ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Weather Blogfest - The Whale Hunt Hots Up

Thanks to Amy and Mia at a Little Slice of Nothing for hosting this blogfest which I see has not been plain sailing (excuse the pun.) I forgot until I saw an entry flash past my blog feed - eek, but I did sort of have something in mind.

This scene takes place about halfway through my WIP novel. The MC’s love, Michael, has left his beloved Ruby behind and is following his dream of intervening in the whale slaughter in the Southern Ocean. Naturally, there is lots of weather involved, adding to the drama.

Read on:

He was growing tired of playing poker every night, watching the interplay of national characteristics—schooled British accents, flat Kiwi vowels, Australian slang, American drawl, Irish jokes. But Michael thought it’d beat steering through icebergs at night.


Restless, Michael wandered out onto the stern. There was a merciless wind, so he zipped up his parka as far as it would go. The big black ship seemed to be diving ahead—plunging, pitching, rolling. Michael stood steady, his feet firm on the deck. He’d managed to adjust to the rolling motion.


‘The weather’s being kind to us so far,’ Irish Mick said as he strolled by, ‘but you just wait...’


Michael watched the sky. To tell the truth, he wondered if this old tank could survive a storm. As he stood watching out to sea, a dense fog rolled over the water and he suddenly felt the wind and the temperature drop. He looked for the big white birds—they glided out of the fog, white on white, then were absorbed by it. Michael was comforted by their presence.


‘Hey, Mike, did you know that the albatross know when a storm is coming?’ yelled a couple of deckhands who were smoking nearby. ‘You can tell everything by the birds, y’ know.’


‘No, I didn’t know. Thanks.’ Michael watched the mist settling on the waves. He felt uneasy. He went below-decks to take a nap.


When he came back up, the fog was rolling over the decks like heavy smoke. It put a veil between him and the water. He could no longer see the wake. We are a black ghost ship, Michael thought, sailing into oblivion. We are all alone—strike an iceberg, tear the hull, down in two minutes. What good would an emergency radio beacon do in this empty vastness? He had a pang of longing for the safety of the Eco Pacific, his state-of-the-art whale watching vessel safely anchored in a marina at home.


*** Cut here in the interests of brevity for blogfest…


Michael went below decks. He fired up his laptop and began his blog post:


In pursuit of unnamed whale ship. Two miles away. The superstructure looks white and the rest looks like fog. Perfect conditions for the whalers. We are moving slowly through a dream of fog and ice. We have passed two icebergs of over 100 feet high and the size of Manhattan. We have been passing it for the past hour and have at least the same to go. I tremble to think what a splash it made as it broke off the glacier.


All around our ship are rafts of broken icebergs—some the size of ships, others as small as a dinghy, some sculpted like animals. The water is as blue as a deep lake. We are in a floating world, a monochrome world—whites, blues, greys and blacks. Little white snow petrels and little Antarctic petrels glide around the ship. The air smells pure—not a trace of smoke, earth, tree, rock, grass. In the water, a few penguins waddle along the edge of ice, flying through the dark water as did their forebears. They stand, gawking up at the black hulk passing by. They stand in a ragged line and wave stubby wings.


This place does not seem to belong to earth, yet the birds, the circling birds, remind you that you are still on the planet.


© Denise Covey 2010


25 comments:

  1. hi miss l'aussie! wow this sound real exciting. i like youre writing about saving whales. i been on a shrimp trawler one time and it really gets rocking and rolling way out in the sea. its a cool story.
    ...smiles from lenny

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  2. Living in Louisiana for as long as I have, I have found that birds and other critters will alert you to changes in the weather.

    When Hurricane Rita was about to slam into my city, hordes of cockroaches, rats, and other vermin swarmed into our apartment complex seeking shelter as if alerted by some inner sense of impending disaster.

    Before then, the egret, hawks, ducks, and sparrows were streaking through the skies away from us.

    Your narrative was impressive. I could sense the foggy isolation, the nearness of danger, and the certainty that something bad was soon to happen. Bravo.

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  3. Hi,

    Great subject, great setting of scenes!!!

    The fog sequence frighteningly realistic: freezing waters and floating ruddy iceburgs not a good combination for sailing through.

    Enjoyed your momentary antarctic soiree.
    best
    F

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  4. It's true about the birds... they are useful for so many things.

    I love the description in the piece. I think the theme is really important too.

    Thank you for sharing.

    CD

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  5. I really enjoyed reading this; I sensed the character's loneliness and indecision on being out there in such a storm, which you described beautifully.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. I enjoyed your excerpt, thanks for sharing.
    The only trouble was all that talk of ice made me feel colder than I already was, and I am just about to brave a cold morning to try and catch up with "my" swans.

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  7. Lenny: Thanks Lenny. I'm glad you like it. If you've been on a shrimp boat then you'd know how it feels..:)

    Roland: Animals are amazing creatures, and their instinct for weather is uncanny. I'm impressed how the elephants in Thailand ran away before the tsunami hit. Glad you liked my excerpt..:)

    Francine: Glad you liked the freezing trip..:)

    Clarissa: The theme is so important to me too. You don't read much fiction about it. Glad you liked the description..:)

    Amanda: Glad you liked it..:)

    Al: Sorry Al, but you will live in Melbourne. It's glorious up here in sunny Brisbane but I can't find any swans, just plenty of cranes..:)

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  8. Different but interesting. Has an old element that the boat used makes me thing of and there there is the technology, like writing on a laptop. I never would have expected that just based off the beginning of this scene. It's different and the fog is a good element for the blogfest.

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  9. I really enjoy the movement of the piece. I never thought of Fog. :) Thank you for sharing it.
    Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  10. Hi there. I enjoyed your piece a great deal. Very descriptive, an great eye for detail, and a timely subject. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Dawn:Good that you picked up on the old/new..:)

    Jules: Fog is a very important weather element, esp in the Antarctic..:)

    Franklin: Glad you enjoyed it..:)

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  12. I am in total agreeance with Roland. I really did feel like I was cold, isolated, uneasy but still with purpose when reading this bit. Great narrative and I love the use of wildlife with weather.

    This place does not seem to belong to earth, yet the birds, the circling birds, remind you that you are still on the planet.

    I loved that line.

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  13. The blog post is incredible! It really deepens the images that you convey in the earlier part of the scene. Nicely done!

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  14. Nicole: Thank you. I love that line too as I imagine when all is white around you, you might feel like you're no longer on the earth as you know it..:)

    Amalia: I like to think of Michael as a deep, poetic character in a rough exterior. Thank you..:)

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  15. Interesting, that's the first time I have seen someone blog within a story, though I assume not the last. I've dreamed myself of going after the whale hunters (though naturally it isn't realistic for me to do so). Those hunting whales, tuna, sturgeon and others into extinction need to be stopped somehow.

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  16. Ted, yes, there's a lot that needs to be changed..:)

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  17. You know, I usually don't like bits about the weather because I'm generally far too impatient nature, but yours really kept my attention. Well done :)

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  18. This was excellent. Mariners, so I've read, navigate by the birds, waves, weather, and stars. Awesome how you wove that in but didn't overwhelm the story with it.

    I especially liked Mike's blog post. So personal, yet descriptive of all he is seeing and experiencing.

    Well done Denise.

    .......dhole

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  19. You paint a vivid image: I could see the flat, featureless ocean and the craggy icebergs in my mind's eye. What a refreshing story, about an anti-whaling activist no less! Good work!

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  20. disgruntledwriterscircle: Thanks. Glad I kept yr attention..:)

    Donna: Thank you. Yeah, good blog post, eh?

    jcmartinfighterwriter: Thank you. A different sort of protagonist..:)

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  21. Great writing and certainly gave me the chills! I really enjoyed your focus on isolation, you seem to have a good mind for detail, which makes this piece very enjoyable. Great to come back after some time, reminds me why I follow this blog

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  22. Great scene, Denise! I could almost feel the ship moving under me (and promply felt a little nauseous - I don't water well I'm afraid).

    Tessa.xx

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  23. CultureServedRaw: Thank you for your kind comments and I'm pleased you follow my blog and i yours..:)

    Tessa: Hope you're not too seasick. thanks for dropping by..:)

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