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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ocean’s Gift by Demelza Carlton @DemelzaCarlton

12:00 PM Posted by James Noel No comments

“The Abrolhos is cursed, with murder, mutiny and lust,” the pilot said suddenly, as the mist on the water resolved into some very flat islands. The tourists were glued to their windows, craning for a look. “On a stormy night almost 400 years ago, the Dutch ship Batavia was sailing from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia in Indonesia. The lookout saw what he thought was moonlight on the water, but it was foam of the breakers on Morning Reef. The ship struck the reef just there…” The pilot banked the plane as we passed the reef, so he could pass over it again for the tourists on the other side of the plane. “You can just see where the ship sank. The waves kept pushing that ship until it carved a hole in the reef, where divers found it around 50 years ago…they brought the ship up and put it in the Museum in Fremantle, leaving that blue boat-shaped hole in the reef…”

The Abrolhos Air Charter pilot continued, giving details about murders, mutiny, executions, and some hero called Wiebbe Hayes, whose heroism seemed dependent on a lot of luck. I wasn’t clear on where mutiny came in, but the lust involved either some women or the treasure that had been on the ship. Maybe both.

I looked at the little wave-shaped island where all the horrors had happened, with a few buildings huddled together on it. A few weeks marooned on that sandbar and I’d go mad, too. I hope Dean hasn’t sent me to an even smaller pile of sand surrounded by ocean. If he has, I’ll report him for the Playboy centrefolds he sticks on the ceiling of the ute, every time we leave civilisation.

The plane flew over a much larger island, with an orange gravel airstrip that stood out against the white limestone and grey-green shrubs. There were even fewer buildings on this island than tiny, wave-shaped Beacon Island. At the northern end, a beautiful white beach stretched its arms around blue-green water. A couple of yachts were moored in the bay. Wow, what I’d give to be able to afford to do that. I wonder if my island has a beach that good? I’ll buy Dean a beer if it does.

The plane veered north now, across multicoloured waters in blue and green between the brown reefs, toward the island at the northern end of the Abrolhos. “North Island approach…” the pilot intoned, turning sharply to point the plane south.

North Island was a big sand island, with a lake at the north.  Houses were clustered in the south east corner of the island. Coming in to land, I realised the gravel airstrip looked really close and really, really short.

I didn’t have time to panic before the wheels touched the gravel, more gently than any jet landing at an airport. The plane taxied up next to a rusted shed. A plank was hanging on the front of it, which some comedian had painted with the words, “North Island International Airport.” A man was standing beside the shed, next to a quad bike with a shiny aluminium trailer. It had to be aluminium. Anything else would rust in the salt.

One man unbuckled his seatbelt and climbed out of the plane. The pilot helped the guy unload his gear onto the gravel, before he got back in the plane and prepared to take off again.

We took off south over the buildings. I saw the two men load their gear into the quad bike trailer before they headed through the dunes to the settlement. The pilot started telling the tourists about the fishing industry, as we left North Island and flew toward West Wallabi.

He flew low over West Wallabi, telling us about how Weibbe Hayes had fought off the mutineers from a building that you could still see on the ground. I saw the outline of some square limestone walls as we flew over. I shrugged. Old shipwrecks had little appeal to me.  They’re all long dead now, whoever they were and whatever they did.

The island gave way to ocean again and I could see more inhabited islands, like squashed sea urchins or some kind of exotic bacteria, with jetties sticking out at all angles from the two islands. The pilot mentioned something about pigeons and lobsters and I tuned out again.

I looked down at the islands. These were covered in houses, almost as dense as suburbs in the mainland. Would my island home be like that – with neighbours that would complain every time I flushed the toilet or played music? I bet I’m next door to the oldest, grumpiest fisherman. A bloke who hates the slightest noise, but has his radio and TV on so loud I can hear the actors breathing from next door. And his toilet will be closest to my place, so I hear his every fart.

The islands were gone and we were flying over ocean again, headed toward the next group of islands. I had a map, but I couldn’t remember the name of the island I was landing on, or even the group. Maybe it will come as a nice surprise. Maybe there will be palm trees. I crossed my fingers for a nice white beach.

“Why is it called the Easter Group?” one of the tourists asked into his headset.

“I dunno,” the pilot said.

Probably the explorers who named it had run out of names and they were here at Easter, so they figured that would do. I looked out the window, to see if any of the islands were shaped like sheep, rabbits or Easter eggs. Nope.

“That one is Rat Island and I know why it’s called that. Apparently it was infested with them.” The pilot sounded really pleased at this. “We’ll be landing briefly there to drop off one of the rock lobster fishers and then we’ll head out over the Pelsaert Group.”

I looked around and realised the fisher he was talking about was me. Rat Island? Dean, you bastard, you’ve sent me to an island infested with rats? I’m going to catch some and add those to your swag on the first night…

“I’ll show you where the Zeewijk was wrecked in 1727. They built themselves a new boat out of the wreckage and sailed it to Indonesia…” the pilot continued, oblivious to my seething.

Hell, if I was wrecked on one of these islands, I’d take up carpentry real fast, too.

One island was approaching really fast and really low. The gravel of another airstrip was dead ahead and it seemed to end in the water. The water looked real close…OH SHIT. We’re going to go off the end of the runway and into the water!

OceansGift

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Genre - Australian sea adventure,contemporary urban fantasy,paranormal romance

Rating – PG 13

More details about  the author and the book

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Blog http://www.demelzacarlton.com/

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