National Geographic : 1982 Jul
(Continuedfrom page 23) knowledge of Sumatra. Sindbad was captured in a forest by a stooped, manlike creature with rough black skin. The creature lived on wild fruit and could not talk. Sindbad's captor was called the Old Man of the Sea; it was proba bly the great ape of Sumatra, the orangutan. The surrounding forest provided Sohar with a fine tall tree that was shaped into a replacement main spar. The harbor turned out to be a bonanza for the marine biologists, who made a rich haul of specimens. In early May we set off down the Strait of Malacca for Singapore. TORD of our voyage had preceded us, and we were met in style by the senior Singapore harbor pilot. In his starched white uniform he came aboard clutching a chart and a walkie-talkie. "I am your pilot," he announced smartly, then spied our enormous ten-foot-long tiller. "But how I am to pilot this vessel I cannot imagine." He had a sudden inspiration. "Perhaps I shall give directions, and you will do the piloting." So with Musalam at the helm, Sohar sailed majestically into Singapore. A dozen oceangoing giants stood aside to let her pass. A crowd welcomed us at dockside with ceremonial Chinese and Malayan dancing and singing, followed by countless invita tions to make ourselves at home in the city. It was an appealing idea, but we couldn't stay long. I had planned Sohar's entire voy age largely around the next and final leg the passage from Singapore through the South China Sea to our destination, the port of Guangzhou, or Canton, on the Chinese mainland. My aim had been to take advan tage of seasonal winds along the way, first the northeast monsoon and then the south west monsoon, so as to be across the South China Sea before typhoon season. Now, with the long delay of the southwest monsoon, we were behind schedule. Al though the typhoon season normally begins in July, severe storms have been known in the South China Sea as early as May, and we were already into the first week of June. So we left Singapore after an all-too-brief visit and set our course across the ancient seas known to Arab sailors as the Sea of Kundrang and the Sea of Cankhay. Among the seven seas on the way to China, it was written, these two were the worst. Here one might meet the great storm wind that my modern Omani sailors called tufan. It was, I suspect, their word for typhoon. The first four days out of Singapore were deceptively mild, and I began to think that our luck might hold all the way to Guang zhou. By early on the fifth day I knew better. Just before dawn we were hit by what I first took to be a squall of moderate pro portions. I was not worried. Sohar had weathered scores of such squalls in the previous months. But this squall turned out differently. Abruptly it worked up into full gale force. Sohar's rigging groaned under NG BY ARTHURSZYK FROM ' THE ARABIANNIGHTSENTERTAINMENTS, COURTESYHERITAGEPRESS, NORWALK,CONNECTICUT "An excess of marvel." So Sindbad (above, hand raised)summed up his voyages to enthralledlisteners at his palacein Baghdad. On Tekong Besar Island near Singapore (facingpage) one of the Omani crew also finds an audience. Seven Omanis got marriedduring the voyage, as did Sindbad.Afterward he "lived in the calmness of supreme joy."