Saturday, May 11, 2013

"The Island of Dagon" Chapter 3: "A Crate, a Departure & a Lie"

    Our party arrived at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard early of the morning on July 10th.(12A) Edward and I spoke at length of various things, as Professor Knowles went to the central station to inquire as to where we were actually to report. We both remarked about the noted absence of Phillips, but did not question the professor.
    While the Professor was gone, we began to check our equipment and luggage to ensure that everything had been accounted for.
   We noticed the professor had quite a large compliment of luggage and one large crate of questionable content. The crate was roughly ten feet long and five feet wide and was clearly marked "Caution-Scientific Equipment". At the time, Edward and Crawford stated that it was odd. But none of us gave anymore thoughts to the matter as there were more important things to attend to. The professor soon returned and stated that we were to meet at the main gangway to meet with a crewman who would see us to our assigned places.
    I then asked the Professor about Mr. Phillips. The professor stated that Phillips would be arriving later and would be bunking with him while on board the Etolin. The professor then directly turned his attention to several dock personnel and provided them with very precise instructions regarding the handling of his crate. As we all gathered our carryables away and the dock workers began to move the crate- I could have sworn I heard a sloshing or slopping sound. God, that sound! (13)
    Our departure from San Francisco was exciting to say the least. The Etolin, although originally a passenger liner, was quite impressive in her recent re-fitment for military use. The Etolin was fitted with four six inch cannons, two- one pound cannons and two rather menacing machine guns placed strategically top side- manned at all times. As fascinating as this was, it was only now penetrating into my consciousness exactly how dangerous this trip may become. We were sailing directly into
areas where recent battles between American and Japanese naval forces had reached astounding proportions and frequency.
    Our meager expedition, with the exception of the Professor and Phillips, were provided quarters with the servicemen in general. The small beds, with whom I became familiar, were narrow, hard and stacked upon each other. I chose the uppermost bunk with Edward below, whilst Crawford and Ward were situated directly across the narrow walkway. On either side of us, servicemen were stationed and asked us about our presence on the ship. We kept our explanations brief and vague as to not encourage further delving into such related esoteric subjects.
    That first night, Crawford and Ward stated that it was their belief that something was definitely being withheld from us, a feeling that Edward and I shared. We spoke in hushed tones about what possible reason would the professor, a learned and esteemed university mind, be so secretive with the very people he had hand chosen to help him in this expedition?
   Who was this dark Phillips with whom the Professor held close and mysteriously? There seemed to be more mystery in the formulation of this expedition than in it's final destination somewhere in the Pacific. We would all learn soon enough the awful truth behind this secrecy and it's ultimate intent.
    The second night aboard, we began to speak more freely with our nearest servicemen bunkmates. It would seem that these men enjoyed playing cards as much as Crawford and Ward . Their pastime would take our minds off of the mysterious circumstances of our situation.
     One such serviceman, whose name I now cannot recall, was from Massachusetts and had, to his credit, been attending to his studies in the universities medical school. A bright and intelligent young man, he felt the call of his country and joined the service. He had not been in combat as yet, but he assured us that once the Etolin arrived near the Marshall Islands, he would be. It was conversations with him in which Edward, myself and the others would catch news of the ongoing war into which
we were proceeding.
We did not see nor hear from the Professor until two days later.

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