“When we finally landed ashore and later found the wreckage of the aircraft Lazy Daisy, Scott could no longer contain his anguish, ‘Merciful Lord, what have we done,’ he exclaimed loudly to the heavens because by now he was at the absolute end of his tether. Icy Queen lay wrecked on the shoreline and it is no exaggeration to say that each of us were utterly exhausted beyond our every measure. Mentally, we three could give no more, we had given everything we could possibly give, every ounce of energy we possessed had been expended in this foolish venture and once again we had nearly paid with our lives. Whether the Lord to whom Scott implored his soul would reveal why he had cast this sufferance upon us would be something we could never hope to understand. Nor would we ever wish to know such outlandish devilment.”
In the manner of all inconceivable mysteries, you now have a compelling decision to make. I believe in my heart that I have given you good cause to absolve me of all blame for our first disaster in the Peril Strait, the near perilous shipwreck seven days before that had nearly cost us our lives. This altogether new catastrophe that fell upon us might suggest to you that I am no fool, that I was indeed the victim of some devious unpleasantness that sporadically occurs in the Peril Strait when one approaches the Narrows. I had nearly lost both my vessel and my crew in a futile rescue attempt which I too began to suspect was nothing more than a cruel trick to lure us into Deep Sound for reasons that are difficult to explain to you. Of course, as you already know, the notion that someone with malice deliberately entraps vessels at the most dangerous point in the Narrows is still the official interpretation of these mysterious occurances, a formal bureaucratic whitewash that is not entirely unreasonable when you consider that each one of us lied when we presented the facts of what happened to the authoritative enquiry that took place seven months afterwards – after Icy Queen too was caught then wrecked on the rocky beach located on the northern shore of Deep Sound.
The choice that you now have to which I refer to above is simple. First, as I have already said, you can decide that you have no reason to read more of what happened when we again received the distress call on Bill’s old world war two radio. Perhaps you already harbour a suspicion that my commonly disbelieved and publicly ridiculed account below which describes the disaster in some detail does not support the deliberate foul-play verdict decided by the official investigative enquiry, the formal explanation of what occurred in the Peril Strait that attempts to rationalise the causes of the tragedy that unfolded. If you wish to accept the investigative enquiry’s findings that are published elsewhere then you have no need to read further. Alternatively, you can choose otherwise. You can choose whether you wish to know what really happened – that is, if you have the temerity or boldness of mind to be less impertinent in your general condemnation.
I hope beyond hope that my written discourse so far will have adequately described to you the events which lead to this second frightful disaster that now occurred. Certainly the true facts will wrench your mind inside out. I have before warned you that you would need to be strong in your thinking, that you might need to recognise that transcendental paranormal does not necessarily always mean evil, that everything which subsequently unravelled was a truly remarkable metaphysical occurrence nevertheless. Why else would Marie be able to converse with a man long dead? How could she talk rationally at length with someone who had already died a horribly cruel death? A long-lost radio crewman who was without any shadow of doubt already dead.
Your choice now is whether to keep reading below or not, to then decide which version of the truth you prefer. I swear on my life that everything I have related to you before now is the truth in almost every detail, but confess to you that what you will read from here might contain some deliberate alterations of the facts. When you finally make up your mind which way you wish to lean, when you once and for all understand that in all of these tragic events I myself have entirely no blame, you will have that fearful decision to decide for yourself if the compelling evidence I will declare to you is believable or not.
If you wish to know everything, the whole truth and nothing but the truth that includes things you really should not know, then you must surely accept every attestation I give.
The Untold Truth
Almost all of what you read from here is mostly true, this sequence of extraordinary events occurred as I describe in fine-point detail but some crucial facts have been deliberately changed or excluded in their entirety. There are those involved who need to be protected, there is someone who does not deserve the hand they have been dealt. Marie flicked the DPT switch on the radio and repeated her answer to the caller transmitting the emergency SOS – she transmitted her response in her magnificently steady voice in the time-honoured manner required by international radio protocol.
‘Station MX577 calling Mayday, this is fishing vessel Icy Queen. Please state your exact position and nature of emergency. Over.’
Marie repeated this three times, then switched the set to receive. This time there was a subtle difference, a silent pause broken only by irritating static and interference that for the most strangest of reasons reminded me of those wretched vinyl records when played with a worn needle, but strangely and more significantly, the crackling, hum and hiss was exactly the same as that which occurred when the caller made their own transmission – there was just no discernible voice. In my mind I thought it likely that someone this time had receiving Marie’s call but had then held-back their reply to consider what they should do, the overall impression was not unlike a calculating thief caught out in the middle of the night by the prowling household cat. All of us standing around Marie inadvertently tensed in some sort of unexpected anticipation – surely, we all thought, something was about to happen. Everyone present remained intensely quiet and alert, Even Scott paused his steering of Icy Queen up in the pilothouse, allowing his vessel’s engine to power down so that he too could hear the radio more clearly. After the seemingly deliberate delay by whoever was on the other end of the radio link, the caller’s voice suddenly crackled into life…
‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. MX577 calling. Urgent help. We are downed on the north shore, vicinity Deep Sound.’
Straightaway everyone felt instantly deflated, you could feel a tremble of disappointment as the spellbinding tension snapped and broke, it was as if the expected taste of sweet honey had suddenly been replaced by the harsh sapidity of spoiled and soggy salt. In my own mixed-up mind came the thought that we were simply being manipulated, that some unknown individual levied his power against us simply because he could. The change in the atmospherics of the broadcast seemed to suggest that something was about to happen, that someone somewhere had finally listened to Marie’s transmission and then, for their own obscure reasons, they had deliberately paused to consider this new situation that we ourselves had created – before deciding to retransmit their usual frustrating message to either confuse us or to irrevocably throw us off our guard. But I tell you this, this strange, almost transcendental pause that is so difficult to describe to you was indeed a minutely subtle change in the very essence of the emergency broadcast, more a feeling of anticipation than anything else but enough to convince myself that once again we were being indubitably led by the hand. It was almost as if some malicious individual had sensed we were now a sudden threat but had cunningly decided to hold their nerve. Moreover, through our determined and resolute effort we were this time on to this somewhat deranged maniac, we could put a once-and-for-all stop to these falsehearted transmissions that caused such chaos there in the Peril Strait. Of course, as we all know now, my absurd naivety is my everlasting nemesis, my mistaken illation will surely hound me for the rest of my life.
Scott and Braden had timed their passage of the Straits to perfection. By now we were less than a mile from the Narrows with Yankee Maid only a half mile behind. We still had forty-five minutes or so before the tide changed to go against us which was more than enough time to decide what to do, but we were conscious that in less than an hour we would be faced with the same precarious dangers that we ourselves had encountered only one week before. Our general plan was to turn into Deep Sound to then find a suitable anchoring depth using Icy Queen’s greater engine power and ability to drop anchor in a much greater depth than Sänna. We had to do this before darkness descended but right now we thought we had more than enough time in hand. Then Scott’s screaming voice broke the trance-like state of each of us standing around the radio – just as Marie transmitted her by now standard reply one more time.
I raced up the steps to the pilothouse closely followed by Braden, we moved at a pace not unlike two raccoons surprised by a ravenous fox. Then we too stared through the helmsman’s window right before our eyes. Scott’s face was frozen in absolute horror and in that tiny fraction of a second we saw why. The placid waters ahead of us, waters that were supposedly approaching flat-calm before the turning of the high tide suddenly reshaped themselves into a terrifying heaving mass, an irrational monstrous cauldron unlike anything we had encountered before. Then we stared in dread as the serenity of our surroundings changed significantly, to our utmost horror the sea ahead of us as we neared the entrance passage into Deep Sound began to swirl in one single direction to create a chaotic vortex of unimaginable proportions.
Our way towards the Narrows was completely barred, in the centre of this new mass of terrifying white water a pitch-black abyss suddenly appeared into which the sea itself simply tumbled before vanishing into oblivion. This tidal turmoil was not yet supposed to happen, we were still a good fifteen to twenty minutes from high tide then roughly the same time again before the tide turned against us. Even then it should have been another ten to fifteen minutes after the turn of tide before the currents begin to race in the Narrows to form the usual dreaded whirlpool that naturally occurred there twice every day. We should still have around sixty minutes or so of safe water before our time in the vicinity of the Narrows became too dangerous for our presence. This new devilment was entirely unexpected, nothing had prepared any of us for this new horror and the sheer ferocity of what confronted us rendered each of us unconditionally speechless whilst all three of us froze in abject fear.
This before us was an altogether new, almost unnatural phenomena. Icy Queen was being drawn towards the abyss and our resourceful helmsman battling at the helm could do nothing to prevent it. Braden and I stared at each other in utter consternation when we both realised the same thing at the same time, I myself felt that sickness of feeling inside when you realise how easily you have been tricked, the sudden realisation when you have been deliberately drawn then trapped by some unknown force that is working its hardest to end your life. That subtle pause in the caller’s transmission, it was never a deliberate delay to allow the caller to consider their actions at all, it transcended as a definite shift in the metaphysical world around us – it was almost as if there had been an indistinct alteration in our paranormal surroundings or even a deliberate merging of two different times. It was as if there had been a discriminate change in the very fabric of our universe, an alteration or shift in time that was meant to lead us to our final doom.
Scott fought hard on the wheel of Icy Queen. I turned to see Yankee Maid too caught in the outer reaches of this new turbulent chaos that suddenly threatened our lives. Marie though, remained cool and calm. My unflappable wife continued to transmit her exact same broadcast to the caller without any pause to consider this new terror that was upon us. It seemed as if she suspected some cohesive trickery out there that we did not, some strange thing or some unfathomable force that we now fought against that she alone could somehow change and which would ultimately decide our fate. Quite clearly Icy Queen was out of control and being drawn towards the fearsome rocks to the southern shoreline of the Deep Sound entrance. I myself became resigned to our fate knowing full well there was nothing we could do, in the meantime Scott tried desperately to save his vessel but all at once he too differed himself to our rate as Icy Queen crashed in a great crescendo of destruction against the jagged shoreline rocks that lay in wait like a ravenous demon, the deadly jaws slathering with the white foaming sea that rose and fell like the cold deliverance of hell.
Icy Queen never stood even the remotest chance of surviving. We were dashed against the waiting rocks by the tumultuous whirlpool driven sea, we were twisted and then turned in all directions like a dancing cork. Icy Queen’s underside hull was torn through like matchwood, the salty-cold waters then pouring through the breach to begin the slow-sinking death that happens when the relentless cruel sea claims yet one more mighty fine vessel. But Icy Queen’s tough Alaskan build and Scott’s irrefutable bravery, his gritty determination honed by years of astute toughness fighting cold arctic storms that on numerous occasions before had threatened his survival, now came to the fore. The double-hulled construction of Icy Queen meant that our inevitable sinking did not occur straightaway, Scott had enough time and a will of mind to drive his vessel hard for one last time. Scott beached Icy Queen on the one flat piece of dry land that lay close-by in our vicinity, a just enough sanctuary that meant we might not lose our lives. It was expert seamanship to the highest degree by a resolute skipper who remained calm, cool and calculating whilst battling for our very survival. Without a shadow of doubt and any semblance of argument we each owed skipper Scott every one of our now miserable lives.
Yankee Maid herself though somehow survived. Forewarned by Icy Queen’s futile predicament, Rigger Don was able to steer his own vessel safely through the narrow entrance into Deep Bay, though it was an extremely close call. Yankee Maid managed to avoid the same rocks that had destroyed Icy Queen, but only by the narrowest of margins. Yankee Maid slowed and dropped her anchor only a short distance away so that she could assist us to her greatest abilities – of course, at this moment in time her crew were unaware if we ourselves had survived or not. To add to our hellish anguish, the quickly descending darkness that Alaska is well known for began to fall.
Shock and an acute inability to think straight are the first dreadful reactions that debilitate your soul in these most awful of circumstances. If you can imagine yourself in some free-falling elevator that is suddenly hurtling towards an inglorious end before it joyfully, for some unknown reason, slows gently to slide open its doors on the lowest floor, the one before the ground floor basement, that is the appalling sensation of our survival. For five minutes or so all seven of us onboard Icy Queen could not quite comprehend what had happened, our total disorientation of mind meant that panic became our next adverse danger unless we could get a firm grip of our situation. The descending nighttime only served to add to our total confusion. I myself gradually realised that we had not died, that Scott’s quick thinking reactions had somehow ensured our makeshift survival. Furthermore, in the fading grey light it dawned upon us like laughing playtime children that, for a short time at least, life was a preciously shining jewel that should never be presupposed. We had sustained no crippling or debilitating injuries, though Bill had a bleeding cut to his head which turned out to be nothing much serious. Of course, my own immediate concerns were directed towards my wife, who in turn turned her devoted motherly attentions to the welfare of her son, that mother’s nesting instinct kicking in instantaneously when everything else surrounding us was utter chaos. Scott, Braden and Cousin Sasquatch were quickly ashore, immediately assessing our situation and the final state of Icy Queen’s hull. Very soon we were joined by the three-man crew of Yankee Maid who quickly came to our aid in their skiff to offer whatever assistance they could. Their greatest relief was that we were all alive and relatively uninjured although we were clearly suffering from extreme shock, we were wet and sodden like stinking drowned rats, but unceremoniously we were taken off the rocky beach to the relative safety and welcoming warmth of Yankee Maid.
That first night anchored in exceptionally remote Deep Sound is difficult to relate or even describe to you. To say that we were totally shocked and bewildered would be an understatement of fact, to say that we were enjoying our wild adventure would be a total injustice to the sensibilities of common sense. But what had happened? How had the flat-calm sea turned against us in such a horrendous fashion when there was no natural reason for it to do so? There had been no storm or even any slightest inclination of the dreadful circumstances that suddenly occured, we were at least forty-five minutes or maybe even an hour ahead of the time when the tide should have turned to race against us, but the expected tide had not turned any earlier than it was actually meant to, so how had this disaster fallen upon us? What unknown forces had suddenly created this unexplainable phenomenon that had so nearly killed us? There had been no powerfully running currents or the squeezing of tides through the restricted confines of the infamous Narrows, there had been none of that, there had been nothing created by the violent coercion of the moon against the sea that drives unimaginable volumes of water along the Peril Strait. It was clear to all of us, each of us experienced mariners well used to the vagrancies of the powerful forces created by the immense gravitational powers of the moon against the earth, that our latest disaster was ghastly in every imaginable way. Right now in the pitch-black darkness of the night we could see nothing, we could not even sense if the natural world around us was as it should be, whether anything at all was rational or if any semblance of worldly reality had been restored. I tell you this truthfully, we were all of us frightened, we were scared to our wits end because we could not comprehend anything that was normal, we shivered and shook in nervous disposition even though the glorious warmth of Rigger Don’s Yankee Maid slowly restored our ravaged souls. Marie sobbed quietly to herself in the corner, she sat with Henry’s head resting upon her sodden lap, eternally grateful that her beloved son had faced death with his best years still ahead of him, but like the rest of us he had somehow survived this awful disaster that had suddenly and for no sane reason fallen upon us.
Many untold ship’s disasters have before been tempered by the inordinate drinking of sailor’s rum or even neat whisky, whether it be a cheap blended scotch or a much sought after single-malt of expensive quality, maybe some straight American bourbon of dubious origin – and it is correct to inform you that this particular occasion right now was not much different. In the wonderfully warm sanctuary of Yankee Maid we slowly recovered our will to live, though Scott’s inconsolable anguish over the loss of his beloved Icy Queen weighed heavily upon everyone there. At first-light it would much easier to make a full assessment of Icy Queen’s damage and in the alcohol fuelled warmth we convinced ourselves that it was quite conceivable that Scott’s vessel could be patched up then towed off the beach to be repaired. Crucially, Icy Queen had not suffered the ignominy of sinking, she had been driven safely ashore meaning that she might easily live to fight another day. Scott’s quick thinking had not only saved seven panicky lives but had also provided a glimmer of hope for his stranded vessel – providing everything proceeded reasonably well the next day.
During that evening’s conversation, as the heavily consumed alcohol steadied our frayed nerves and fuelled our brave bravado to new levels, we resolved to make our way ashore to carry out a rudimentary search of the shoreline forests. By now we had each fired up our resolve to find out what the hell was going on, there was now a score to be settled although there was a general feeling that we were up against something fearsome and not quite right. The Alaskans amongst us were the most disturbed, these tough rednecks were well used to battling debilitating adversary but they too sensed unexplainable danger, that some mysterious phenomenon was working against us trying to control both our destiny and our will to live. The sudden appearance of the dreadful whirlpool was easily testament to that – as every seafarer already knows, such forces are created only by the natural occurrence of complex tidal currents, they are easily explainable in their regularity and their predictive behaviour. But the deadly forces that had ultimately driven Icy Queen hard against the rocks was something else entirely.
You may well conclude that I’m not entirely blameless in delivering us once more into the jaws of adversary, that having already escaped with our lives the first time then I should not have risked a second disaster using another vessel that was not in my ownership. The wrecking of Icy Queen lay heavily upon my heart, my conscience did not allow me to consider myself not culpable or clean-handed in this new catastrophe. But I ask you now what could I do? Following our first near-death debacle I had resolved then that we had forever done with the Peril Strait, that we had nothing more to prove except our already miraculous escape. We had reported what had happened to the correct authorities then incorrectly expected some action to be taken, a search for the survivors of an obvious emergency whom, we assumed, were fighting for their lives somewhere in Deep Sound. But nothing had happened. Then Billy Bishop came up with his mad-cap theory which, on reflection at that time, was both irrational and stupid in its reasoning. But it was myself who had coerced the crew of Icy Queen to participate in this altogether new adventure, an escapade that had now resulted in the loss of that vessel – even if their crew had been more than eager to be involved.
But no one had anticipated this, not one of us realised that we might trigger some metaphysical violence that would unleash itself upon us. Despite Bill’s absurd theory and his seventy year old radio, never in our thinking did we seriously believe that we would somehow be able to communicate through time with desperate men who were trying to stay alive, we naturally assumed that we might discover whom or whoever it was who transmitted these emergency calls and, if the transmissions were not of malicious intent we could then provide some form of assistance to their wellbeing. Or if the calls were malevolent or evil-minded then we could simply put a stop to them. But this predicament we found ourselves in now was something altogether different – especially when Marie correctly pointed out that, if by any inconceivable chance we had in some way communicated backwards in time, then we were meddling with extraordinarily potent forces that no one could never even begin to understand.
At this point in our general recuperation, when the evening’s alcohol and the hot-stove heat of Yankee Maid had permeated to the very bottom of our souls, this story takes one of those sharp right-handed turns that are sometimes too extreme in their general inclination. With some aggressive prompting, No-Neck-Nigel revealed how he knew the identities of the missing seven-man crew of Lazy Daisy. We learned that ten years previously Nigel had come across old news clippings relating to other vessels that had experienced problems in the Peril Strait – in every instance they had received strange radio communications that could not be explained. One of these news stories proffered a link between the B17 aircraft lost in 1942 and the subsequent emergency mayday calls but the publication in question had been understandably ridiculed and laughed out of town – so it seemed that Billy Bishop was not the first to suggest this outrageous theory. But Nigel had dug a little deeper, he had researched the disappearance in much more detail learning that all seven men involved in the disaster were even today still listed as missing, no death notifications had ever been issued – but the US Military would never release any further details. Then, mysteriously and out of the blue, Nigel had received a letter. The correspondence, it turned out, had been sent by the supposed widow of Lazy Daisy’s radio operator, a woman by the name of Martha. Martha had since rebuilt her life down in the lower forty-eight States and for reasons known to herself she had made contact with our friend No-Neck-Nigel. But, of course, you will understand that it would not be correct of me to reveal the full name or even a more detailed description of the radio operator’s widow to you.
Then, incredibly, Nigel told us he had learned from Martha that Lazy Daisy had been carrying a new type of aircraft radio technology the night she disappeared, that this region of Alaska had been deliberately chosen for the flight because of its remoteness and for its wilderness territory. Nigel continued to confound us by saying the crewman’s widow had been formally notified by the military that Lazy Daisy might never be found which, I have to tell you, caused some concern and alacrity to everyone now warming themselves around Yankee Maid’s hot stove. We were each convincingly dumbfounded – that is, all save one. Billy Bishop who, according to Nigel’s alcohol fuelled revelation, already knew full well that Lazy Daisy had been carrying experimental radio equipment on the night she was lost. Naturally, you will understand that never did we reveal any of this to the later convened investigative enquiry.
We all stared at Bill. To say that he looked uncomfortable would be another understatement of fact. To me his grey face seemed worn with a pallor not dissimilar to an aged man who knew his time of reckoning had come, that finally he had been nailed down after years of concealing some hidden secret. It was Marie who asked the question that no one else had yet thought of, Marie asked if the radio set still lying forlornly in the sad wreckage of Icy Queen was anything similar to the radio type used by Lazy Daisy. Bill, in an altogether reluctant manner, confirmed that it was. Looking at each of us who stared intensely in his direction, he confessed to us the radio onboard Icy Queen used the same experimental valve technology and was the only surviving piece of equipment from the original project. He also told us that when Marie operated the standard DPT switch, it was then when things started to go wrong.
The pieces in this alarming puzzle finally began to fall into place. Bill had placed every hope in being able to pick up the radio communication from Lazy Daisy so that he could analyse what was being said and its effects upon the radio set itself, he proffered that he never seriously expected any form of two–way communication. Then Henry, being Henry, being the new-technology wizard that kids are these days, informed us that he had recorded everything, he had a complete voice recording of the radio transmissions stored on his smart phone. With that, we eagerly listened again to the emergency broadcast and Marie’s subsequent response, we noted when she flicked the DPT switch and the subtly change in atmospheric interference which then occurred. Bill confessed that he had not expected Marie to do this, he said this because he already suspected that the DPT switch activated some unnatural occurrence from inside the radio that was unexplainable, some strange phenomenon that was never supposed to happen.
Daylight always comes early in Alaska, sunrise during even the late summertime begins to show its hazy head at an unearthly hour when those of us who have consumed too much rum or whisky would rather be sleeping things off. At first light Scott, Braden and Rigger Don made their way ashore to inspect the damage to Icy Queen. They were appalled by what they saw. The starboard underside was ripped apart almost the full length of her hull, only the robust inner-hull had saved us from an instantaneous sinking and almost certain drowning. The tide had now receded, leaving Icy Queen stranded a little distance from the sea and more easily accessible. They began the process of recovering things we needed, our personal effects and documents essential to our own wellbeing. They also recovered everything required for our exploration inland, because we fully intended to get to the bottom of this rotten mystery – for the sake of our sanity as much as anything else. Afterwards, Scott could then make arrangements to transport new lumber here to Deep Sound so that they could affect temporary repairs to then try to float Icy Queen off the beach at the next super high tide. With this in mind, Scott himself seemed much more relaxed.
At Marie’s insistance they also recovered Bill’s radio, it was then a fairly simple task to transport it over to Yankee Maid. Each of us stared at the thing when it was once more rigged up, this time connected to Yankee Maid’s batteries and main SSB antenna. Right now, no one wished or felt comfortable enough to switch on the power or to transmit because it was imperative that Yankee Maid remained safe for the safety and wellbeing of all of us but there was undoubtedly a feeling that our business with the radio-set was not yet finished. Scott and Braden said that we should first explore ashore, that we might find enough clues to what had happened without the need to stir up more trouble by trying once again to make contact with the unknown caller. We all agreed, although there was no doubt at all that Bill was itching to investigate his radio-set further. Bill argued that our task might be easier if we could pick up the emergency message again, that we might be able to use the transmission to gain a rough idea of the direction in which we needed to proceed. Both Scott and myself could not see the logic in this, there was no direction-finding facility on the radio that we could see and we both knew enough about radio communications to know that it was impossible to work out where a caller was located purely from the strengths of transmissions.
You yourself might then ask why did we go to the trouble of recovering the radio and hook it up to Yankee Maid’s power source when we had no intention or indeed the courage to operate it? Well, that is a good question to which at this particular moment in time I cannot give you a satisfactory answer, except to say that we damn well did use the radio again but the consequences of our actions are still the subject of bitter recriminations and intense debate. The events that lead to our desperate attempt to once more contact the mystery caller, which I will in good faith try to describe to you as accurately as I am able, are the main reason why I must introduce an element of fictional untruth into my account that follows because you must remember that all of us who survived this desperate escapade which drew us in to Deep Sound were to eventually face the official investigative enquiry that was later convened – a body of professional authoritative investigators to whom every one of us lied to our back teeth when the time came to tell the story of what happened. Certainly, we all made a solemn promise that never would we reveal what actually happened on the very real basis that it would be almost impossible to tell the absolute truth, because we simply would not be believed. We knew full well that we would make ourselves look absurdly ludicrous and, furthermore, the intense media spotlight would fall upon myself as the main propagating culprit of the horrific tragedy that lead to the unfathomable disappearance of two of our numbers. And you already know that culpability blame was indeed levied entirely against myself by the US authorities searching for a scapegoat to accept disapprobation, so my intuitive fears were well founded and are exactly what did happen.
Once we got ourselves sorted, we decided to split into two groups to search ashore. Rigger Don, Cousin Sasquatch and Boy Roy would explore along the shoreline by heading northwards up the long stony beach. The rest of us would try to head inland though this would be no easy task, the typical densness of Alaskan forest being in large parts almost impenetrable. Cutting through the barriers of low growing scrub, muskeg wetland and Sitka pine would be hard going until further away from the shore, then things might get easier when we reached the first-growth cedar copses before the tree-line finally thinned out the higher we reached. If we followed the fast flowing creeks inland then we might make more progress but this was prime grizzly bear country, so we needed to be alert and especially careful. We had already heard howling wolves close-by the shoreline during the night, this was wild wilderness and we certainly needed our wits about us to be safe. Sensibly, Braden was armed with both his hunting rifle and his heavy duty bear-stopper pistol that he proudly showed off whenever he had the opportunity. In the shoreline group, all three carried weapons of some description. We ourselves were more ridiculous in our grizzly bear and wolf protection – we had bear spray, a rather too high-pitched whistle and a dubious Chinese-made taser that we had purchased for fifty bucks in the bar of the Icy Straits Lodge back in Hoonah, none of which were proven to be of any use against grizzlies or anything else for that matter. But, you see, we are proudly English and therefore have no concept of deadly weapons whatsoever.
Of course, we found nothing. Over the years there had been a number of comprehensive searches both for aircraft wreckage and for the propagators of the supposed emergency call. We were not the first to be in Deep Sound. No survivors or indeed any signs of survivors had ever been found, the only somewhat dubious evidence ever presented was the sighting of the ghostly airman by the two Tlingit kayak fishermen a number of years previously, but you must remember that the Tlingit themselves see ghosts everywhere, seeing and believing in ghosts is part of their culture and it would perhaps be more surprising if they had not seen ghosts in Deep Sound. Such are the beliefs of the first-nation people who are undoubtedly more in touch with the spiritual world than we consumer-driven westerners will ever be. Nevertheless, we ourselves carried out our own searches in a quite determined fashion because we had that motivation to do so considering what we had beeen put through. Even so, we turned up nothing.
That night we once more warmed ourselves around Yankee Maid’s hot stove. We drank more rum and whisky and listened to the howling nighttime wolves prowling along the nearby shoreline. We again pressed Bill about the classified radio project and the level of his involvement, at first he said not much but the more we plied him with neat rum the more we loosened his tongue. That’s how we found out that he knew much more than he really wanted us to know. It was way past midnight before he began to tell us things that made us sit there in stunned silence, our wild bug-eyes almost bulging out of our red alcohol fuelled sockets the more he revealed. I cannot remember everything he said and neither will I lie to you, my own alcohol consumption that night precludes me from giving you exact details because I only remember certain facts, the ones that made such an indelible impression.
The secret radio project was cancelled, because the new technology was deemed too dangerous and did not deliver the long-range communication transmissions that was expected from a high-speed flying aircraft. Alarmingly, we learned that all three aircraft used in the experiment crashed and disappeared, not just Lazy Daisy and her crew. We also learned that Bill Bishop himself was a senior technician on the project and that is how he came to own the sole piece of radio equipment remaining from the experiment – because he stole it. But Bill had never given up his absolute conviction that the project had indeed been successful in some unexpected ways – the experiment had undoubtedly delivered results but not the expected outcome desired by the powers that be. Bill’s final task then had been to investigate the possible causes for the three mysterious aircraft disappearances, and after three years of research he had concluded that something strange seemed to occur when the radio operator operated the DPT power-boost switch – but only when certain transmit and receive frequencies were dialled into the transmitting radio-set. When Bill reported his suspicions the project was quickly closed down and became highly classified at the instigation of the US military. That was why Bill had questioned myself and Henry back in Hoonah about which radio frequency we had used, the exact settings on our SSB set when we had received the distress call down in the Peril Strait. Before we retired to our bunks that boozy night aboard Alaskan Maid, we resolved to search again the next day – even though Bill was adamant that, in his opinion, we would again find nothing unless we tried to contact the mysterious caller. Bill Bishop reckoned that this was the only way.
You must remember that, at this stage, nine of us there onboard Yankee Maid still believed that we were being duped or tricked, only Bill himself was convinced that something unnatural had occurred which was related to the loss of the B17 aircraft. The only doubts we ourselves had were those linked to the sudden appearance of the dreadful whirlpool, the awful disaster that lead to the horrific destruction of Scott’s Icy Queen. This was unexplainable on almost every level and caused us indescribable anguish – but how could this latest catastrophe be related to the flicking of a simple switch on a seventy-five year old radio? Well, an altogether logical explanation exists that aspires to debunk any wild unnatural theories relating to the radio set itself – and erroneously suggests that no supernatural powers were ever involved.
You will no doubt recall that the very question of the destructive whirlpool was dealt with at length by the investigative enquiry. The formal enquiry did not hesitate to reveal that a significant undersea subterranean tremor was recorded over one hundred miles to the west of the Peril Strait, way out in the Pacific Gulf of Alaska which triggered numerous other similar incidents to that which occured at the entrance to Deep Sound. So the savage whirlpool that destroyed us was purely an act of God – and the fact that the recorded time of the earthquake tremor coincided almost to the exact minute of the chaotic abyss that nearly killed us clearly suggests there is a definitive link to what happened. But the earthquake scenario does not satisfactorily explain everything, it does not rationalise the subtle atmospheric disturbance that also occurred when Marie flicked the DPT switch, nor the change in static interference that we distinctly heard on Bill’s radio. Please do not be lured into any false sense of security, without any shadow of doubt there was a geological upheaval recorded by the scientists who always profess to know what they are doing, that is their job and I do not possess the scientific knowledge to dispute their conclusions though there is much to be said about their conceited smugness and general haughtiness. Therefore I cannot dispute that huge unimaginable forces were released by the tremors which ultimately resulted in the tragic loss of Icy Queen. But for you to understand everything that then happened the day following our initial search in Deep Sound, you must in the broadest sense disregard the enquiry’s findings, you must not be fooled by any natural inclinations you might have to accept the formal conclusions proffered by the so called geological experts. Right now, I will ask you one simple question that was never asked at the official enquiry – exactly what did trigger the unbelievably complex forces that caused the series of destructive subterranean tremors that shook Alaska?
In the afternoon of the next day we found the wreckage of the B17 Lazy Daisy. How we found the tangled mass of the aircraft buried deep in the forest with the sad remains of its crew still onboard, is irrefutably controversial – there will never be any doubts about that. You know, it quickly became apparent the next morning that we would never locate the wreckage, nor would we find whoever it was who transmitted the emergency messages. In the end it was Scott who finally suggested that we listened in on Bill’s radio, that we should perhaps make one last attempt to talk with the caller. By now all of us were approaching both physical and mental exhaustion, there was not much left in terms of energy or the will to keep going. Switching on the radio and tuning in to the frequency seemed to be our last desperate hope before we simply gave up – and furthermore we would need to conserve some of our strength and enthusiasm to make a desperate attempt to salvage Icy Queen. So it was an easy decision to acquiesce to Bill’s eager bickering to finally resort to his radio. We returned to Yankee Maid then brewed steaming hot coffee, whilst each and every one of us sat around Marie as she made the call.
’Lazy Daisy, Lazy Daisy, Lazy Daisy. This is the fishing vessel Yankee Maid, do you receive me?’
This time Marie dispensed with the usual radio formalities, she made an attempt to be more direct in her communication and, this time, it was ourselves that now instigated contact. Perhaps Marie gave no thought to the fact that, in essence, she was endeavouring to make a direct radio call to an aircraft that disappeared seventy-five years previously. The ludicrousness of the situation was not lost upon any of us but no one made any comment or even spoke, we were all silent as Marie repeated her call three times. There was no answer. There was only the usual static and background interference. Then Marie did what we were all waiting for nervously, she flicked the DPT switch to the downward ‘On’ position and repeated her call.
I wish you to believe that nothing happened. Here is where my story varies between fact and fiction, when for the sake of both your sanity and my own I have changed some of the details to protect both you and I and everyone else who survived our foolish venture into Deep Sound. Of course, there were no sudden whirlpools to tease our soundness of mind nor did death and destruction suddenly rain down upon us, but I tell you this, by the end of the day, two of us who stood there around the old radio onboard Yankee Maid had found cause to somehow disappear, we thought they might no longer be alive – at any rate not in this world.
There are two recorded transcripts of the radio call that Marie made. There is the voice recording that Henry once again taped, the version that was ultimately submitted to the investigative enquiry. But there also exists the unedited version, the one he recorded that catalogued everything that was actually said, the one in which we learned of the whereabouts of the wreckage of the world war two aircraft Lazy Daisy. Moreover, we learned far more than we ever bargained for, much more than we should have or even thought humanly possible. We learned much too much for our own good.
I myself listened to the radio conversation with considerable unease. I stepped out of the cabin and into the late evening coldness, straightaway I felt the invisible thread that pulled us ashore, a feeling that was not unlike being mesmerised by some powerful spell cast by some clever wizard who knew he had control of our mixed up minds, but who or what was it that now cast its web to ensnare us? We were being relentlessly drawn to the shore by the mysterious man calling on the radio, there was no doubt of that but for what reason? Why were we here in these nonsensical circumstances that had nearly cost us so dearly?
In the late midnight hour I leaned against the rail of Alaskan Maid and gazed out into the blackness beyond, seeing nothing in the dark moonless night except my own conscience shadow staring right back at me. I realised that what we had on our hands now was an almost unbelievable metaphysical experience, a merging of Bill’s wildly extreme theory with our own more logical explanation which was in itself on the cusp of bizarre. My own out-of-control fears were beginning to cause me increasing anxiety, I was dancing with delusional because what we were confronted with now was something I had no experience of, I had to accept that my whole logical world was being turned upside down, that the strange world of the paranormal might actually exist. But in the back of my mind came the intriguing thought that this unknown thing that confronted us might not be some strange power trying to destroy us, in my thoughts it gradually dawned upon me that somebody or something might genuinely need our help, that this supposed evil that was trying to kill us was not evil at all. The State Trooper and the Coastguard were right in their assessment that they should not send assistance into Deep Sound, they already knew there was nothing at all they could do. The mighty US government agencies could not be seen to take our ludicrous claims even remotely serious, they had been caught out before and could not officially acknowledge the existence of something they too could not even begin to explain – unless, of course, the military knew full well that classified documents existed that might well explain everything, in which case this whole wild goose-chase was a mad journey into oblivion. Without doubt it was much easier for the State Tropper to lay the blame at someone like me, a foreigner of no consequence who could take the rap for all the unbelievable madness that was about to happen.
Early the next morning Scott and Rigger Don lead us ashore, as resourceful skippers in their own right they now took control in the manner that true-born leaders do, especially when there is a grim job to be done that demands extra fortitude and resilience. We now knew exactly where to look for the downed aircraft but it was no easy task, and by god it was so hard going ripping our was through the virgin undergrowth where I’m certain that no man had ever trodden before. Rigger Don lead the way initially, with Braden bringing up the rear accompanied by Cousin Sasquatch, who were both armed to the teeth to protect us from the very real threat of bear attack. There were plenty of signs that both grizzlies and wolves were hereabouts in more than worrying numbers.
We eventually followed the wide shallow river that quickly turned into a more difficult narrow creek that twisted and tumbled down from somewhere high on close by Moores Mountain. The forest was by now way to thick to penetrate, following the creek was our only viable option so that we could quickly get ourselves inland. But when the shallow valley which we sought between the two high mountains came into view, when we stood atop the small mound where the second creek joined the fast flowing river course we had followed, we saw why no previous search party had ever found anything of the lost aircraft or signs of its crew. The second creek tumbled through the hidden valley before us and lead to what seemed to be a steep gulley, which would no doubt be obscured from the air by what appeared to be a thick impenetrable mist that hung around amongst the tree tops. We stared at the strangeness of the fog-like cloud that rolled down the gully, surely no artist could ever hope to capture this, this beguiling scene that lay there before us. It was here that we expected to find the wreckage of Lazy Daisy, now came the greatly endearing test as to whether we were being ruthlessly duped or not. It took a good two hours climbing over cold wet stoney rocks, occasionally wading upwards through the creek before finding the minutest semblance of bear tracks, which then lead through the exceptionally thick undergrowth and enabled us keep us going. By now I myself was utterly exhausted, as the second oldest in the party by some years it was an effort to keep my weary body moving, especially when the slope steepened upwards to some subliminal destination that we could not yet fathom. But the tension and excitement kept me going, though my natural inclination to be extremely wary of what we might find ahead drained my resolve somewhat, only Scott’s and Rigger Don’s incredible resolve kept me going. I soon started to fall to the back of the line though I could not find myself irretrievably behind Braden, who must remain in the rear as protection against the very real danger of bear attack.
Shouts from ahead soon indicated that we had found something. I was mightily relieved because I knew that I was almost at the end of my resolve. By now it was early evening and the light would soon fade, but we had enough camp gear with us to get through the night. It started to rain heavily, which only added to my general misery and the exhausting sense that my limbs were bound by giant shackles. The line, which by now had spread out a little too thinly, stopped, which allowed me to close up quickly until myself and Braden joined the whole group who stood around the tangled wreckage buried in the Deep Sound undergrowth. Straightaway I saw the grim skeletal remains of one crew member, still clad in his fading airforce sheepskin lined leather flying jacket that even now must have kept its uncaring occupant warm and dry in the early evening drizzle and mist. He must have been one of the pilots, because he sat with his skull hanging forward over the control wheel which meant that he had probably not survived the initial impact of the crash but, intriguingly, the seat immediately adjacent to him was empty.
Rigger Don called out and everyone turned in his direction. Don had clearly found the radio set which, presumably, was the one used to call out the emergency calls that had periodically been received during the last seventy-five years. Now we really were at the crux of the whole mystery, the absolute nuts and bolts of the incredible sequence of events that had drawn us here in the belief that we would get to the bottom of what the hell was happening. We all stood speechless and stunned, there was absolutely no shadow of doubt that this radio set had never been used for a good many years, even less so that it had been used only a few hours previously. It was rusting and sodden wet, wires and valves were hanging out where the main chassis had rusted through and there was clearly no power source. A series of wires lead back to somewhere in the main fuselage to what, I presume, was the original electrical connections to the aircraft generators but there was undoubtedly no way this radio could have been used at any point to transmit anything. Then I noticed forest growth growing out of the radio too. Certainly the radio had been moved from its original location inside the wrecked fuselage but by whom and when was not ascertainable. So the mystery only deepened.