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.
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