Sunday, August 24, 2008
Spike Buck in the Meadow
I have spent the last two days reading about ship disasters. It really does make this open woodsy spot seem quite safe, not for deer, but for me and my kind, the reading kind . . .
Librarything has been getting multiple review copies from publishers--readers apply for the ones we want and LT applies an "algorithm" to see who gets a free copy. It is hoped that we will write a review. Magically, the algorithm selected for me the book I wanted most, (because I have always loved A High Wind in Jamaica) a republication of In Hazard by Richard Hughes, which came out originally in 1938 (check date.) I am working on the review now; it's a very unusual book. Hughes has combined the incredible factual details (from the case of a ship that was trashed when dragged many miles by hurricanes out of season) with people created out of whole cloth. I think he wanted to imagine the operation of extreme conditions and of fear on different sorts of people, older and younger, British seamen and Chinese stokers. Hughes visited this ship and travelled on a similar one with the captain. He worked for four years on this short book, which is really no longer than many novellas. And, in an afterward, he has some very interesting things to say about how the spirit of the times and other deeply unknown motives can work upon a writer, so that he expresses what he may not clearly understand at the time of the writing. I'll try to post the review when it is finished. So today, instead of finishing the review, I read anothe book: In Harm's Way, the story of the sinking of the cruiser Indianapolis in the Pacific. It was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine late in the war, and through a series of snafus the men had to float for days, mostly without rafts, using only life-preservers which became waterlogged and useless. Many died from injuries, or were attacked by sharks or went mad from hypothermia and/or drinking salt water.
Reading these books together made me think again about how pitiful man is on the open sea without supplies, and most especially without water. Most of the attempted provisioning systems didn't work, (water containers in the lifejackets imploded on impact with the water) and since the Indy was rushed to sea to carry west the secret bomb that fell on Hiroshima, and the Navy felt that the seas where it went after Little Boy was delivered were safe, even the lifeboats were not properly stocked. Most of them were lost anyway. I hope planners have figured out better systems and equipment now. A great deal can have been learned by studying this disaster.
On this cheerful note I say good night 'til it be morrow.