Journal Posts

Tag: personal_horror_stories

Chapter Four: Sep 25 - Oct 17 - At Sea
The crew and the members of the Starkweather-Moore Expedition rose early on the 25th of September. Morning classes were abbreviated, and come 11:30 a.m. Captain Vredenburgh sounded an all stop and the ship's navigator announced that they were "On the line!" With great fanfare one of the ship's lifeboats, which had been decorated with nets, barnacles, and streamers of seaweed, was hauled up over the side and a motley crew stepped on to the deck. The Gabrielle's chief steward, Judas Whitney, was dressed up as Neptune himself complete with fake beard, toga, and trident. Others were dressed up as his "court," including the portly chief engineer Charles Drummond as a baby, and a number of able seamen and engineers as masked devils, attorneys in powdered wigs, diabolic barbers and doctors, and so on.

The members of the expedition, save for veterans such as Stacey Meredith Whitehall and Jeeves, were dubbed "land-lubbers, accused of scurrilous crimes" and marched up to answer before the king of the sea. Evelyn Dubois was charged with such things as "dancing to fancy music" and "not wearing a skirt," while Buernor Thorson was accused of crimes like "consorting with them Nore-wegians" and "playing with fire at port." Sameul Brighton-Foyle was accused of "wrasslin' without the cap'n's permission" and "consorting with gentlemen over tea." All took their good natured punishment with a laugh and no small bit of embarassment. Some of the newer members of the crew had it worse, being shaved, stripped, and forced to dance a jig. But all were handed royal decrees proclaiming them "shellbacks" and veterans of crossing the Equator.

This is how lubbers became shellbacks - by crossing the line and partying!

The celebration was marred however as later that afternoon one of the stewards, messboy Philip Coates, ran to the top deck. The stench of amonia washed over the ship as he near fell over. "The reefer hold," he choked, "she's leaking coolant all over!" With an oath, Captain Vredenburgh ordered all hands and volunteers below. One of the pipes on the massvie refrigerated hold had burst, spilling amonia all over. The investigators pitched in along with the crew, mopping up coolant and tossing tainted supplies - eggs, milk, and some other fresh food - over the side. The cook managed to salvage what he could, but canned and dried goods, mostly pemmican, was all that was left. James Starkweather and the captain had an argument on the top deck that was observed by much of the crew and the expedition, and the English explorer insisted against the captain's wishes that the ship must press on to Australia. "That damnable woman is ahead of us," he shouted, "I won't have it!" So rather than take the four days necessary to turn back to Panama, the Gabrielle steamed ahead two weeks to Australia. That earned Starkweather a new nickname with the disgruntled crew, "Bloody Starkers!"

During the cleanup, Jeeves and Dr. Tyson began to examine the burst pipe. The Englishman noticed pitting on the floor beneath the pipe, and Tyson identified it as acid burns. Someone had sabotaged the refrigerated hold. After confiding in the others and then Moore, the professor informed his parter Starkweather that this had been no accident. The captain placed a watch on the holds, but the next two days passed without incident. Despite searches of the expedtion's chemical stores, no acid was found missing and the trail had grown cold.

On the morning of the 28th as the expedition members were getting breakfast, Stacey and Jeeves heard a commotion from the rear of the ship - dogs barking and howling! They ran out, and some of the others followed. As they got to the hold, they saw Gregor Pulaski opening the hatch. The horrid smell of blood, fear, and musk greeted them along with a horrific sight. Two of the dogs were tearing at each other as a few others ran around the hold, snapping and howling. Most of the rest strained at their leashes and some were convulsing in their pens. "Ah, God!" Pulaski cursed as Fiskarson and Snabjorn readied to go into the hold. Paul Turlow had come on the scene, and after Dr. Thorson assured him the animals were not rabid, he decided that the two fighting were too big a threat to ignore. A man came back from the arms locker, and Pulaski took on the odious task of putting the dogs down. Six shots rang out, with only one not finishing the target. After a terrible cry, the last mad dog fell and the other dog wranglers went down to kennel the rest.

This is how they should have remembered the dogs. Not what happened in the hold.

Thorson, Jeeves, Tyson, and Brighton-Foyle volunteered to help with the clean-up. A few kind words from Samuel helped settle the upset crewmen, and the japes and grumbles about "bloody starkers" were less in his presence. The three doctors had time to examine the hold, and noticed that though their water was clean, the pemmican the dogs had been fed was tainted with a dusting of powder. By the animals' symptoms, Tyson and Samuel reached the same conclusion - strychnine. The dogs had been poisoned. After Buernor hauled the carcasses up to be disposed of, Dr. Greene confirmed their findings. There was enough poison there to kill anyone who had partaken, including any man or woman on the expedition. There was definitely a saboteur on board.

As the rest of the expedition searched the remaining foodstuffs, Moore had the investigators go through the expedition's equipment again for signs of sabotage. And they found it. The expedition's generators had been destroyed as acid had been poured in their oil reservoirs. Same with the camp radios and the trail radios. Most disturbingly, they found a bomb in lower hold #3, tucked into the fuel drums beneath the big Boeing 247 stored there. It was a crude affair, no more than a fuse and blasting caps, but if ignited it would have taken out all the fuel in the hold and blown the Gabrielle to pieces.

There was a thorough search of the hold.

Wisely, the investigators confided in Moore alone. He knew that Starkweather and Captain Vredenburgh would turn the ship upside-down at that point, and that might be enough to push the saboteur to extremes. "Give it a couple of days, see if you can narrow down the list of suspects." And so they began to investigate the clues at hand. As the holds had been locked down since leaving port, no one had access save for the first officer and the stewards. After ruling out Turlow, they began to take a hard look at the laundry and mess stewards and the cook. As Judas Whiteny had been on deck on the 25th and getting ready early that day, there was no way he would have had time to sabotage the pipes with acid. That left Coates and Adam Henning the likely suspects.

Using the pretense of further questions, Henning was taken belowdecks, and as Tyson, Brighton-Foyle, and Turlow questioned him at length, James O'Neil slipped off with the second officer, Arthur Ballard, and searched Henning's cabin. They found a footlocker with a torn lining. Hidden within were the article announcing the Starkweather-Moore Expedition, an offer of payment for the exclusive rights to the story of the Gabrielle's voyage by a Chicago paper, and a pair of jars of sulfuric acid, one mostly empty. With the evidence in hand, Henning was confronted and had nothing to say after that. Even Jeeves was not able to rattle the man, indicating that it was likely something personal. With him detained, statements were prepared for the police in Melbourne, and the voyage continued.

Despite some rough seas, the ship arrived at Melbourne on the 11th of October. After being piloted by locals through the reefs and into Port Philip Bay, the ship docked to welcoming crowds and reporters. Starkweather had radioed ahead for replacement gear, and the investigators went to handle the matter at Moore's request. After a good night in port, during which Evvy sampled the local coffee (imported from Sumatra) and Jeeves the local tea (straight from the Orient), they were about business the morning of the 12th. They quickly discovered that Starkweather had ordered the wrong generators, and after paying a slight penalty, found replacements along with radio parts at another business.

While Jeeves and Stacey handled re-supplying the perishables (and taking the excuse to shop), the rest opted to renew the expedition's stores of pemmican. Unfortunately the owner of the peach cannery that Starkweather had contracted had no idea what the stuff was. And as it was the off season, he had no more than a maintenance crew. After an explanation, he offered to set up the line and order supplies, provided they could come up with the labor to mix, shape, and pack the stuff. Gathering up help from the rest of the expedition, they spent two days mixing gound meat, fat, cod liver oil and various other bits and bobs and packaging it for the trip to Antarctica. Reeking of blood, fat, and foulness, the job was nevertheless done.

It was all about the pemmican.

With four days to spend, they enjoyed the hospitality of Melbourne. Buernor, Jeeves, and the Sorensons enjoyed the dockside pubs (and a good old-fashioned brawl) while Stacey, Samuel, and William Tyson enjoyed the museums and night-life, while Evvy enjoyed all of the above. An impromptu ceremony was held, and Starkweather and Moore were presented with the key to the city by Melbourne's mayor. Henning had been turned over to the police, and apart from verifying their statements, the matter was out of the party's hands. There was no doubt the mutineer would hang, they were told, though they would not be there to see it. A few interesting adventures took place during Jeeves and Stacey's trip to the Outback, and Samuel saw some things he would rather forget in Melbourne's mental hospital, but those were tales for another day. By the morning of the 18th, the Gabrielle had left port. The long journey to the ice remained.
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