Now What?

Posted by Rebekah
Aug 15 2010

Nights in the tropics are cool, but on sunburnt skin, they’re torture.  Al and the other survivors shivered in the night breeze, praying for the sun for the warmth it would bring, despite the further damage it would so.

By morning, they had to decide what to do.  They needed food and water and needed to see where they were.  Someone was going to have to explore the island and for safety reasons, it would have to be in pairs at least.

Chief Radio Tech Arthur Howell had banged his knee against something on his way off the boat, and it was now swollen and too painful to walk on.   He, along with volunteers Don Tremaine and Jim Russo decided to stay at the camp to reinforce the small lean-to shelter they had constructed hurriedly the night before, and to watch the Straits in case an Allied ship passed closely enough to signal.

That left Captain Crowley, Liddell, Jacobson and Motor Mac Baumgart to explore.  Crowley and Jacobson were still wearing their watches which, surprisingly to everyone, still worked!  Crowley with Liddell would head east, Baumgart with Jacobson would head west, and explore the island looking for food, water, and evidence of any people on the island, friend or enemy.  They were supposed to be back by 1800  (6 p.m.).

Jacobson also still had his binoculars he was looking through just before Flier blew, something he likely left behind with the camp crew.

Everyone headed on their own ways.  Crowley and Liddell discovered only that they were on a small island, and there was a larger island to the east with a couple of small islands in between.  Washed up on the sheltered beach was  a large pile of driftwood, including many pieces of bamboo.  They realized that as weak as they were, they would lose some people if they had to swim, but maybe if they could build a raft…

On the east side, Baumgart and Jacobson had made their own discovery: thousands of coconuts.  Thousands and thousands of ROTTEN coconuts.  Unfortunately, unless they were split and overrun with ants, there was no way to tell which ones were ripe or rotten unless they were cracked open.  A few hours later, after they gave up trying to find a coconut and concentrated on going east (and as the beach ended and curved north) and looking for water, they saw the figure of a man limping down the beach.  With the sun’s angle they couldn’t make out details, they hid and waited until he came closer before they decided what to do.

They suddenly both recognized Flier’s own Motor Mac, Wesley Miller!  Miller had been caught in a current that swept him a little west and north of the others.  When dawn broke, the other seven were south of their island, but Miller was almost north and past it.  He swam hard and fought currents to get there, and spent the last night alone, thinking he was the only Flier left of the whole crew!  With no food and water near where he landed, he decided to explore this island and swim for another one if he found no food or water.

That was that.  When the groups got back together, there was no food, no water, another mouth to feed (though no one really minded), no nearby traffic,  and few options.  They had to leave, but where?  To the southwest was Balabac Island, known to have food and water and lots of Japanese encampments.  To the east was another island but no one knew anything about it, not even its name.

In the end they decided to build a raft large enough they could all hang on to in order to stay together and keep going east, away from the Japanese.  They may die of starvation (or more likely, thirst), but every man decided it was better to do that than to be captured.

It was too late in the day to start building, so they decided to sleep for the night and get started first thing in the morning.

Before bed, Al put some shells out on the beach, hoping that a passing rainstorm, like the ones they had seen all day sweep past would come and fill the shells for water.

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