"Peril at Pitcairn Island"*
*"Peril at Pitcairn Island" is the first chapter in Stories from Pitcairn Island, located in the Library. I suggest you read that chapter before you read this one.
MONDAY, May 16, 1983―Stormy and windy.
The sea was even worse this morning than it had been last night. The three longboats were still in the western harbor, anchored and staffed with their crews, their cargo still aboard. Both No. 3 and No. 4 were taking water at an alarming rate because of leaks in their hulls, as the water in that part was quite still.
The entire day was spent getting as much cargo off the boats as possible. Most everyone, though bone-weary from the horror of last night, came down Tedside to help, even the older children. The inflatable skiff of the yacht Northern Light, ferried the cargo a few boxes and bags at a time over to the area of Water Valley―a fairly large area of flat rock about two feet above the level of the sea. It has a shelf behind it that is about 4 feet higher than that, and the parcels were temporarily stowed there.
The people―women and children included―took this cargo on their backs and in their arms, walked―or should I say stumbled, skipped―over the rocks, big and small, for about 3/8s to half a mile to the nearest point where the tractor could be driven. There they deposited their loads into the tractor basket―and then returned for another load. The total time it took, even for the hearty, was about 15-20 minutes for one round trip, and the older folks and little children took much longer than that. Altogether about 100-150 parcels were transported within about 4 hours in this way. (I did not count them.)
The blue tractor was loaded with parcels for us, so I rode up with it and helped unload it at home. We opened them and found only one carton missing, which later was produced by Carol. Everything was in perfect condition, in spite of the harrowing experience of last night. Thank God for keeping us safe, and presenting us with undamaged cargo.
I was very tired. I had not slept more than 4 hours Saturday night and then last night I only got 4 hours―a total of 5 hours in 72! But we decided we'd try to make it until bedtime―about 10:30.
Tuesday, May 17, 1983:
The day was still stormy, with a little rain―but mostly sunny.
We spent the morning unloading some of the lumber out of No. 3 and No. 4. We went out onto the rocks nearest to the road―where the blow-hole is. The boats moved in and anchored together about 50 yards off-shore. The men sent a rope ashore by a swimmer―two ropes tied together. One would be used by the men on land to pull the lumber over, and the other would be used to pull the rope back to the boat.
It was a laborious process. The lumber―first 2 4x4s―were tied to the rope on the boat, then dragged through the water to land, hauled up onto the rocks, untied, and then carried on shoulders of men and women over the incredibly rugged lava surface to the beach. About 2 dozen 4x4s, a dozen 2x4s, about 3 dozen sheets of plywood were handled in this way.
(When the plywood tried to go down instead of ride on the water, Jay decided it needed guiding, so he swam with each sheet, keeping the tail down into the water, so that the front end would plane properly.)
After we had gotten all the wood off, the men decided to try to take one of the boats around the northern part of the island and into the harbor. Most of us rode up the hill on 3-wheelers, but I walked all the way up to the top and part of the way down the other side before getting a ride with Kari. We went right down landing, but as we got to the white rocks we saw that the boat was coming in, and that was where Martha was. So we stopped there. No. 3 came in, almost turned over by a wave, but didn't go onto the rocks. It was unloaded quickly and hauled up into the shed.
Tom said that the waves off Down Isaac's were some of the roughest he had ever experienced, and they didn't know if they would make it. So no more boats would be brought in today.
We canceled prayer meeting tonight, as most of the men had to spend the night in the boats again, and everyone was so tired.
Wednesday May 13, 1983:
The sea was a little calmer today, and the day cloudy, but warm.
In the morning they brought both No. 4 and the new boat over to the harbor. By the time I found out about it and got down landing, the new boat was coming in. It was quickly unloaded of its wood and fuel and hauled into the shed. It was hit by a big wave as it was about half out of the water, sending it sideways. The action tore off the false keel, and nicked the keel as well. It had also been stove in the bow when it hit the end of the jetty next to the ramp.
No. 4 came in with no trouble, and was unloaded quickly as well.
In the afternoon I went down Tedside to help secure the wood that was there. I then drove down landing to help finish hauling up the fuel.
In the evening the boats had to be taken out again, as the Samoan Reefer stopped, dropping off Nola and Reynold along with their things. The two older boats went out, but came back early, as the ship had lost some time in the storm and didn't want to delay too long. The tradesmen had done quite well in the short time, however.
When coming back into the harbor, No. 4 was surfed by a big wave, and went over to the other side of the harbor. It was floating over the rocks, but did not actually hit them. Brian dove into the water with a rope, and swam for the jetty. I ran down onto the ramp to help him out of the water, and we were able to pull the boat over to the jetty―but the bow was facing out to sea. The wave had pushed the rudder off, and it had hit the propeller bending all three blades.
We got the boats up, and then went home. Everyone is so tired, but very happy to have all three boats safely in the shed.