Survivor: South Pacific

Saltwater gushed from Meade’s lungs in painful, retching spasms. Searing sunlight once again burned his face. The Pacific had reassumed her peaceful facade. Alive? The very thought was inconceivable. Meade found just enough energy to tread water, though he wondered why he was even bothering. All that remained of the Annabelle Starbuck, whaler of New Bedford, was a scattering of flotsam and a few corpses bobbing on the placid surface of the ocean.

A beefy hand grabbed his shoulder, spun him around. “Mr. Meade!” someone said. “He lives!”

Meade was too weak to look up at his savior. He saw only a stone spear point hanging from an intricately braided leather cord, the ancient missile oscillating before his face like a hypnotist’s watch. Ogle, Meade thought, as strong arms lifted him from the sea and dragged him aboard a whaleboat that was nearly swamped with water. Two other survivors were attempting to bail out the boat with sodden hats.

#

All this had occurred a month before. Now Jonathan Meade, former Second Mate of the Annabelle Starbuck, wondered if he and the others had survived or gone to hell as he watched Malachi Ogle attempt to feed the entrails of a tiny fish to a foremast hand named Stallings.

The four men had suffered from starvation and exposure for two weeks on the open sea, and the island they landed upon provided only scant food and comfort. It was a miserable place, a desolate, scrub-covered rock in the middle of the Pacific, home to a few elusive birds and some stunted sea life in its rocky shallows, animals that were difficult to catch and scarcer by the day. Ogle, the strongest of the men, had explored all of the small island and proclaimed it uninhabited; no wonder, considering it lacked a source of fresh water. If not for the wooden tub salvaged from the flotsam of the Annabelle Starbuck—and God’s grace in filling it during a storm the previous week—the four men would likely have died of thirst.

Stallings slurped at the fish entrails, sucking them down. He then regurgitated them in a spasm of coughing.

“Blast you, boy,” Ogle said, “not so fast.”





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