National Geographic : 1921 Jan
'I'I1E DREAM SHIP strong terms. We were still saying some thing of the sort when a small, high pitched voice came from aloft: "Land O!" Peter, in striped white and green pajamas, was astride the jaws of the gaff. Steve and I exchanged relieved glances and, with a lashed tiller, we all went below for a rum swizzle, the in evitable accompaniment to a landfall. We had reached the Galapagos Islands. The southeast "trade" was blowing as steadily as a "trade" knows how, and there was nothing between us and San Cristobal (Chatham) Island, the most populous of the group; consequently I slept the sleep of a mind at peace until awakened by a well-known pressure on the arm. FACING AN UNKNOWN DANGER "Come and take a look at this," whis pered Steve, so as not to wake Peter in the opposite bunk. "This" proved to be a solid wall of mist, towering over the ship like a precipice. The trade wind had fallen to a stark calm, and the Dream Ship lay wallowing on an oily swell. A young moon rode clear overhead, and myriads of stars glared down at us; yet still this ominous gray wall lay fair in our path. "It ought not to be land," said Steve, "but I don't like the look of it." Neither did I. We stood side by side, straining our eyes into the murk. A soft barking, for all the world like that of a very old dog. sounded somewhere to port. Splashes, as of giant bodies striking the water, ac companied by flashes of phosphorescent light, came at intervals from all sides and presently the faint lap of water reached our ears. "Mother of Mike!" breathed Steve, "we're alongside something." At that moment, and as though im pelled by some silent mechanism, the pall of mist lifted, revealing an inky black wall of rock not fifty yards distant! My frenzied efforts at the flywheel of the motor auxiliary were as futile as I had more than half expected. Who has ever heard of these atrocities answering in an emergency? We had no sweeps. To anchor was a physical impossibility. The lead-line vanished as probably twenty other lead-lines would have vanished after it, in those fathomless waters. So we stood, watching the Dream Ship drift to her doom. "CLAWING OUR WAY ALONG A ROCKY WALL" What happened during the next hour is as hard to describe as I have no doubt it will be to believe. The Galapagos Islands are threaded with uncertain cur rents, and one was setting us now onto the rocky face of an islet cut as clean and sheer to the sea as a slice of cheese. We should have touched but for our fending off. There is no other w'y of describing our antics than to say that we clawed our way along that rocky wall until, at the end of it, a faint air caught the jib, the foresail, the mainsail, and we stood away without so much as a scratch. Sunrise that morning was the weirdest I have ever seen. There are over two thousand volcano cones in the Galapagos Islands, and apparently we were in the midst of them. On all hands and at all distances were rugged peaks one hun dred to two thousand feet high, rising sheer from a rose-pink sea into a crimson sky. Sleek-headed seals broke water along side, peered at us for a space with their fawn-like eyes, barked softly, and were gone. Pelicans soared above our truck and fell like a stone on their prey. Tiny birds, yellow and red, flitted about the deck or flew through the skylights and settled on the cabin fittings with the ut most unconcern. Down in the crystal-clear depths vague shapes hovered constantly-sharks, dol phin, turtle, and ghastly devil-fish. All life seemed confined to water and air; never was dry land so desolate and sinister as those myriads of volcanic cones. Yet one of them was peopled with human beings. Which? We were lost, if ever a ship was lost, in the laby rinths of an ash-heap. BECALMED IN TIHE WATERS OF THE ASII-ITEAP All we knew was that Cristobal was the easternmost of the group. We sailed east, only to be becalmed inside of an hour and to lose by current what we had gained by wind.