurry was the order of the day, but difficult to carry out, for the crew, seized with blue funk, sat on their boxes like so many sick monkeys.

Although he was not fully recovered, Hanker assisted in getting the boats alongside without one being smashed--a difficult proceeding; and he also volunteered to handle one of the craft. Off we started, my boat in the lead. My men were too frightened to use their oars, which I therefore ordered held aloft, since the boat could easily slew broadside and capsize if a single blade should strike. Hanker's men followed our example. Driving before wind and sea, the two boats flew through the white smother at terrific speed. How high was the storm may be gathered from the fact that Walker's craft, which had been drawn up on the sand, was bowled over, end for end, as we neared the beach. My men landed without mishap, thanks to my instructions that they should leap out lively and grab the boat when it met the sand,--this to prevent the undertow carrying it back. But the second boat was caught, and Frank Lord, the cook, was washed underneath it. He was extricated uninjured, although to free him required the efforts of all. Then we hauled both boats well up on the beach, beyond the reach of the sea; we carried back Walker's craft, which had been blown about fifty yards; and lashed the three of them together for greater security. At last I could breathe freely. I shuddered as I gazed over the smoking sea through which we had passed; I thanked my stars that I had experience with surfing in Hawaii.

We had escaped, but with little besides our lives. There we were on a desert island, without provisions, aside from some ham and bacon. Shelter was available, however, as Jorgensen vacated his cottage for the Walkers, while he and I took up our quarters on one side of the veranda. The men built themselves shanties from the boards that had been landed for the construction of sheds, and heaped sand about the shacks to buttress them and keep out the cold. With fires burning, the huts were quite warm and cozy. Hanker, who continued to brood over his humiliation, who indeed seemed mildly insane, occupied a hogshead at some distance from the others. Though it resisted rain and wind, his barrel was more than cramped. From us all he remained aloof, venturing out only in the gloaming to capture some of the myriads of small crabs that infested the beach and then, like one of the animals, scuttling back to his queer house, there to make soup of his quarry. After the first two days, when a commissary had been organized, there was no need for him to forage: I saw to it that he received a portion of what was brought in. This was principally eggs and fish, and was about all we could expect from the island. How well the supply would last in view of our number, and whether we would thrive on such a diet, gave me great concern. Fortunate it was that Jorgensen had collected such a large number of gony eggs, about ten thousand, as I have said, and that more eggs, ranging in size from a lark's to a goose's or turkey's, were obtainable from the nests of numerous species on Eastern Island.

 


Before nightfall on the day of the wreck I tramped along the beach to have a last look at the WANDERING MINSTREL and to ascertain whether the surf was subsiding. At the least indication of moderating weather I entended to muster a volunteer crew, board the wreck, and load a boat with provisions. The storm was still raging, however, while it was obvious that the bark would soon break assunder under hard hammering. How long would she hold out? As though in answer to my speculation the foremast and mainmast crashed over the side, dragging with them the mizzen topmast. Only the mizzenmast remained standing, a solitary sentinel, or rather a monument to a vessel dispatched to her doom.

Day was settling into night when I bade the old MINSTREL farewell. Many sailors look on their ships as almost human and regard a wreck with some such sadness as they would feel in gazing on the corpse of a dear friend. Why not? Does not a ship have her moods, her whims, her vagaries? Is she not vibrant with life, as if pulses ran through her frame? Must she not be watched with unremitting vigilance, like a beautiful and beloved but capricious woman? Does she not bear the hopes and fears of men from port to port, even as our lives center about women from the cradle to the grave?

Cold and hungry when I reached the cottage, I gladly sat down to a meal with Jorgensen. One could have a worse dinner than what he served: egg pancakes with tea of beaten eggs and hot water. To say that I slept that night would be hardly accurate; I suffered a temporary death, so fagged was I by the eventful day and the sleepless night preceding. I was resurrected when Jorgensen called me to breakfast. And such a meal: boiled eggs, each weighing nearly a pound; an omlet, egg bread, or pancake; again washed down with egg tea.

"How old is the ship, Jorgensen?" I inquired. "She has disappeared," he reported; "not a trace left. Everything, so far as I can make out, has gone, likely enough swept to sea. No sign of the launch, either, though it would probably be pushed before the wreckage as it drove over the reef." After breakfast I tramped about the island in search of something from the MINSTREL, and was rewarded by finding part of the stern washed inshore. On wading out to it I was delighted to discover nearly all the awnings and a few sails. Jammed with the canvas were the fragments of Walkers piano. Much to my surprise there was something else: a rule that in some inexplicable manner had got there from my cabin to the main deck. It was on of the few things I saved after twenty-one years at sea.

The canvas, I immediately saw, would be of immeasurable utility: we could unravel, knot, and spin it into twine for fishing nets; the wires of the piano might be used for making hooks. Indeed a piano did have some value. We salved the sails and awnings and drenched them with fresh water; otherwise the canvas, being saturated with salt, always would have become damp in wet weather. The steel piano wires we rubbed with oil to prevent rust. With hooks made of them we caught many fish, a variety of albacore, so large and strong that I have seen two men dragged by one from the beach into the sea, fighting hard and hanging on until the fish drowned and was hauled ashore after a struggle of a half our. How much the fellows weighed I had no means of determining, but I thought, since one of them, slung on a pole, made a load for two men, that they would average about a hundred pounds. They were excellent eating and meaty as well, the head along being sufficient for ten persons.

While I was playing the wrecker, Captain Walker met me with the tidings that the crew refused to obey his orders--"You saved some firearms." "Would you shoot one of the men?" he demanded. "I shall muster the men in line," said I; "the first who refuses to obey you will be shot." "Good God!" he exclaimed. That would be murder." "Not at all, Captain," I assured him." I'll not shoot to kill' merely to wing----" "I'll never consent," he interposed. "Perhaps I can persuade them by gentler means." "Do not delude yourself, sir," I urged. "I know these cattle better than you do. "They must be kept in hand;" dealt with firmly, taught, especially now, too look up to us as their superiors and masters. What is it to be? Do you consent to my proposal?" "Mr. Cameron, I do not; that is final." "Very well, Captain Walker, you must paddle your own canoe. Nothing remains to be said except that we are all equals now and that each is a law to himself. I shall, of course, protect your wife and children." Eventually Walker was to realize his folly, as I shall explain in due course.

In thus declaring my belief that respect for authority, the foundation of our little society, had disintegrated, I was sincere: I fully expected the men to disobey me when I ordered them to work; but one and all eagerly carried out my instructions. Some of them I sent to salve the awnings and remaining sails and the piano, as well as to secure what was left of the wreck from drifting away; the others I took with me to Eastern Island, where I hoped to find part of the ship on the beach, for I reasoned that the wind should have driven some floating fragments thither. Search the island as we would, however, no wreckage did we find, except an iron kettle, the lid of which was missing, and a silver-plated fork, both well above high-water mark. Neither had come from the WANDERING MINSTREL: Jorgensen recognized them as from the GENERAL SEIGEL. The kettle was put into service to boil eggs for the cabin passengers; the men perforce continued to roast theirs.

Eggs! They were brought in by the hundreds, of different kinds and sizes. Rapidly did they melt away, so hungry were our men. Such myriads did we eat that I do not understand how I can stomach an egg to-day. Obviously the first and second officers could not lag behind the forecastle; Caucasian prestige had to be upheld; in one sitting Jorgensen and I disposed of thirty nine, hen's size. Unhappily that is an uneven, an odd, number; hence it became a topic of hot debate whether he or I had devoured the last one and so earned the egg-eating championship of the Northwestern Pacific.

Notwithstanding their weight, relative and absolute, in our diet, eggs did not constitute our sole food. Here I may give one day's menu: Breakfast--fish boiled or fried, egg pancake, egg tea. Dinner--beach la mar soup, minced flesh of sea fowl, fried fish, egg pancake. Supper--egg tea, cutlets of sea birds, egg pancake. And now that I have mentioned beach la mar soup, I am impelled--compelled--to give my own recipe for this delicious dish. What I have to say should interest the epicures of London, Paris, and New York, in whose restaurants it is seldom found. First, then, get your beach la mar. Where? There is a little at Midway. Parboil it; cut it open; smoke and dry; slice it into inch cubes. Boil a number of these pieces for three or four hours; add small sea birds, well cleaned,--they can be got at many a desolate oceanic rock; put in grated wild radish. Must I say where that also is to be had? When the whole has been well cooked, remove it from the fire and let it cool a little. Then beat thoroughly a few eggs of sea birds--tut! tut! here I am prescribing other unobtainable ingredients; pour this froth into the soup, replace the pot on the fire, which is best made with coal left by the Pacific Mail on Midway Island; barely let the mixture come to a boil. Finally, and this is most important, season with nothing less than the appetite I had on Midway. Easily done? Doubtless.

From danger of starvation, then, we were freed by eggs, sea fowl, and fish. We caught many of the last two nets which we made of the threads of unravelled awnings spun into twine with improvised hand jennies of bamboo; the first net, sixty feet long and four wide, having a mesh of two and one-half inches, kept us well suppled with fish, but it was neither long enough not deep enough to encircle a school of mullet; and we therefore made another seine one hundred and twenty feet long and six deep with a two-inch mesh. It enabled us to catch many mullet, frequently more than we could land, some of them twelve pounds in weight, digestible and delicious whether boiled or fried. Unlike most of the dry fish of warm seas, they had thick layers of fat on their bellies. Hordes of sharks, by chasing the mullet into shoal water, unwittingly assisted us; but those same devils gave us little opportunity to feast on turtle, for they devoured the young reptiles. Moreover, we snared curlew with twine and kept them in pens handy for the table.

Day after day we fanned the hope that a passing vessel would rescue us; days became weeks, and weeks months, and hope burned low. Why despair? We made the best of things. For me the crew worked willingly, though they would not move a hand for Walker. "Why?" I asked a boatswain. He replied that the men realized that the wrecking of the MINSTREL was the captain's fault; he was to blame for their being cast away, for the loss of their effects and probably their wages as well. That they dwelt so insistently on their few belongings and scanty pay when all of us were dodging death may surprise some, but not those who know the peoples of the Orient and how little constitutes wealth for them,--those swarming millions who are born in poverty, live in hunger, and die in want. Since they would not obey Walker the men turned naturally to me for leadership, and they fell to work all the more gladly when I explained to them that idleness would affect their health and make them more subject to scurvy. Directing them kept me busy enough, but I did miss books. The only one on the island was "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and that I must have perused once a week.

In this new atmosphere of cheerfulness Hanker along remained morose, still lived as a recluse in his hogshead. Try as I would to cheer him, I signally failed, because, I firmly believed, his mind was deranged. His bodily health, however, was restored, a fact that did not pass unnoticed by thee men, and they were most unwilling to share their food with him,--right enough, too, from their standpoint, since he was capable of foraging for himself.

Milder weather increased our good spirits. Men as scantily clad as we were welcome the northward swing of the sun; but soon we had to rig an awning to shelter us from its rays while we worked. Oncoming spring and summer did, however, help us to solve the serious problem of clothing. Now we could spare our few garments by going clad in loin cloths. What of yet another winter? Well, that bridge was still distant; if we had to cross it we might manufacture canvas uniforms. Making shoes was out of the question; our bare feet would wear much longer than leather, so unshod we went, though we suffered severely until the soles hardened and we could run over sharp coral without hurt.

For three months every one remained in the best of health. Then some of the men fell ill of a malady none could recognize. We had no medicine to help them; probably nothing would have availed. Their sickness was of the mind or soul; they lay inert and drowsy, and we whites could not rouse them; day by day they became weaker, though suffering no pain, and died so peacefully that their passing scarcely seemed death to one who had witnessed the violent struggles of white men against extinction.

In truth our monotonous diet of fish, flesh, and eggs was threatening to endanger the health of all. Then the fortunate discovery of a tierce of rice from the WANDERING MINSTREL cheered our hearts and stomachs. The cask probably had been submerged since the wreck and not had risen to the surface, I conjectured, because water had penetrated to the grain and created gas by fermentation. Impregnated with salt though it was, the rice came quite palatable after being soaked in fresh water. In its division we all shared alike, notwithstanding the skipper's claim of double portions for their wife and sons, whom he described as passengers and so entitled to more. To this demand I replied that distinctions were erased when the vessel was lost. How quickly the others ate their small shares I do not know: Jorgensen and I husbanded ours and actually debated whether we should count the grains to be allotted to each meal. Never before, I think, had I grasped the value of food. We did not, indeed, waste the fresh water in which we had soaked the rice. Happening to notice that the liquor was fermenting, I boiled it down and obtained a good substitute for sowens, a Scotch dish made from the farina which remains in th husks of oats.

By exercising such care, always with something to occupy myself, I remained in the best of trim during my eight months on Midway. My sole lllness, of only six hours' duration, was caused by my eating a mutton bird, a mass of fat that tempted me to gluttony. That sickness is not the only indictment I bring against the mutton birds: the first time I heard one crying I received a sharp shock of fright, so mournful, uncanny, unearthly were its wails as it sallied from its underground nest to search for food in the gloaming.

Day pursued day and month followed month in monotonous procession;-and still no rescue That was no reason for despair; but it was cause for us to help ourselves. With this in mind and also to provided work to keep us from moping, I suggested to Jorgensen that we construct a craft of some sort from the lighters upon which he had drawn for the veranda. If we did build a vessel, however, I designed it only for Walker and his family and such members of the crew as wished to accompany him: I had resolved never to sail with him again: I preferred to await the chance of rescue or to risk a voyage in one of the MINSTREL'S boats; and Jorgensen was like-minded.

"I think I can build a boat large enough for everyone," said the carpenter, "if you can get the crew to help." This they gladly agreed to do. I told off the strongest and most intelligent to assist Jorgensen; the others I detailed to gather and prepare food. Without loss of time work began. Merely making a start cheered the men remarkably; they were completely changed, so delighted were they at even a prospect of escaping from their island prison.

For the keel we used logs that had drifted ashore. Some of them, of Douglas fir, were undamaged and free from teredo borings, which indicated that they had not been long in the water. Dismantling the lighters and carrying the planks three-fourths of a mile through yielding sand was heavy work, as Jorgensen had discovered; but the crew, though relatively weak, pygmies alongside the brawny Dane, made light of it, required no driving; Jorgensen was an indefatigable worker, a competent and skillful carpenter, and no mean blacksmith. To me fell the sail-making, rigging, dismantling of lighters, general duty was not onerous, for the men were obedient and eager and often anticipated what I desired. Of greatest moment, there was no further illness: work was best, the only remedy for the ills of our brown crew. They toiled even harder when we began to fasten the planking in place and craft loomed in size.

In a few words I have narrated the progress of work, slow but satisfying; yet I do not wish to leave an impression that everything was easy. Lacking tools, for example, we had to manufacture them from shark hooks, which fortunately were of malleable steel. In this a portable forge and grindstone, which had been landed from the WANDERING MINSTREL before the wreck, were indispensable. Our try-pots, too, served as boilers for a stream box, in which we softened and made pliable the planks that went to to the bends of the boat; otherwise we should have had great difficulty. Spikes for our craft had to come from the lighters, and sails from the awnings I found in the MINSTREL'S wreck, while old hemp rope furnished oakum for the seams. More than once we proved that man can accomplish much--when he must. Even Hanker became interested, and I set him to picking oakum; but for some reason that I never could fathom, he and four men quit after ten days. Then I gave Hanker up as a bad job.

While the rest of us were building the schooner or were working at other appointed tasks, Walker was at his usual scheming, was spinning plans of where he would go and what he would do once he had arrived at some destination in the craft we were constructing. His life on Midway, however, was not always a sweet dream. One day Henry Walker, one of the captain's sons, met me with word that his father wished to see me at once. "What is wrong?: I asked in alarm at the boy's great agitation. "Is your father ill?" "No, Mr. Cameron," the lad explained; "one of the Filipino boatswains stuck a spear into his cheek." "I am sorry, Henry," I said as gently as possible; "but you must tell your father that it is too late to do anything with the men. He should have let me shoot one of them the morning after the wreck. Why didn't he himself shoot the man? Your father made his own bed, Henry, and there he must lie." The wound was not serious, especially as it was a clean cut and soon would heal. I did not take the trouble to ascertain the cause of the quarrel.

We completed and launched the schooner, a strongly built vessel with good lines, of about fourteen tons. Moving her to the water from our building stocks, which were seventy yards from the beach, required four days, the use of rollers, much man power, and more sulphurous language. She was not christened with a bottle of champagne. A bottle had been at hand; now I regretted I had not saved it:--not a bottle of effervescent wine but one containing a few drops of whisky. I had picked it up on the beach and had dedicated it to other ends. After carefully moistening my lips with a little of the liquor, I had gone to the cottage and approached the skipper from the windward side. "Whisky, Mr. Cameron!" he exclaimed, all alert. "I didn't know you had any!" "There's precious little, Captain," said I mournfully. "Not enough to share, much as I'd like to. I use it as medicine." Time after time I repeated the farce until the bottle was bone-dry. But I had subjected the skipper to torment while the liquor lasted.

 

Now that the schooner was ready for use, Jorgensen and I announced our intention not to sail in her. Confounded by our decision, Walker tried to persuade us to go; he made lavish promises; even offered us part of the proceeds when the vessel was sold. Yet, I knew, if he did not, that whatever we received for her must go to our support, until we could shift for ourselves; no British or American officials in whatever country we reached would help us so long as we had the schooner or money realized by her sale. We maliciously made a counter proposal, that he give us the vessel on arrival; we were, however, not disappointed by his refusal. "The underwriters who insured the MINSTREL would not permit that," he protested. "What rot!" said I. "Only the sails and rigging came from the MINSTREL'S salvage. But is it not strange, Captain, that the underwriters would permit you to sell the schooner and share the proceeds with us?" Day after day he tried in vain to move Jorgensen and me.

During this time the Dane and I did not neglect our duty; we put many barrels of fresh water aboard to serve as ballast and laid in provisions of eggs, smoked sea birds, fish salted and smoked, live turtles,--the whole stock sufficient for six weeks, during which the schooner should be able to reach the Marshall Islands. Now no excuse for remaining on Midway occurred to Walker; now he asked me the direct question: "Mr. Cameron, why won't you sail with me?" "I decline to reply," said I; "and you would be wise never to ask me again. Take Hander with you." "Never!" he answered; "my life would not be safe with him and such scoundrelly men." "You, Captain," I reminded him, "are alone to blame. All our troubles are your fault. Then sail without a crew. You and your sons could handle the vessel; she is stanch; you would have good weather, now that it is summer; and the northeast trades would carry you the whole way to the Marshalls." But Walker would not move without Messrs. Jorgensen and Cameron. Our labor had been wasted; there was no one to navigate the schooner. This turn reacted severely on the men: a Filipino boatswain and two of his countrymen died of scurvy--Those who kept their bodies clean, however, and followed my advice about exercise, were not affected.--All hands soon became greatly depressed.

At this juncture a storm cast the schooner upon the lagoon beach, but the only damage was the loss of some oakum from the seams, and she was refloated and anchored with what ground tackle we had. She was, however, ill-starred. Within a month or so one of the worst storms I ever saw, whether on sea or land, made an end of her.

Fascinated by a threatening aspect of the weather one evening in August, I scanned the sky. Its colors resembled those associated with typhoons: overhead, a dull and heavy gray; below and extending almost to the horizon from east through north to west, a sickly violet; beneath that lay copper to the dim line where sky and sea met. Little wind was blowing. When would the blast come? After waiting an hour I abandoned my watch and went to Redwood Cottage. "Have you," I asked Jorgensen, "experienced any typhoons here?" He said he had not. "Unless I'm badly mistaken," I continued, "we're in for one. I hope this shanty will stand the gaff. Your work on it may be its salvation."

At eleven o'clock that night the blow struck us. The building, it seemed, must go. The storm raised a terrific noise. Not a soul could sleep; every one was on edge to feel the house demolished at any moment. In their flimsy quarters the crew thought that the end of everything had come, and abandoning their huts, they huddled under the lee of our veranda. In their shacks they had been panic-stricken; now crowded together, close to omnipotent white men, lords of tempest, they were far braver. At daybreak the wind still blew fiercely, driving before it a hell of sand that penetrated into all parts of the house; sand in our hair, ears, eyes, nostrils; sand everywhere; we breathed it, swallowed it, gritted between our teeth.

Anxiety for the boat which Jorgensen and I generally used led me to suggest that we venture into the storm and ascertain whether it was all right. Out we sallied on the lee side of the house; as we rounded the corner the wind flung us back. To see was impossible; though the time was forenoon, a dun night enveloped the world, while rain and furious sand stung our faces like needles. We lashed on our clothing to prevent it being literally blown from our bodies; then we made another essay; yet still we could not stand against the storm, even by crouching almost to the ground, and at length we crawled. Finally we attained the place where we had left the boat. It had vanished. What now? Sitting with our backs to the gale, shouting mouth to ear in order to make ourselves heard above the awful elemental roar, we discussed our course. We decided to search for the boat to leeward, but not to venture too far, lest we lose all sense of directions and so fail to regain the house. Within fifty yards we stumbled upon the craft, half buried in sand, with some of the planking broken; whether it had been damaged otherwise we could not ascertain.

Then we retraced our steps;--we crawled, rather, on the flats of our bellies, guessing our way; moving at the pace of a snail; holding our eyes shut fast against the flying sand. Our progress was small, and even that little might be in a wrong direction. Never have I had another such experience. We clutched each other's hands, I slightly in the lead to shield Jorgensen, who was beginning to despair. "I can go no farther, Cameron," he moaned. "You damned fool!" roared I,--"Roared," did I say?" I must have squeaked like a bat in that hell,--"You damned fool! What! Give up and die? Sand will bury you. We're near the house. Spurt, and we'll make it!" "I'm done for, Cameron," he gasped. "Leave me here. You go on." See you damned first," said I;--and without me damned he would have been. Then I clouted him hard in the face. A stiff blow to the jaw is an excellent spur, believe me. "Now will you try?" I demanded. He made an effort'--funked; rallied and again failed; but with striking and cursing him and resting frequently, I got him to the hut. Each of us was soaking wet, grievously hungry; our faces were bloody from the scouring of the sand.

Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, when it had blown for sixteen hours, the storm suddenly died. What a sight we saw! Changed, remolded, was the whole island; the brush, scanty at best, was stripped of leaves and seemed scorched as by fire; all the grass was withered; here was a new mound, there an unexpected pit. Fortunately for us the birds had not been blown away, though I cannot understand why they were not. The boats, shanties and house all had been damaged to such an extent that repairs required a week. Far worse was the fate of the schooner: again she had been cast high upon the sand and was now beyond restoration; masts and rudder were gone and the port side was smashed. The typhoon had made sure that neither Walker nor Cameron would ever navigate that craft.



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