Issue Eight - February 2005

Salvation Rock: A Ship’s Log

By Kaj Benson

Oct.7th, 1892

The Antarctic! This is where I have spent three long weeks at sea. No-one thought I would survive, but I proved them wrong. Bitterly cold winds buffeted the sails of my tiny craft. I am slowly freezing to death. The cold winds penetrate even the tiniest cracks in my clothes and cabin. Like a bird of death, a cold wind blows and whistles through every crack in my cabin. I cannot pilot this boat alone. I am defenseless against the powers of the sea. My food supply is running low, and I have to fight frostbite and pneumonia to live. Unless a rescue boat comes soon, I will have to eat my dog and then eventually die. There is no water, except for the sea water and ice. I am dying.

Oct.17th, 1892

CRONCH! I woke up to a loud crunch around six in the morning. I had survived for ten days, and I was at the end of my strength. This crunch, to me signified the end of my life-I thought it was an iceberg and my luck had finally run out. In fact, my luck was just starting to show. I had only run aground—and on an island! I stumbled out of my cabin and looked around. Somehow, my ship had gone north and there was a pebble beach with seals and even a frozen spring! A new energy coursed through me and I quickly cut a hole in the ice above the spring. Behold! a goodly amount of water ran under the ice! I tasted it and found it icy, yet clean and fresh. I found a spear in the boat and with it, killed a seal and ate it. It tasted revolting,but I made a fire out of it’s blubber that smelled terrible, but cooked the meat to perfection. A man could live here for a considerable amount of time. I do intend to live here until a ship comes to my rescue.

Oct. 31st, 1892

It is Halloween. I think I’ll go as the ice monster, and scare all the seals plus get candy from the penguins. My health has been nearly recovered. I have water from the spring, food from the seals , shelter from the cabin in my boat, and warmth from the blubber fire. It may seem heartless to kill seals, but it is the only source of food I have. I have developed a taste for seal meat.

Nov. 4th, 1892

Living like a caveman is hard and tedious, but it keeps me alive. My dog is my only companion on this island that I have named Salvation Rock. I have a beacon fire that I keep lit every day. I am hoping that it will let any passing ships know that I am here. I am getting extremely lonely.

Nov. 10th, 1892

I have made a coat out of sealskin to keep me warm, just like natives in the north do. It has allowed me to explore further reaches of the island. The island is larger than I thought. I carry a torch with me that is made out of a ship spar. Rebuilding my ship would be no good, so I have decided to use my spare parts for firewood. I walked over a hill of snow and find the wreckage of another ship, frozen solid by the ice. The writing was in Dutch, but luckily, I am fluent in three languages, including Dutch. It said, translated, The Happy Duck. I am not too sure the ghosts of the crew are too happy in this frozen wasteland. Poor devils—God rest their souls. As my survival instincts took over, I thought of looking in the boat. Lo and behold! there were some casks of beer and some frozen food. I thought to myself that it would be good to have something other than seal for once. As I picked up the food, I found some bones on the floor, buried them and said a short service. Beer reminds me of taverns and taverns remind me of warmth and people. I started to miss my wife and her baby. When I went on this mission, I expected to come back safely, unharmed but for some cold experiences. How wrong I was.

Nov. 23rd, 1892

My beer and bread has run out. I had two kegs and ten loaves, and I ate sparingly. I have made a fishing rod from a ship spar, a length of string, and a nail. A big fish that I cannot identify is roasting on a spit over my fire. My thoughts turned to my wife once more, and I thought that I must be presumed dead. She was ravishing, but I think that her beauty has probably been somewhat spoiled with grief. If I get out out of this alive, I will never go on another Polar expedition. I think I will make it, but how long will it be until I am saved?

Dec. 3rd, 1892

I am beginning to run out of journal paper, so I will have to write sparingly. My arsenal of handmade possessions is getting bigger, and now I have built a firewood hut, made a bow and arrows, sewn a blanket, and built a barbecue/fire pit. I long for human companionship, and my dog longs for the companionship of his species as well. How the penguins, polar bears, and seals live in this freezing wasteland without going insane I don’t know, but it must be some miracle of nature. I hope a ship comes soon, as I am beginning to lose my marbles—in fact, I found myself chatting to the mast of my boat as if it was an old friend. I need help.

Dec. 13th, 1892

I am despairing of ever getting off this island. Winter is here, and I do not think that my sealskin coat and my old ragged fur coats will keep me from freezing during the everlasting cold and night that cloaks the poles for six whole months. I keep my fire burning all the time now, and pine for my wife as I sit in the gloom. The seals have moved to warmer climes as they do during polar winter, and everything is hibernating. I wish I could hibernate, if I could, I would survive the winter. If a boat does not come during the next ten days, I will surely freeze or starve. The only things I have are a fire and the water from that magical spring.

Dec. 22nd, 1892

Hallelujah! I am not one for church cries but I feel it is a miracle. a ship has come in the night! it is a French explorer called Le Anne Marie—The Mary Ann— coming back from a voyage. I hailed the captain in French and he said that the English had said to look out for a stranded explorer and he said from the description that I was the man! They agreed to take me back to England. I gathered my meager possessions and called my dog. I boarded the ship at once. I was one day away from my expected death-date. I immediately had a hot meal of proper food and delicious French wine. I only hope that we will not run into any icebergs or lose our way. It will be a long sail back.

©2005 by Kaj Benson