Clipperton Journal: The Daily Record of Life on a Pacific Atoll, Part 5

Lance Milbrand
August 29, 2003

View a 'castaway' Photo Gallery by Lance Milbrand: Go>>

It's early A.M. and I heard the Red Rooster talking to the Excel on the VHF. I rushed down to the cut in the reef at their request to meet the boat. Their skiff took a long time coming in but everyone was safe. I remembered to bring my "prop" and Erin got a kick out of my fake hillbilly teeth.

I met the guys, helped unload Erin's gear and everything went well. I loaded my excess supplies on their skiff, their skiff took off, Erin and I were talking, and the next thing you know, their skiff flipped. The guys were holding on to the edge of the overturned skiff inside the breaker zone, a very dangerous place. Things that could float were quickly scattered in the surf.

I turned on my video camera and set it on the beach, grabbed their floating life jackets and swam out to meet the guys. The guys, Julio and Andy, were both OK, but I lost three scuba tanks because they sank. I am bummed, but glad the guys were OK.

We turned their boat right side up and found they could start their motor but needed a gas line. We looked at the gas line in my skiff but I opted to swim out to the RR and have them throw me down another line for their boat. I did not want to cut my line and have to re-splice it because that could cause a problem.

After we held their skiff in the surf line and they got away OK, ;we came back to base camp and I made pancakes. Right after pancakes it rained really hard and Erin's PD 150 took a dive, even though it had a rain cover. Maybe the lens got wet inside?

We processed nine gallons of drinking water and captured another three. Together we went to Tern Island in the afternoon and shot some fun crab and tern shots. I must admit it is odd having someone else here at camp. There will be another six or seven more days before we depart on the big boat.

May 16, Friday, Day 38: I woke up to a partial rain in the sunrise sky. We made it out of camp after 9:00 a.m. and headed towards the rock. We ascended toward the lighthouse mount 70 feet up but I had my reservations. The rains yesterday afternoon and from the night before made the guano on the rocks slick. One fall from way up there would be really bad. I shot some really nice material on the top when the climbing was safe and the sky was clear. I don't think it's necessary to recreate my climb for Erin when the conditions are unsafe.

We both carried up the huge orange rope that I found near the palm grove and I tied it off above the basement area. I descended down to the copper fittings of the fallen lighthouse and must admit it was very cool. I checked for dates or names on the metal casings and found a few words. With a bit of water and an old bird bone, I scraped off years of bird poop to reveal the words "Soc te Des Etablissements Henry LePaute Paris".

It was a great discovery. It made me feel like a true explorer to descend down a rope and find a lost piece of human antiquity. Erin was even happy that I waited to share the discovery with him. There were also volcanic-looking rocks in the basement with wet pools and drops of water draining down from high above.

On the way back, we saw another helicopter in the air, another tuna seiner is working the area. We came back to base camp and the weather looked as if it might rain, and then it poured. Water was flowing past the tent and I had to quickly deepen the drainage ditches. The rain never really stopped so I cooked tea, soup, and corn with the sterno stove under our tarp. I tried the VHF but got no response from the RR.

I forgot to mention that it had been raining so often that I noticed the water level in the lagoon was rising. A few weeks ago when I camped at the rock, I shot some dolly scenes with the crabs at the end of the peninsula. The end of the peninsula now has almost become cut off and a new island will form soon. Water levels in the lagoon are rising fast.

Continued on Next Page >>


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