Sing you of Juno, whose mother, Black Ops,
Fed swaddling stone to castrating Cronos?
Pap smeared night welkin’s ivory reminder
Our pomegranate majesty’s succor.
Lightning’s white armed sister, she of the mound;
Cow-eyed bride of thunder, she of the heights:
Great Juno – queen, sibling, virgin, wife – comes! (1)
I wrote Honour, Riches, Marriage-Blessing in honor of the then upcoming wedding of my daughter, Eve Aviva (née Summer) to Andrew Keefe. I nearly missed the nuptials when just a few weeks before the ceremony my wife and I were lost in a wave-tossed sea.
In Shakespeare’s wave-tossed The Tempest, the marriage of Ferdinand to Miranda is preceded by the appearance of three Roman goddesses: Iris, Ceres, and Juno. The play’s denouement is suspended when Iris must convince Ceres to participate by promising her that Venus will not be in attendance. Ceres relates the rationale for her disdain for Venus, which stems from Venus’ son Cupid having been instrumental in causing Ceres’ daughter to become Pluto’s bride, a horrible thing for all of us, as it caused Ceres to bring winter to the Earth (2) and Iris commiserates. Then the queen of the gods, Juno, arrives; and the ladies bless the union of Miranda and Ferdinand.
As I neared completion of my epithalamion for Eve and Andy, my daughter happened to visit my basement studio and saw the sketches for the music on my composing table. She immediately chastised me, saying I had no business writing this trio, as I should be working on other music. Though it ruined the surprise I intended it to be, I explained that the music was a gift to her and her betrothed. At this discovery, Eve withdrew her objections to my setting the trio. Not long thereafter, subsequent to her wedding, Eve and I embarked on a treacherous journey of father/daughter collaboration: the creation of the chamber opera, The Tempest. Eve not only constructed the libretto but also commanded the vessel of the opera, directing me in regard such details as the precise lengths of arias and scenes, the number of instruments I could employ: thirteen, in the fashion of Britten; not one more. “I need a bassoon,” I’d plead, and she’d reply that I could indeed have one, so long as I’d divest the ensemble of the trombone or horn. The chamber opera was to be precisely two hours long, she demanded. I worked with her timings as instructed, but I couldn’t reduce the goddesses trio from the twenty-two minutes it demanded of me to the eight minutes Eve correctly estimated was appropriate for the opera. In the end, I failed. Act one turned out to be an hour long and act two: one and a quarter hours. In way of apology I sent Eve a photo of Charles Edward Perugini’s oil painting, A Summer Shower, with the caption: “Ceres, Iris, and Juno shelter under a bough while contemplating the cruelty of Summer’s suggestion that they be dropped from The Tempest. ‘I was bluffing,’ the composer asserts, praying the ladies won’t abandon him as he continues to seek their guidance in the basement composition studio.” In my Tempest opera, the goddesses trio, Honour, Riches, Marriage-Blessing, is thirty seconds shorter than the version presented here; a few musical changes, not revisions, but rather: alternatives.
The opera itself would never have been finished had my wife and I perished during our misadventure in the Indian Ocean. While we swam, for hours, in the ocean, some of my thoughts – those not focused on survival – drifted back to my basement studio, and my daughter Eve, surprising me while I was writing the goddesses trio. Her wedding was but a month in the future, and though I was not desperate about my own life, I was distraught about the effect my death would have upon the three women who were the foci of my life: my wife, my daughter, and my mother. Of my wife, I felt that if I died before bringing her safely to the distant shore, then she would suffer the dual tragedy of watching my life end, followed by her own demise. I worried that my mother would not long survive my death, and I felt great sadness for my daughter who would be so hurt by mine and her mother’s death, compounded by it occurring a few weeks before her marriage. Though I was at peace with the idea of my ceasing to be, the timing felt wrong, at least by a couple months. As the hours passed and Lisa and I swam towards what would eventually be our salvation, I heard in my head the music from Honour, Riches, Marriage-Blessing as well as – somewhat amusingly to me, even at the time – another work of mine written more than a decade previously: Full Fathom Five, a duet for mezzo-soprano and tenor accompanied by piano. The lines were too apt.
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.”
As music I had written based on texts from The Tempest floated in my mind, my wife was also listening in her own head. Later, while we recovered from our injuries, Lisa told me how she had been listening as well to imagined music. What she heard were Elis Regina and Tom Jobim singing Aguas de Março (Waters of March) from their exquisite 1974 recording with the splendidly out of tune piano. (Lisa and I enjoy the popular music of Brazil. I lived there for too brief a time during 1975.)
The tale of our near-fatal sojourn in South Lombok is long. I wrote it immediately after Lisa and I had found our way to Senggigi following our hurried flight from an execrable clinic in Sekotong. I wanted to capture the exact details as best I could, before they could become altered by the vagaries of time and memory. The real story of our being set adrift and finding ourselves alone on the hostile shore of a desert island differs immensely from the one the one published by the Jakarta Globe. (3)
My family is familiar with desert islands, and not so deserted islands. I first began setting Shakespeare on an island in the early nineties when my wife Lisa, our daughter Eve, and myself, were banished from the state of Tennessee to commence a simple existence in close quarters in the Caribbean. The three women who rule over me: my wife, daughter, and mother; now lived with me under the same roof. Lacking piano or space for my voluminous opera sketches I began to work on chamber music based on texts by Shakespeare, the complete Shakespeare being, naturally, one of the few “desert island books” I brought with me from our quondam residence in Tennessee.
An attorney at law in the Virgin Islands, Ethel Mitchell, was kind enough to allow me to visit her home on occasion where I could play piano and contemplate the state of my affairs. It was there that I wrote Sonnet CXXVII: In The Old Age Black Was Not Counted Fair which I dedicated to Attorney Mitchell for her kind offices, literal and figurative. This sonnet, one of the first of Shakespeare’s I set, seems to me to be unique in its verbal violence, a veritable assault upon the reader. It begins with a clever rhetorical device, proclaiming untrue an unproven and unquestioned prior argument (“In the old age black was not counted fair, Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name”) then pronouncing its opposite true: “But now is black beauty's successive heir, And beauty slandered with a bastard shame.” Unsatisfied to merely defend his dark mistress’ beauty, the bard eschews the immortality conferring poet’s conceit, and chooses, instead, to hurl invective at his paramour’s fellow ladies-in-waiting, finishing his sonnet with a cruel presumption that his mistress’ acquaintances are universally acknowledged as inferior in beauty, having been born so ugly that their very looks profane true beauty.
In 1994, while still becalmed in the Virgin islands, I thought back on the concept of seasons, seasons that didn’t exist where we then lived, seasons which used to play across the face of my daughter as she gathered flowers in our yard while I watched from my composing desk oblivious to the coming storm which the state of Tennessee was to unleash upon us. I wrote Sonnet XVIII: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day where there is no season but summer; an ironic reminiscence of the halcyon days of recent memory. Truly one of the bard’s most memorable lines, the sonnet’s first words invite the reader to accept the transmogrification of a woman into time. I can’t think of a more arresting and unexpected metaphor for feminine divinity. Though I could never hope to replicate the breathtaking metamorphosis Shakespeare dares in the first line, I try to echo it in the last moments of the poem when I ask the first violinist to stealthily abduct the long F natural of the vocalist as she fades away on the word thee. If I have done my job, the voice should appear to transmute to violin as if by an ancient but authentic alchemy.
Thoughts of the divine female held sway over all other thoughts while we dwelt in the doldrums of the Virgin Islands, perhaps because it was a threatened male hegemony over women that had precipitated our banishment there. Lisa Summer, an eminent and respected music therapist, a tenured professor at a Tennessee state university had raised a question to the administration of her school: why did she receive a 1% raise with a rating of 10 from her division’s chairman while a man with a rating of 4 (!) received a 7% raise? In a thrice, Lisa, and our little family, were under assault by the state attorneys general of Tennessee, because Lisa hadn’t found a single anomaly but had revealed the tip of an enormous discriminatory iceberg. The ship of state was imperiled, threatened by the possibility of a glacier of lawsuits and reparations from women professors in all the state universities. Rather than ameliorate the discriminatory salary, Lisa was attacked by the university and the state government; and I was even physically assaulted by a state policeman, during legal proceedings. (State police were assigned to follow me for six months, simply harassment, for which the state was made to pay later.) As the conflict heated up, we were advised by lawyers to get out of town before the escalating attacks by the state could become even more physically perilous. Eventually, we would end our exile triumphantly, and return to the continental United States, adequately compensated for our travails, by the humbled and humiliated state of Tennessee.
We never thought we would triumph. Our few belongings in storage in the Yankee north, we fled, penniless, to that tropical isle – bought by the United States from Denmark in 1917 for a pittance – and I turned my musical focus from the stories of Boccaccio to the poetry of Shakespeare. Oddly, on this island far from symphony halls, there resided two French hornists of notable skill (Zora Galvin, former first horn in the Hawaii Symphony; and John Cahill, formerly of the New Jersey and Toronto Symphonies). Lisa and I, French hornists as well, joined them in musical collaboration, and played horn quartets together surrounded by the sussurant serenade of coqui frogs. I hadn’t played horn in years, having ceased playing while in Tennessee; but now I found enjoyment again in my primary instrument and thought I should write a Shakespeare song that incorporated the instrument. To create a unique sound combination for a setting of Gallop Apace You Fiery-Footed Steeds, I chose harpsichord rather than piano as the foundation. The horn, naturally, represents the missing and longed-for Romeo and is present throughout the aria until the end, when Juliet ceases to imagine her husband, and instead ponders her loneliness. “So tedious is this day,” she complains, “As is the night before some festival to an impatient child. . .” Juliet is a child, and when I contemplated setting these lines I thought of how my daughter viewed time when she was anxious. I wanted to reflect the awful tedium musically, which is a perilous task: realizing the idea of tedium without actually being tedious. My solution was to drop the horn, (as thinking about Romeo isn’t tedious to Juliet) and attempt to capture the feeling of suspension by reiterating a simple chord (G flat major) in second inversion (4), almost to the point of boredom. I hope it sounds irritating, an uneasy limbo.
Juliet might well be the most divine goddess Shakespeare ever invented. My daughter, Eve, would eventually make her acting debut (not counting her role as the boy in Much Ado About Nothing when she was yet to turn eight) on stage as Juliet.
Though Juliet is the brightest star in the firmament of Shakespeare’s pantheon of divas, the greatest metaphor concerning love is mouthed by Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night, about Olivia of Illyria. My setting of If Music Be The Food of Love puts the words in the mouths of the duke and his retinue in the form of a double fughetta, an aloof little flight of phlegm following a hunt. The score calls for four natural horns that act as nothing more than they would have naturally during an actual hunt during Shakespeare’s life. The natural horn can only produce a limited number of pitches (natural harmonics above a fundamental, determined by the length of the pipe) unless the player uses his hand in the bell of the instrument to alter the length of his instrument. Hunting horns, though, would not utilize such a technique, and I refrain from doing so as well, with the single exception of one brief passage in which the hornists press their hands into the bell, which I employed only to describe the moment of death for the hart, the “mort.”
When one of the duke’s retinue answers Orsino’s query about Olivia I crafted a short duet, so that Valentine (a mezzo-soprano, typical of a trousers role) sings his answer, quoting Olivia’s handmaid, while the soprano mirrors Valentine in the voice of Olivia (as interpreted to Valentine through the intermediary of the handmaid.) I chose this realization to reflect the exaggerated decorum that preserves a reserved distance between Olivia and Orsino. The duke loves Olivia, in an apathetic way. He expresses ardor by sending his servant Valentine to inquire of Olivia through her servant. The distance between Olivia and Orsino is what drives the plot and allows for Orsino to be deprived of Olivia’s love, a deprivation that hardly bothers him when he learns he is rejected. The lack of real passion for Olivia by Orsino is why I chose to set his declaration of love coldly, with a stiff and intellectual fugue, rather than with passion. Despite speaking eloquently of love, Orsino is more interested in making puns about hunting. For this reason I put the passion into the hunt: the horns; and not Orsino’s lukewarm desire for Olivia. When Orsino does become excited; he’s speaking of hounds “That instant was I turn'd into a hart; And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, E'er since pursue me.” Likewise, I mean for the passage in which Valentine relates Olivia’s response to Orsino’s decorous pleas to sound as taciturn and reticent as written. Had I set the opening poem of Twelfth Night without reflecting on the characters, perhaps I would have written a mawkish love song (and I have written my share of mawkish love songs, proudly) but I intended If Music Be The Food of Love to be as free of cathexis as possible, except when it relates with great fervor to killing deer.
There is an intriguing parallel between Twelfth Night and The Tempest. Both plays have plots predicated upon a ship being lost at sea, the inhabitants of the vessels separated by circumstance, unaware of whether or not their fellow travelers have survived. Before Viola disguises herself as a man and wins the heart of Orsino, she and her brother become separated by a tempest. Her brother, whom she believes dead, will eventually return and marry Olivia. In the second scene of Twelfth Night, Viola, fresh from her rescue from drowning says “And what should I do in Illyria? My brother he is in Elysium. Perchance he is not drown’d.—What think you, sailors?” The Merchant of Venice also requires a ship lost at sea to initiate its plot. When I was a child, seven years old, I began writing music, ineptly, but blissfully. My first work was an opera. I scored it for French horn – which I had just begun playing – and piano. I had never had piano lessons, so the piano part was even more jejune than the horn part. I neglected to write for anfy vocalists, a huge mistake when crafting an opera, but that didn’t disturb me enough to ameliorate the lacuna. I did have a story in mind, and characters; though lacking a libretto the opera’s plot will remain a vague memory: a young man is aboard a vessel which capsizes in a storm, he sinks and discovers a fabulous undersea kingdom, but then discovers he is drowning, caught in the bowels of the ship. He had only imagined the submerged realm. Though the details of the story I cannot recollect, I did preserve the music of this juvenilia, which I titled: The Ship of Doom.
I’d not read any Shakespeare yet, when I inked The Ship of Doom, and thus I knew nothing of Twelfth Night or The Tempest, but perhaps maritime misadventures are a common preoccupation of creative artists. Even Hamlet includes a doomed ship, and pirates, though the drowning story line takes place in a placid pool, not an unruly sea. Upon Ophelia, Shakespeare has conferred the immortality of a goddess. In Hamlet, her death is related by Gertrude, in a reserved and dispassionate way, as if Gertrude has stepped outside of the play itself to inform us of Ophelia’s demise. When I wrote my opera, Hamlet, I couldn’t reconcile myself with what I perceived as a peculiar out-of-character monologue by Gertrude about Ophelia, spoken in front of Ophelia’s brother, and removed the speech from this moment in the play. I placed the soliloquy outside the boundaries of the drama, in the midst of an orchestral interlude, and sung by the Player Queen, rather than Gertrude. This recording contains the original version (for a mezzo-soprano Gertrude sans obbligato harp), with piano accompaniment, written three years before I composed the opera Hamlet, in which Gertrude is a soprano.
Ophelia’s death may be a suicide, or may not be. It’s debatable. Nowhere in the description of her drowning is there any evidence that she intentionally killed herself. She is clearly non compos mentis. Hers is a death by misadventure.
On July 26th 2012 I wrote down a narrative containing a summary of my own misadventure, which nearly ended in my and my wife’s death by drowning. The incident began on July 21st at the “Magnet,” a dive site off the southern coast of Lombok in Indonesia. My wife and I are seasoned divers with more than five hundred dives each in Southeast Asia alone (including the Komodo Islands, Sulawesi, Banda Acceh, Sipadan, Bali, the Maldives, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Borneo, the Philippines, and more.) In the following ten chapters I have substituted the names of various individuals with their vocations. (5)
Following a meal of nasi goreng at 8 AM on our first morning at Blongas Bay Resort on July 21st, 2012; our dive guide arrived. We went to the beach and received our briefing on the Magnet, a dive site located outside Blongas Bay in South West Lombok. The Magnet was a site at which we hoped to catch a glimpse of hammerhead sharks. Our little band consisted of the guide, the captain, a crewman; my wife Lisa and myself. For our first dive in Blongas, Lisa was wearing a 7mm wet suit borrowed from the guide. The guide was wearing two wet suits; and I had on my 3mm “shortie,” a partial wetsuit that provides a minimum of warmth, but which is suitable for most tropical conditions. The guide had assured me the water temperature would be no less than twenty-four degrees Centigrade, so my shortie would suffice for dives less than two hours in duration. We all took hoods. I wasn’t planning to wear mine, but as Lisa and the guide were, I decided I’d wear mine as well. Lisa had never worn a 7mm suit before, so she asked the guide how much weight she should wear. He asked how much she normally took with her 3mm suit and she replied “Three and a half kilos.” The guide said he’d add a half kilo for an even four K. I would wear my usual six and a half K on a simple weight belt. A few minutes after Nine O’clock we left the resort on a small speed boat and headed to the Magnet. The guide told us we would perform a negative entry, descending rapidly to ten meters, prior to our deeper descent to about twenty-four meters. After that, the depth would be determined by sundry factors, including the presence of hammerheads. “Easy dive,” he smiled. (Not to sound oracular, but I didn’t think a dive at the Magnet would be easy, based on our failed attempts to even reach the site four years previously with the dive company’s Owner/Operator, as our dive guide.)
At around Ten AM we all did a simultaneous back roll into a negative entry. Lisa, however, did not sink immediately to ten meters, so The guide and I waited at ten meters for her to descend. (In retrospect, Lisa’s failure to complete the negative entry was most likely due to inadequate weight.) Due to her delayed descent, it seemed to me we missed our opportunity to descend to the reef at the correct location. The guide apparently concluded the same, and shortly thereafter gave us a thumbs up, indicating we were to ascend, aborting the dive. Lisa and I agreed, but before we could begin the ascent, the guide spotted reef, and signaled us to descend, leading the way. We followed him briefly, but all three of us were immediately overwhelmed by a powerful current, more powerful than most I can recall. Within seconds we were all pulled downwards violently. The guide yelled loudly, audible even underwater, as Lisa and I swam to the reef and took hold. I glanced at the dive computer I wore on my left wrist. We were at thirty-five meters. Clinging to the coral was keeping us from descending deeper. Because of the treacherous conditions I signaled to Lisa that I wanted to ascend slowly, holding onto the reef. My intention, which I knew Lisa understood, as we had been in similar situations on a few dives, was to ascend along the reef until the current was weak enough to allow us complete control, or barring that, to crawl up to a safety stop and then surface. But the guide came over to me and pulled me off the reef, barking “No” through his regulator. As he was familiar with the site, I did not resist. Lisa followed me and we were instantaneously swept deeper (to forty-three meters) in the blink of an eye. The guide yelled again, as we descended, and grabbed me; then unhitched my weight belt. I started to ascend – too fast for our depth – and pointed my body downwards and kicked as hard as I could so as to delay what was otherwise an uncontrolled ascent. The guide joined Lisa, and I signaled to her to buddy up with him. I didn’t want her to risk life or injury following me up at a perilous rate. She and the guide ascended gradually as I continued to rise at a dangerous and potentially fatal rate. I thought that it was likely that I was going to die (due to an air embolism,) but felt no pain. Unable to terminate my ascent I found myself one body length from the surface, head down; watching as the guide and Lisa took a three minute safety stop at five meters. The guide launched his surface marker buoy (SMB) and I hung around the orange sausage at the surface, relieved to see that Lisa seemed fine, though she was looking up at me worriedly. I hadn’t yet looked at my computer since the uncontrolled ascent (because, as there wasn’t anything more I could do to slow my ascent than what I did, I had no desire to watch my computer regale me with news of my imminent demise) so I was relieved to see when I did look now that none of my warning indications were showing. I believe I was okay because of the brevity of the dive. It’s not an ascent I’d like to repeat, but I wasn’t – apparently – suffering from the bends and somehow, my downward finning had been good enough to prevent a fatal embolism. After their safety stop, Lisa and the guide rose to the surface. The guide was upset and apologetic. Lisa had a nose bleed, and I inquired as to whether she was alright; She said she was. I told her her nose was bleeding, and she replied that mine was as well.
Our aborted dive over at 10:15, we now looked for the boat. They probably wouldn’t be expecting us so early. We should have been at least forty minutes on this particular dive. It was not surprising when the boat did not immediately pick us up. However, after about ten minutes of floating in the choppy water, we began speculating about the boat’s absence. I unrolled my SMB and inflated it. The waves were very tall, from crest to trough they were easily three meters on average. Not savage, just big. The guide had his sausage up and was agitating it – I guess so he could make apparent his annoyance with the dilatoriness of the boat. On my part, I thought it a waste of time to hold my SMB aloft except when at the crest of a wave, a practice I would continue for a long time. The guide suggested we shouldn’t worry if we didn’t see our boat for a while because our dive was so much shorter than expected. I asked him whether he felt it would be advisable to swim towards the above-water pinnacle at the Magnet site from which we were rapidly drifting away or toward the nearest shore (an island which I believe is Gili Sarang Burung.) The above-water pinnacle at the Magnet was marked by a structure that looked like a jungle gym version of a lighthouse, a lighthouse outline made of white rods. The guide said no, we should just swim on our backs with the current, slowly. Swimming with the current made no sense to me at all. I didn’t understand his strategy. Why swim at all if we were going with the current? We could just float and expend no energy. I expressed my confusion as to this strategy, but the guide repeated it, confidently.
None of us were talking much, but I was thinking that the boat was not going to come for us. I had no reason for this feeling. I’d been adrift for a couple minutes on several dives, and abandoned by boats twice (both times resulting in my swimming to a near shore, however these were easy swims in placid waters) but I had a feeling that as we drifted west-north-west, the boat was looking for us north-east of the pinnacle. Oddly, Lisa had the same exact feelings (as she remarked later; though she wouldn’t have been thinking about directions.) I remained puzzled by the guide’s strategy but didn’t raise serious objection. After all, I thought, putting away my unreasonable (though accurate) feeling that the boat had abandoned us, the guide knew the procedures and ocean here. I was a stranger.
The jungle gym lighthouse was growing further away. Neither Lisa nor I had even seen the boat. I don’t think the guide saw it. He never said he did, while we were adrift. I started voicing again my opinions in favor of swimming against the current either to the pinnacle or shore. The guide stuck with his opinion. After about an hour adrift, the guide instructed Lisa to release her weight belt. He released his as well. We tied ourselves together with tethers from our SMBs.
The waves continued to roll grandly, and I began feeling nauseous. At an hour and fifteen minutes adrift I threw up violently. Time passed and the waves continued. I threw up again after another twenty. I began to feel cold, as well. I realized that my vomiting was bad news, that because I was vomiting I was losing fluids, and I could eventually become hypothermic.
Lisa screamed in great pain, hurling something from her. The object landed on my right wrist, a Portuguese Man of War. The tentacles stung me as well, creating a pretty purple bracelet of delicate circles around my wrist. Though the venomous stings were extremely painful, they were clearly worst for Lisa who suffered from between five and ten separate attacks from the Portuguese Man of War siphonophores that floated so elegantly through our trio for the next quarter of an hour. I know the guide was assaulted, but I don’t know how many times. Lisa and the guide were wearing long wetsuits, so they were stung mostly on the hands and face. My arms and legs were exposed, but I was lucky and received only three stinging attacks from Portuguese Man of Wars. We were all also stung by numerous true jellyfish (though I’m not particularly bothered by the majority of jellyfish stings.) I later learned that Lisa’s hands swelled so much during the Portuguese Man of War attacks that she had to remove her wedding ring for fear of what would happen to her distending finger if she left it on. She placed the ring in one of the pockets of her BCD (buoyancy control device.)
During the course of four hours drifting with the guide I began losing confidence in his strategy of occasionally swimming against the current, occasionally swimming with. He suggested we not kick but rather “use your arms,” which seemed pointless to me as well. A number of occurrences also made me think it was time to think of a new strategy, (or, really: any strategy.) The guide was waving at birds on two occasions; once he came to me and said “I have a friend who was adrift for twelve hours” in a way I found disturbing, and on yet another occasion he queerly sidled up to me, and stage whispered, in confidence, as if to protect Lisa from this news, “we’re going to Nusa Penida.” These might have been attempts at humor, but they worried me. (The reference to Nusa Penida meant that we would float across the gulf between Lombok and Bali, eventually arriving – deceased, no doubt – off the coast of Bali’s Nusa Penida island.)
I vomited a third time. The guide rubbed my shoulders, arms and chest, aware that I was losing body heat as well as fluid. I felt then that time was not on my side. I did not trust that the guide could rescue my wife should I die from hypothermia, and determined to swim to shore. I enlisted the guide in this endeavor. I said we must swim face down, using air from our tanks, towards shore. We would drag Lisa between us. We began my plan. The guide spotted a half dozen small fish and started following them. I stopped our swim and asked him what he was doing. He replied, “following the fish.” I wasn’t sure what to think, was this some knowledge he had in regard choosing a direction towards shore through an opposing current, or was he delusional due to our extended exposure, or maybe even joking to keep our spirits up? After following this tiny school a few minutes, I had had enough. Also, the guide kept surfacing, not swimming face down. I asked why he wouldn’t swim face down and he said that his ankle was locked from a cramp, his leg numb, and that he “couldn’t feel it.” Lisa had been having leg cramps for an even longer time. Because I was doubtful I could survive to sunset under my present circumstances (dehydrated and beginning to experience occasional shivering) I decided then it was best to take my wife and head to the nearest shore immediately with or without the guide’s accompaniment. I told him I would now swim, pulling Lisa, to the north. I’m fairly certain that he understood. As I didn’t think he would or even could (due to his ankle cramp) accompany us, I handed him my functional SMB. Though I loathed to give it up, I thought it likely that the next leg of our journey would be a “do or die” scenario in which I would either successfully bring Lisa to shore or we would both die. The guide took my SMB, attached it to his SMB (6) and I began pulling Lisa towards the north, an area on Lombok that is northwest of Gili Sarang Burung.
I explained my strategy to Lisa before beginning the long swim north. She encouraged me to do so, exhorting me to “use your anger, which is your power” to accomplish the task. I estimated the swim to shore against prevailing current would take three to four hours. The time was 2:15 PM. I arranged the tether with which I was pulling Lisa to accommodate my plans for the swim, which would include an alternation of two techniques: the first and principal would be swimming face in the water utilizing the air left in the tanks and either dragging Lisa on her back or with her also facing forward and directly beside me when she was comfortable doing so; and the second would be swimming on my back with Lisa two meters behind. For the first twenty minutes the guide accompanied us, but he began drifting back and we no longer saw him thereafter on our swim. He seemed weak and I felt that I was abandoning him to die, which would later weigh on my mind, during our night in the jungle. At the time, though I felt some remorse, my overwhelming thought was to complete the task of bringing Lisa to shore expeditiously. Using my two swimming strategies, 90% the first, we progressed with agonizing slowness towards the distant shore. I kicked relentlessly. I managed direction by swimming parallel to the waves, head down, watching the planktonic detritus and jellyfish underwater to maintain direction, occasionally looking up to check my bearings based on three objects: a small island to the West and two prominent coastal rocks to the north (7). Despite her cramps, Lisa was able to participate in our struggle, swimming alongside me and holding my arm. Occasionally we would both swim on our backs, but this would result in our making no real progress towards our objective.
At 3:15 I said, with confidence, to Lisa, that we were going to make it to shore. I told her it would be another hour and a half. During the swim, I was not feeling cold, nor was I shivering. I assumed that physical exertion and adrenaline were keeping me warm and strong. We were headed to a point between the two coastal rocks, but the current was really strong away from that point on the shore and the funnel bay between the two rocks looked treacherous. A craggy outcropping to the West looked promising, and the current was towards it, however I was afraid that once we reached the outcropping, we might still not be at shore, and could be in a terrible situation. I told Lisa that I was unsure which was worse: an easy swim to the craggy rock with subsequent access to shore unknown, or a terrifying shore entry on waves three and four meters tall crashing on to a boulder strewn shore. Lisa was relaxed, serene even, and told me to choose. I chose the certain though ominous shore. It was the right choice, as later I could see the outcropping from our refuge, and it was nowhere near a passage to land.
The current ran strong against us, pushing back towards the open ocean. I said to Lisa that we “couldn’t catch a break,” that we had to make all our own opportunities. Coral below us for the first time since the Magnet, I still had to swim strongly to keep us from slipping back to the ocean. Finally at the funnel entrance, the danger of the entry was evident and terrifying. I thought that we might be able to survive with the fewest injuries if we were able to get to the shore on the western (left) side of the little bay. Positioning us next to a rock wall on the left (me closest to the rock, Lisa to my right) I told Lisa that it was time to surf a wave to shore.
We took a tall wave and surfed. I lost hold of the tether and hurtled towards shore, careening against the rock wall with my left arm. Coming out of the froth, I saw Lisa. She was a little to my right, not yet at shore, in the foam of the retreating wave. The tether that had held us together for hours had snapped and we were no longer connected, both being drawn back into the sea, away from our objective. She yelled that she had lost her mask and I told her to just take the next wave and get to shore. Another wave arrived and I was hurtling again, this time hitting the wall with the left side of my torso (which, though I didn’t know at the time, was the moment I cracked a rib.) I emerged and saw Lisa, still not at shore, and urged her again to take the next wave. We were being dragged back out with the retreating wave again, but we were making progress. The third wave came and I was able to control my progress with less beating against the rocks and wall. Lisa was at the shore. I said: “Release your BCD! Get up on shore.” Lisa was entangled in part of the remaining tether but managed to quickly disentangle herself and got to relative safety before the next wave struck. We were both knocked down by the tail end of the wave, but we were on shore, and out of immediate danger. (8)
The inhospitable shore was a collection of wet smooth rocks, mostly egg shaped, between three quarters and a foot in length. Between and beneath these rocks were smaller ones and unevenly spaced large boulders. No coral. No sand. It was difficult to walk on, as the rocks were smooth and thus would move around as you stepped on them. We gathered ourselves and perched on a boulder facing the sea and our rolling tanks. Lisa asked whether we should get our BCDs from the tanks but I said I didn’t want to risk even a minor injury for them, that they were not useful enough for the effort. But, she pointed out that hers had a torch in a pocket. I had two torches and a magnifying lens but I thought another torch might always prove useful and was worth a small risk. I waited until there was a space between waves and went to her tank, turned it so I could reach a BCD pocket and removed her magnifying lens and a torch; moved as quickly as I could back to safety before the next wave. It was time to assess our situation. (9)
It was 4:15. We had reached shore earlier than my previous guess and had a little time before sunset. I thought it highly unlikely that there would be any rescue tonight, because there hadn’t been a single boat in all of our hours at sea and I believed that all search attempts were being made, erroneously, to the east of the Magnet. Our refuge was a rocky beach slope bordered on one side by a tall boulder and the other by a rough rock wall. At the edge of the short beach was a jungle cliff.
After washing out my lacerations in sea-water, I needed to attend to food and water. Lisa was not in immediate danger of dehydration because she hadn’t vomited. I looked around for fruit, but the only thing on the beach was some odd large lumpy fruit which (after dislodging one from its tree) was mostly fibrous, and even that was astringent. I worried it might even deplete me of fluids, which is probably wrong-headed, but just sucking on the fibers seemed to dry out my mouth. And my mouth was parched as was I. I thought it best then to immediately begin replenishing myself with the abundant meat available from the abundant snails. I sat down with Lisa at a rock and started cracking open snails and eating them. These first snails I gathered were so small it wasn’t worth the effort to separate the foot from the guts. I’d just take a snail, place it on a flat rock surface, and break it open with another rock; separate what I could from the shell and eat. As I ate we talked about what we would do next. In my setting of The Tempest, I reflected on this time on our island during the scene in which Caliban explains to the castaways Trinculo and Stephano how to survive on his island. “I'll bring thee to clustering filberts and sometimes I'll get thee Young scamels from the rock.” Here I was, perched like a beast, scouring scamels – snails, of course – from the rock. Shakespearean scholars have long and fruitlessly speculated upon the word “scamels,” even concluding it refers to a kind of bird (which ex post facto has been so named) but now it is evident, scamels are snails; at least they are to me, and I will brook no argument against my conclusion. (10)
Digesting snails, I thought about our next steps for survival and rescue. We could hold out at the beach until sunset, but we needed to find a place to sleep. The best bet would be a dry creek bed that descended through the jungle down the cliff to the beach. In the morning we could return to the beach to wait for rescue. If no rescue appeared, we would climb the mountain to our backs and attempt to hike to civilization. I had my dive boots, but Lisa had used her old fins and so she had no way to walk around easily, much less climb a mountain. She scavenged some sandals that had drifted on to the beach with assorted other flotsam, and placed them inside her dive booties so she could walk a little. Thus accoutered, it was time to explore the creek bed.
The climb was fairly easy, even with the wrong footgear, for both of us. We went up about sixty vertical meters into the jungle, then returned down the stream bed and found a likely place to sleep, protected from the chilly sea spray by the jungle foliage; about fifteen meters above sea level. I was confident that we could ascend the mountain and reach the ridge, if I could accumulate enough foodstuffs for the journey. At the time, I was worried that the snails would not supply enough fluids to hydrate us adequately for long. We returned to the beach and scavenged some plastic bottles for later use and waited for a ship to pass by.
After sunset we climbed the cliff again, found a flat place to sleep, and cleared detritus to make our creek bed a place to sleep. I worried about losing opportunities to signal passing craft, but Lisa argued I should sleep so that I would have strength to continue our struggle the next day. As we’d seen not one vessel since jumping out of the dive boat, her argument was convincing. We talked for a few hours, mourned the guide’s death (though we would later learn he had survived,) and then tried to sleep. I began to shiver, uncontrollably. This and the pains I felt from my sundry lacerations combined with the discomfort of sleeping on the hard ground (there being no alternative other than rocks) and the constant biting of ants and insects, who seemed to savor my wounds; kept me awake. Lisa, a skilful therapist, worked to relax me. For hours I would enjoy brief moments of sleep between bouts of severe trembling. Outwardly, Lisa was relaxed and calming; guiding me through the tremors that wracked me, telling me not to fight them but rather to allow them to play themselves out. The periods of sleep began to outlast the shakes. At four in the morning of July 22nd, Lisa, still awake, watching me and the ocean, saw a light at sea. She woke me and I hurried down to the beach. I signaled with one of our torches “SOS” (three short, three long, three short bursts of light.) The boat slowly neared our location but didn’t respond to my repeated signaling. I thought the approach must be coincidental. I continued signaling, then used the torch to illuminate the rock wall above us, in the SOS pattern. The ship still ignored my signals and drifted out of sight behind the westernmost boulder that bounded our bay. I recalled that there was a small window of visibility at the end of the boulder (from reconnoitering earlier in the day,) and scrambled over the rocks towards that last vantage point. Arriving before the ship was visible, I waited anxiously. When the ship finally reemerged, I signaled SOS several times more. To my delight I saw the ship signal three flashes, only to continue on its course away from our harsh redoubt. Perhaps it would inform the Indonesian authorities of our locale. But I had my doubts. Their single three flash signal might have been nothing more than a friendly greeting (11).
While at this vantage point I noticed a bounty of large snails, and gathered many of them for Lisa and myself, placing them in one of the ubiquitous discarded plastic bottles that uglily colonize the world’s beaches. (In this case, I was grateful for the plastic refuse.) While harvesting the snails I spotted a couple gobies trapped in a tidal pool and successfully fished one out. It was the size of my largest finger, and I swallowed it whole and alive. Reflecting on my guddling later I would think of Caliban’s line “I'll fish for thee and get thee wood enough. A plague upon the tyrant that I serve!” Acknowledging to myself that the beach would provide sufficient food for an indefinite duration allowed me to emerge from the weight of a prevailing sentiment of exigency. As I clambered slowly back to our refuge I saw hundreds of sally lightfoot crabs (as we called them in the Virgin Islands) moulting on the rocks. They were paralyzed while their shells hardened, and I picked some up wondering whether we should eat these. I decided against it, only because I was unsure whether consuming this species of crabs raw might be problematic or emetic. In their immobility, the crabs seemed as if they grew on the rocks like scarlet orchids. When later I sat at my desk in my basement setting Caliban’s line, “prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow,” I marveled at the bard’s choice of words. Had he ever spent a night on a beach in the Mediterranean contemplating moulting crabs?
Better to stick with snails and fish, I thought as I held a transfixed yet transforming crustacean between my fingers. I returned to Lisa with the bounty of snails and we indulged in a late night meal. I showed her how to pull the guts off the snails, leaving the nutritious foot. Wouldn’t it have been right for me to quote Caliban to her then? “I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts; Show thee a jay's nest and instruct thee how To snare the nimble marmoset.” There were so many snails we had some left over and kept them in a bottle for later. I told Lisa she could try some “sushi” goby the next night if necessary. We returned to our bed and slept peacefully (if briefly) for the first time that night.
At about Six AM we got up, and headed down again to the beach. My thoughts were this: a search by boat would in all likelihood begin at daybreak, and if launched from Sepi bay, would be here before Eight. If not here, then the search party would have concluded, incorrectly, that we had drifted east, and therefore would waste time searching east forever. Therefore, I would use this time to gather a bottle full of snails. We would wait until half past Eight at the beach to signal boats. If none appeared, then we would ascend the creek bed to the ridge of the mountain and head east along the ridge until we could spot signs of civilization below the ridge. We would go only so far as half a bottle of snails would take us, so we could return to our sure food supply at the beach, unless on the way we found other food or water. Lisa was still relatively healthy, and if we didn’t push it, I believed the ascent to the ridge would take less than three hours. If we started around 9 we could make it before noon, giving us time to decide on whether to proceed further or retreat to the beach. Lisa fashioned a signal flag out of a branch, my mask, some more jetsam from the beach, and a Styrofoam rectangle that actually looked like a flag; while I gathered the largest snails I could. Once I had more than enough I returned to Lisa and we dined on the largest of the snails while looking out to sea (and guarding our captive snails, who with alarming speed managed to crawl out of the top of the bottle until we realized that they weren’t going to go down without a fight.) At three minutes after Eight AM we spotted a ship. We waved our arms, but it didn’t see us. Then less than five minutes later a boat from our Blongas Bay dive company came into view. They saw us immediately. “Why did we have to eat that last serving of snails,” I asked Lisa.
The boat made some feints at entering the bay, and I waved them off. I thought it absurd they’d even consider an entry. It was impossible. At best the boat would be smashed into a thousand shards and we’d be joined by more castaways. At worst, the ship would be shattered and those on board would perish. I opined to Lisa that maybe they were making a show of considering entering the bay as a way to make us aware they weren’t simply going to abandon us. After a few minutes of the boat zigging and zagging pointlessly outside the little bay it sailed out of sight to the east, then a few minutes later reappeared with fewer people aboard. Apparently they had dropped off some crewmembers to the east of our bay.
Someone, walking along a thin sliver of rock east of us, came into view. “It’s the captain,” Lisa said, “but he’s got nothing with him.” The captain, followed shortly by the crewman (the same two who had abandoned us the day before) approached our beach from above, along the rock wall, and in short shrift were upon us. They were astonished, it appeared, and relieved. The captain had, to our surprise and relief, a bottle of water. He handed it to me. It was one twelve ounce bottle. One. Twelve ounces. I was relieved and astonished. Relieved to have freshwater for the first time in 24 hours, but astonished at this miserly offering. I handed Lisa the bottle and warned her to have just a sip. After she took a very little, I too had a sip. Lisa asked why we should only have a sip. I responded that I didn’t know, but I thought one wasn’t supposed to drink greedily after a long stint without water.
Captain asked where the guide was, and we said we believed him dead, adrift to the west. Captain was upset, then said, “He was a bad dive guide.” I thought it a little soon to voice such animadversion, though I shared his opinion. He didn’t ask me what I thought of his own captaincy.
After a few more sips from the bottle, I asked what the plan was. “Helicopter?” Captain said no, we were going up the cliff. I said, “We should get a helicopter. We’re not well. And,” pointing to the twelve ounce bottle of water, “this isn’t going to last us long.”
“No worries,” said captain. “Just over the hill to the boat.”
I was amazed. It was hard to believe that it was so easy. But, they had managed to get to us in less than ten minutes from the east, so, though that path might not be negotiable west to east, it did seem possible that the boat was a short jaunt over the “hill.” And I wanted to believe it. Then again, captain and crewman were the same two who had failed to find us after a fifteen minute dive twenty-four hours ago.
A bright orange helicopter flew by. “Captain. There’s a rescue helicopter. Let’s signal it from the beach.”
Captain lied to me. He said: “No, the helicopter is searching at sea for the guide, towards Bali.” I didn’t know at the time this was a lie. The truth is this: the guide had eventually swum towards shore himself, arriving just after dark. He could barely move, scrounged some snails and ate them. He was actually at a bay less than a kilometer away from us (and east of us!). Later in the night, he crawled up his hill and found himself at a rude lean-to that had a bottle of water. He drank the water, and found his way back to a home. There he made contact with the homeowner while captain and crewman were on their way to us. Not only was the guide not the object of the helicopter search, he was on board the rescue helicopter directing their search to the beach he believed we were at. He thought we were there (correctly) because at Four-thirty AM, as he crawled up the mountain, he saw a passing squid boat and someone signaling the boat from a bay below. All of this I learned later when the guide came to us at the top of the mountain after he had failed to direct the search helicopter to us, thanks to the captain’s lie. If the captain hadn’t felt compelled (for what reason, I did not know (12) to lie, then both Lisa and myself would not have had to suffer an excruciating and pointless mountain climb without adequate water or nutrition. If he had simply said he didn’t know anything about the helicopter, I would have insisted that we remain on the beach so that the helicopter might extract us. Instead, I believed his lie, as I believed he was privy to rescue information, and so Lisa and I embarked on an horrific trek with captain and crewman “leading” us again into danger. I have limited comprehension of Bahasa Indonesia, but this was not a communication problem. Captain repeatedly lied about the helicopter (and later about water.) he may have had some reason in his mind to do so, but his lies hindered our rescue and severely aggravated my wife’s failing health.
Captain and crewman led us up the creek bed, the very one I was intending to ascend, for about thirty vertical meters, beginning at Eight-thirty. At thirty meters, they departed the creek bed path (for no reason I know) and we started heading northwest, to my confusion. I wanted to continue on the creek bed, but I imagined they knew what they were doing. I wish I had lent less credence to their expertise. We climbed arduously through the jungle without the benefit of paths (for more than two hours as it would turn out,) during which time we retraced routes. We came across the creek bed again (though higher) and eventually we did take a generally eastern direction after that strange initial turn to the west. My wife was becoming wearier and wearier. I informed captain we had to have more water before the bottle was empty. He said there was a stream ahead. I looked at him in disbelief. A stream? He pantomimed taking our single bottle and refilling it at the stream. “I'll show thee the best springs,” says Caliban to Trinculo and Stephano in Act II, scene 2; and here on our Summer Isle (13), our very own captain Caliban was promising us the same: a revivifying spring. I replied that we needed to head there straightaway. The hike continued, with the promise of fresh water buoying our spirits.
We were nearly out of water, drinking as sparingly as we could out of the twelve ounce bottle, after an hour and a half. I was checking fallen rotten logs for grubs (as I had left the jar of snails behind at the beach, when in the headiness of the moment I thought captain wasn’t concerned about a mere twelve ounces of water because he must know what he’s doing.) I informed captain we could go no further without water resupply. The helicopter would have to come. He lied again. He said that the helicopter has returned to Bali. Now his lie was senseless, and obvious. How could he know the helicopter was searching for the guide, but now it was headed home to Bali? Lisa inquired about the stream. I said, “there is no stream.” Lisa said that captain had said we were walking towards the stream. “He lied,” I said, “right, Captain?”
Captain nodded and said, “no stream.”
Without any alternative we pressed on. As if to highlight captain’s mendacity the helicopter flew overhead repeatedly, as we wandered beneath, obscured to its view by the foliage and captain’s lies. We came to a clearing. Lisa could go no further. I told captain and crewman we would wait here for the helicopter. Captain said there would be no helicopter. I said, “We can’t continue. You go to the boat and have them get us a helicopter.” Captain insisted that a helicopter couldn’t come. I replied that I didn’t care about his opinions. He was to go get water resupply and a helicopter. If a helicopter couldn’t land it could drop water and food. Captain just sat down. Crewman beckoned to me. He said that a helicopter could get us at the top of this particular crest, and that there would be food and shelter there. I said I didn’t believe him. He begged me to come. I said I would come, but not long. I told Lisa I would return. She didn’t want me to leave. I said I’d only go a little bit to check out whether crewman was lying too. Captain just sat beside Lisa in the shade next to the clearing.
I proceeded up the hill with crewman for a hundred-fifty meters or so, then angrily confronted him. “No, it’s more of the same. Lisa and I will wait in the clearing.” Crewman pleaded, but I refused. I returned to where Lisa and the captain sat, both looking doleful. In about five minutes crewman returned with a handful of cherry tomatoes. He was telling the truth, at least, about food. The four of us each ate a half dozen of the little tomatoes, then proceeded up the crest for about two hundred meters to discover a straw covered wooden lean-to, surrounded by abundant tomatoes, on the top of a clearing. I looked at crewman and captain and said, “Go, bring water, supplies. Go to the boat and summon the helicopter.” Captain wanted to argue some point, but I refused to listen. “Lisa isn’t walking another step. She’ll die. I’m not leaving her. Go and get a helicopter.” The captain then insisted that I go with him and crewman to the next bay, without Lisa; which suggestion I remarked as absurd. I wasn’t leaving Lisa.
After some conversation, captain said he would get a motorcycle and Lisa could ride down to some town. “How long on a motorcycle?” I asked. Captain said an hour. I said that was impossible and Lisa added that her hands were incapable of hanging on to anything as they were still bloated and painful from the Portuguese Man Of War stings (14). We explained that neither Lisa nor I were headed anywhere on a motorcycle, real or imagined; and the boat crew left us at the lean-to.
Lisa lay down under the shelter, next to a hard plank. I paused for a rest, too; but I wanted to find a way to signal the helicopter if it happened by again. Next to the lean-to was a banana tree. I lamented to Lisa that there were no bananas. I thought I could fashion a rescue flag from a banana leaf, so I began ripping at a large leaf (another time during this misadventure when I regretted not taking my scuba knife with me, an object I’ll never again think of as anything other than mandatory) and before I could dislodge it from the banana plant I heard an angry voice.
A wiry man, of about my age – so I gathered – angry with me for wrestling with his banana plant, was speaking with a violence in his voice and gesticulations that I’d never seen before (used by an Indonesian). I thought, “he sees me as some crazily garbed orang putih wreaking mayhem on his farm.” I approached him and tried to explain, with my severely limited Bahasa Indonesia, even more limited by my exhaustion, that I regretted assaulting his banana, but that I was trying to build a flag. I knew this was impossible to communicate, and indeed, when one thinks about it, no one in a helicopter is going to see a banana leaf flag. The whole flag attempt was stupid. Nothing I said seemed to placate the man. A child appeared, then another man of my age. This was great. All I needed to do was find a phone now. Lisa staggered out of the lean-to. The mountain man continued to berate me, but I thought he might be demanding I accompany him somewhere. I told Lisa I wanted to go with him. She said she didn’t want me to go. I argued that I thought he was trying to help but his communication skills lacked a certain grace. Lisa started to cry, and insisted I not go. I looked to the mountain man, and apologized, said, “ma’af,” and then handed him one of my dive torches. He looked insulted. I was trying to pay for the handful of tomatoes and a partially torn banana leaf with a seventy dollar flashlight that works underwater to a depth of one hundred-fifty meters; but I didn’t know whether he was insulted that I was offering the torch in exchange for hospitality or whether he was mad because he had no use for a scuba flashlight. (But he kept it.)
Then the helicopter appeared. I started waving my arms as the helicopter scouted the bay we had abandoned earlier. Lisa was out and waving as well. It made several passes below us. The mountain man and the other gentleman joined with us, waving at the flamboyantly colored helicopter, but the pilot was apparently focused on the shore line, where we would have been if not for the captain dragging us up the mountain. The helicopter flew off over the ocean.
I said, “tidur” to the mountain man, which I hoped he understood meant I was going to sleep. I went back to the lean-to while he continued to yell about I know not what, and closed my eyes. He kept yelling. I leaned out of the lean-to and said “Mobil, polisi. Call the polisi.” Then back under the shade. Lisa said she wanted me to have some straw to sleep on, and started pulling straw out of the lean-to roof. The man recommenced his complaints. I asked her to stop, that her destruction of the lean-to was provoking him.
“You need to sleep comfortably,” she said, continuing to pull straw.
“Really, I’m asking you to stop.”
“I don’t care, you need to rest. Shut up.” She made me a straw bed as the mountain man continued to hector us. It was a lot better than the creek bed, and soon I was asleep.
After this point, I’m not really sure about time until we reached the clinic (which had a clock above my palanquin.) Lisa and I slept. The mountain man was gone with the others. It was just Lisa and me. Subsequent events lack chronological order in my memory. I had been trying to keep track of time for a while, but I no longer cared. At some point, the mountain man returned with a bottle of water, and a pennant, which he erected as a flag next to the lean-to. He understood what I had been trying to do with the banana leaf, but it was now just a symbolic gesture. The crewman and captain returned, also with water, then the mountain man was there again and we were offered nasi-goreng in banana leaf. I couldn’t even eat a handful. Lisa was eating, I think, and had water. A man speaking excellent English arrived, introduced himself as Uzman, and said he had been unable to sleep, so worried had he been about us. Then he looked at Lisa and said: “I know you! Well, I know your wife’s face. You two have been here before.” I said we had been to Blongas four years previously, to dive the Magnet and he said, “Yes, I was your captain!”
“On the outrigger, when it broke apart in the ocean during our failed attempt to dive the Magnet?” He remembered well how on our last trip to the magnet his outrigger had broken, and in a cold, biting rain he had had to enter the ocean and strap two pieces of the outrigger together to facilitate our return. Uzman had been the captain, and the owner/operator of the dive company our guide on that failed but not catastrophic prior attempt to dive the Magnet. Uzman informed us that our guide was not missing, to our relief. Moments later the guide himself appeared at our lean-to. He was immensely relieved we were alive. He spoke with Lisa and then told her that he had been directing the helicopter search from on board the aircraft. Our guide had found the same lean-to we occupied, then the mountain man’s home. I had misunderstood entirely the mountain man’s frenzied speech, which I mistook for an angry diatribe. The mountain man was trying to tell me that he had already met our guide earlier in the day, and he wanted us to accompany him to his home. I suppose his tone of voice was just his way of expressing his excitement and frustration with my lack of comprehension. At some point during our guide’s reunion with us, orange jacketed policemen began appearing.
I learned there was one more hill to climb, about a kilometer worth, but on a path. I was asked by a man in an orange vest whether I could do it. I said I could but that Lisa couldn’t. That was evident. At some point I arrived at the mountain man’s home, and I was in an outdoor shack, partially enclosed. I removed my wetsuit and dive boots. My feet were a blistery mess. I spotted some plastic sandals and asked whether I could borrow them for the last part of my climb. After a rest, I followed a policeman (and sometimes led him) up seven hundred meters of steep pathway. Lisa was carried on the shoulders of various policemen, the guide, and then the mountain man himself, to the summit of this trail after me. As I arrived at a road there (and suddenly was assisted the last six feet as if I had become suddenly lame) there were more than a dozen orange-jacketed policemen and some people filming and/or photographing. (That explained the sudden helpfulness. Earlier on the seven hundred meter climb the policeman who accompanied me humorously egged me on, saying things like “come on,” and “not so slow.” This was all in good humor as he offered repeatedly to assist me and pointed out treacherous passages such as ledges with no edges.) The dive company’s owner/operator was there with chocolate candy and water. The chocolate was very welcoming. He informed me that after a ride down the hill, Lisa and I would be airlifted by helicopter to the hospital in Mataram. Lisa arrived and we were trundled into a police car to begin the next leg of our journey. We left behind an enormous truck filled with countless policemen.
The chief of police was our driver. We rode in the back behind him and his aide. In the bed of the truck behind us were some more police, as well as the guide. The chief explained that he, and his men, weren’t police. Rather, they were an anti-drug commando unit. He was taking us not to the hospital in Mataram but to his headquarters. We arrived at a military barracks where the chief had the tank filled (rocking the car back and forth as petrol was hosed in from a barrel) and then we were off again, arriving eventually at a clinic, in Sekotong. We may have arrived there around Five PM. Lisa and I walked into a room in which there were two gurneys. We each lay down, still in our bathing suits, on the vinyl palanquins, and were attended by a half dozen people. I’m not sure who was a doctor or nurse. There were three young women in white burqas, the kind with a loose attachment below the nose so they could choose to reveal their face at their discretion. They wore them loose, except when giggling, when they’d hold them up to cover their teeth while laughing. They may have been clerical aides? They didn’t attend to either of us. There was a woman with black wide rim glasses who did some things, one man in a t-shirt who was in charge of the IV, and a well-dressed man in his forties who had an air of authority and may have been an MD. I was covered in gauze by various attendants, the gauze wet with something, probably antiseptic. An IV unit was established for me. Lisa received scant attention for a long time. I don’t know whether this was cultural or whether the numerous lacerations I sported made me appear to be the one in most need. Nevertheless, this caused delays in Lisa’s treatment, and was irksome. My IV was in by around Five-thirty. Lisa needed to be treated for dehydration, but there was further inexplicable delay. Then, when there seemed no reason to delay any more, and I had begun voicing more and more concern, we were informed that an IV couldn’t be inserted until “after Ramadan,” which I took to mean until after the attending physician, whoever he was, had finished his Ramadan breakfast; but in reality, Lisa wasn’t fitted for an IV until more than an hour after sunset, so even if the doctor had to have his Ramadan breakfast immediately at sunset, there was no necessity for the lack of attention to Lisa. Sometime between Seven-thirty and Eight, she was fitted with an IV. The intention by the clinic’s staff was, I think, to have us stay overnight; but the conditions there were awful. I’ve been at clinics and hospitals in Indonesia in various locales, but this one troubled me. I went to the bathroom three times, utilizing two different bathrooms, and each was monstrously unsanitary. I’m not referring to some Western concept of sanitation, or Western toilets. In fact, the facilities were Western in regard the Western toilet apparatus. They were filthy, with detritus everywhere, and even excrement. I don’t know what that was about. I’m sure the people of Sekotong don’t want their hospital to be so poorly maintained. The lack of cleanliness was the secondary objection. The principal irritant was that we were both being placed on display like exhibits at a freak show. Our room was constantly filled with visiting gawkers, of all ages. With the limited attention my wife received from abundant personnel, one would think that someone could have said you can’t bring your friends and children in to visit patients, patients with open wounds. There was never a moment in five hours in that clinic during which strangers of all sorts weren’t in our room. I was awakened several times by children touching me. One woman, for what reason I don’t know, brought two of her children and stayed outside the room the whole five hours we were there, rushing in and out when she could. When I looked at her she spoke strangely and belligerently to me. I said, “What are you doing here?” and she hid her children behind her. The clinic was wildly chaotic at times. After Lisa had her IV in for some hours and had slept, I asked the guide, who was there at the time, to get us out of there. Shortly thereafter we were in a car, headed to Senggigi. We arrived near midnight at the Mascot Hotel. We got into a room and slept through the night. July 23rd was spent in slumber. On July 24th, we departed early in the morning for Teluk Kode where we boarded a boat for Padang Bai on Bali (via a transfer boat to Gili Trawangan and hence to Padang Bai with an unfortunate hour and a half delay mid-voyage when the boat ran out of fuel, exacerbated by the failure of one of the two engines to restart after the refeuling.) We debarked at the pier, amidst a gaggle of passengers complaining loudly and belligerently about the boat’s delay, and walked to the Hotel Kerti and again slept away the day. On July 25th, 2012 we left Padang Bai for Amed in North East Bali, to continue our recuperation. Lisa was still struggling with a number of post-trauma issues including severely burned lips and face, as well as her extremely painful abdominal muscle pain. My left arm sported a plethora of deep lacerations and abrasions, including one that resulted in a splendid scar which has been variously described as looking like a lobster or dragon. The cracked rib took time to heal but my injuries from the siphonophores and jellyfish healed rapidly. Lisa’s injuries, which seemed at first to be less severe, were much more debilitating, though impermanent, with one exception: part of her lip which was burned through exposure, is forever numb.
Ultimately, I felt great joy from the experience; victory over the wild elements of nature, and a powerful affirmation of my love for my wife. I would not choose to relive our misadventure, even knowing the outcome, but I am grateful for the triumph and affirmation I experienced. Lisa, too, shares delight in the revelations about the depth of our love; but is not quite as keen on the vanquishing of our natural nemeses. We have both returned to the sea and have continued to dive, though not at the Magnet, despite its prior attractiveness.
I was not interested in participating in an investigation following our recuperation. Part of the reason for our flight from Lombok was to avoid being part of a fault-finding procedure. An investigator from Lombok wanted to speak with us, and we received calls from the American embassy in Jakarta; but the Lombok authorities didn’t pursue the matter while we recovered in Bali, and I told the American embassy that there was no need for them to worry or inquire further. However, the dive company operator e-mailed me a request to summarize the incident and as I had already begun my memoir of the misadventure, I sent it to him when I was finished. In addition, I asked him seven questions, which he answered quite candidly. Here are my queries and his responses, unedited, as he wrote to me on July 27th 2012.
1: As Lisa was using a different, and much heavier wetsuit than ever before (The guide’s 7 mm full length) shouldn’t the guide have done a buoyancy check with this new equipment prior to attempting the Magnet dive (and a negative entry.)
2: Why remove Lisa and me from a manageable controlled ascent on the reef, and then remove my weight belt?
3: Once the guide removed my weight belt, he released me into an uncontrolled ascent from 43 meters. This could have proven deadly to me. Was there not a better alternative than his unilateral decision to remove my weight belt under the circumstances? Following his decision to remove my weight belt, should he have released me?
He answered my first three questions thus:
“The guide has proven to be a very good guide at Belongas Bay, as well as in handling unusual circumstances. Nevertheless, he’s not a western guide, so the concept of buoyancy check after changing equipment configuration surely he didn’t think about (to be honest I don’t really know too many local guides who do, unless are requested to do so by the diver).
“As he was also in the down current, and maybe due to his position in the current he most likely felt it in a manner where, I assume, he thought he was doing the right thing by removing you guys from the reef, but surely it was the wrong decision not to hold on to you after removing your weights. He did tell me he saw no real danger in this, as you guys had just started the dive. I don’t agree with this statement, as of course around 40m depth speaks for itself. Again I assume, after realizing the problem he decided to stay with Lisa, as he seen her as the one needing the immediate help.
“Experience shows that decisions made in situations like this often don’t have so much to do with experience and training, as unfortunately instinct starts to take over and one more reacts to the situation, vs. thinking it through. I myself have witnessed instructors with 1.000+ dives at Belongas Bay falling into the same ‘mental trap’, and in the aftermath wondering ‘why?’”
4: Where did our boat go during the brief time we were submerged? Was there a strategy for Magnet dives that included the possibility of brief and aborted dives?
“The boat circles the pinnacle in order to spot the divers if they abort their dive. Of course not being there, I can’t really make a statement concerning the boats actual position and/or behavior, but I can say that there have been a number of aborted dives at the Magnet, and the boat was there. According the guide statement you guys were already so far away that the boat couldn’t possibly assume your position. Again, I wasn’t there. But on the other hand, somehow the boats crew did show a proper reaction, since at 10.30 am I was alerted you were missing, and at 11.00 the search & rescue crew was on the way.”
Though his answer above may seem straightforward, it lacks rationality. Since our dive began a little after Ten, and was planned to last forty-five minutes, the boat crew would have no reason to notify anyone at Ten-thirty that we were missing, because at Ten-thirty they would have assumed we were still enjoying our pleasant sojourn underwater, frolicking with the hammerheads. If we were not on the surface at Eleven, they still wouldn’t have sounded an alarm, since a few minutes delay would be natural. I will never know what really happened to the boat, but as we surfaced no later than Ten-fifteen, within one hundred meters of the pinnacle, and the boat was gone, I can only speculate. I believe the captain and crewman fell asleep, and drifted east, but that’s just supposition.
5: I do not think that under the circumstances we experienced the guide’s lack of a fully functional SMB (it was not capable of full erection, but rather only about 50% erection) was a major factor in our abandonment at sea (as I had, fortunately, a fully functional SMB;) but is it not incumbent on the dive guide to maintain a fully functional SMB especially in a dive in waters where 3+ meter waves are a regular feature of the environment?
“That shouldn’t happen!!!” The owner responded with three exclamation marks. “I keep a stock of SMBs and dive computers that are reserved for our guides, and all of them know that all they need to do is let me know and they will receive free of charge. This lack of equipment management is a pure matter of the guide not wanting to say anything for reasons I don’t understand (again a trait of local guides. Not a excuse, but a fact of). Every time he needs a computer or battery he does let’s me know, so I can only assume it’s a matter of not being aware of the necessity of a good SMB, but I also assume this awareness now has changed.”
6: Why would a “rescue” boat not bring more than one twelve ounce bottle of water to a pair of survivors who had been living with no food or water (to the knowledge of the rescue crew) for twenty-four hours? What about medical supplies? What about food? The lack of the most obvious preparation for rescue was incomprehensible. Surely, in the twenty-four hours between losing us at sea and finding us in our bay, some thought must have been taken as to what would benefit survivors lost at sea for a day and a night. Water, food, and some medical supplies had to come to mind. How about clothes? How about shoes? The so-called rescue that began at our refuge bay was incompetent and actually exacerbated the perils we suffered.
7: Why would rescue team members not understand the necessity of answering questions truthfully and providing accurate information when possible?
“Don’t misunderstand me, I’m very happy they found you, but actually the people that came to your aid were neither trained nor authorized to try a rescue effort, and on the contrary, in fact hindered the ongoing efforts, as you were not at the position anymore where we had pin-pointed you for evacuation.
“When I came back from organizing Usman and the motorcycle search party, it turned out that they had taken off with the lodge boat on their own accord. Much to my personal, and the search & rescue teams, anger, since their actions could of easily caused us to have more problems than we already had, since the boat as such is less than suited to go out for a rescue.
“Your adventure with the captain speaks for itself, in a sense of that they had no clue what they were doing. Unfortunately it’s a fact that a Indonesian person (I can’t speak for all, but certainly for the people in our region) will tell you anything and even lie, if they don’t know the answer to your question, as they are to ‘malu’ (shy) to admit that they don’t know. Of course, in a situation like this, upmost dangerous and not helping.
“The ‘official’ search & rescue boat, as well as the helicopter, actually had all of the before mentioned supplies on board. But due to the amateur rescue effort of a few, you now unfortunately have a bad picture of the rescue effort on a whole. Please don’t let your coincidental rescue by amateurs taint your view of the actual search & rescue team. I highly commend them, and I was more than positively surprised how professionally outfitted and prepared they were, as well as concerning their reaction time. Also the helicopter was (as I had stated when we met) stand-by at Teluk Sepi to take you to the hospital, but as I said to you later that evening, the SWAT man arrived with his camera team (he was nowhere to be seen until then) and overrode everything that had been arranged. Unfortunately he’s a very powerful man, and no one, including me, has the strength to negate his decisions. You’re description/impression of him in your summary speaks for itself.
“My summary concerning the rescue effort is that it’s a shame that you now have a bad impression of the ones truly engaged (over a dozen of us up & running for 28hrs non-stop), because of a handful of idiots felt the need to profile themselves. I sincerely hope that I’ll never find a situation like this again, but having worked with the search & rescue team and seeing their possibilities, does make me feel a little more secure."
1: an ode to Juno in the style of Homer, by Joseph Summer (2012) (back)
2: In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book V; Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, relates how Venus (Aphrodite in the Greek) bids her son, Cupid (Eros), to shoot one of his coercive arrows into Pluto, (also known as Dis; or, in Greek: Hades) so that he will fall in love with Ceres’ daughter: Proserpina (Persephone) which will give Venus (or so she believes) greater authority over the world than she already has. Abducting Proserpina forcibly from a field in which she was innocently picking flowers, the god carries his intended bride on a path through a lake in Sicily in which lives the nymph Cyane. In vein, Cyane pleads with Pluto to abandon his plan. Appalled by the god’s remorselessness, Cyane’s tears wax and she is transformed into a pool of her own sobs.
Ceres, in the dark about her daughter’s whereabouts, searches for her all over the Earth (refraining from asking her brother Jupiter for the answer, which would result in not a little awkwardness because Pluto is Jupiter’s younger brother, and – for those not familiar with the family tree – Ceres’ brother as well.) Eventually she reaches a cottage and is offered a drink made with barley by an old woman. Ceres drinks too quickly, and a mannerless boy ridicules her for it, which makes her mad, so she throws the dregs from the drink into the child’s face, transforming him into a newt. Continuing her quest, the newly minted amphibian forgotten, Ceres arrives at the pool in Sicily where Cyane had turned into tears. Cyane, unable to speak (as she is a mouthless pool,) is nonetheless able to communicate to Ceres by causing Proserpina’s girdle to emerge from her own weepy depths to float in front of her mother’s eyes. Understanding the pool’s poignant message, Ceres, goddess of the harvest, is flooded with grief and all the plants of the earth, resonating with her distress, die.
Catching wind of this catastrophe another transformed nymph, Arethusa – who has become a spring, to avoid (though unsuccessfully) her rape by a river god – importunes Ceres to cease her sorrow and restore the flora. She explains to the distraught mother that as she was flowing, she witnessed Proserpina’s abduction by Pluto. Ceres adamantly refuses to revive the plant kingdom; instead she returns to Olympus and demands of her brother, Jupiter, that he return her daughter to her. The king of the gods agrees to secure Proserpina’s release, provided she hasn’t eaten any food while she has been in the underworld. However, Proserpina, though a light eater, has eaten a half dozen pomegranate seeds, as witnessed by a garrulous demon, Askalaphos, who rats her out. Ceres is none too happy with the stoolpigeon and buries him under a rock. (Later, Herakles would release him, but Proserpina would discover his escape and turn Askalaphos into a screech owl by dashing upon the tattletale water from the river Phlegothon.)
Calliope (our narrator for this tale) explains that the other young women who had been with Proserpina at the time of her abduction have been turned into sirens and that Jupiter has declared a compromise whereby Proserpina will spend six months with Hades (as a result of the pomegranate feast) and then six months above ground. thus explaining the seasons: fall corresponding to the death of vegetation when Proserpina returns to her husband, and spring, of course, to her return.
Obiter dictum, the story of Arethusa – which Ovid relates in the midst of the story of Proserpina – describes the nymph, pursued by the river god Alpheus (all rivers having their own god.) To preserve her virginity, Arethusa appeals to Artemis. The goddess of the hunt transforms her acolyte into a cloud, but the hyperhydrosic nymph still cannot conceal herself from the lustful Alpheus. Once again she invokes Artemis, and the goddess obliges, changing the sweaty nymph into a fountain. Alpheus would eventually ooze his way into the fountain so Artemis’ attempts to protect her follower ultimately would fail. The tale from book V differs ever so slightly from that of Daphne and Apollo from book I. This same story, a nymph pursued by an implacable god or demigod echoes throughout Ovid. (back)
3: Published on July 23, 2012; the very inaccurate article in the Jakarta Globe is titled: US Couple Missing on Lombok Diving Trip Found Safe. In its entirety, in English, it reads:
Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara.
Search and rescue officials in Mataram found an American couple alive and well on Sunday, a day after they were reportedly dragged out to sea by strong currents in Lombok’s Sepi Bay. Nanang Sigit, the head of operations at the search and rescue agency, said Joseph and Lisa Summer went missing at around 1 p.m. on Saturday while diving in the area with their tour guide, Pi’i. He said strong currents then pulled Pi’i out to sea. The Summers managed to rescue him and told him to swim back to shore but were themselves swept further out. Pi’i immediately notified authorities and a search team was deployed. Officials set out on boats to look for the couple at sea, while a search was also mounted on land in the hope that the couple had made it back to shore. After failing to find them on Saturday, the search team deployed a helicopter on Sunday and finally spotted the couple in Mekaki Bay, several kilometers west of where they had gone missing. The search and rescue team which was accompanied by Pi’i circled the air twice before spotting the couple. Nanang said the tourists were brought to the house of a resident in Mekaki village, where they are recuperating before a team can be sent out to transport them to Tripat General Hospital in West Lombok for a medical check.
“The search and rescue team will have to go quite far to evacuate them and to bring them to the hospital,” he said. “They’re now in Mekaki village and we need a proper area for the helicopter to land so that we can evacuate them. We’re still looking for the right spot to pick them up from. They’re safe, but they’re weak and we have to get them to hospital soon.” Nanang said that once the Summerses (sic) were in hospital, the search and rescue team would hand over responsibility for their care to the travel agency managing their trip to Lombok. (back)
4: The second inversion of a tonic major chord when used cadentially, in traditional harmony, isn’t really the chord it pretends to be. Rather, in the progression of a cadence with the second inversion being a Tonic 6/4 followed by a Dominant and ending with the root position Tonic; the Tonic 6/4 chord is really not a Tonic at all, it’s a Dominant with two suspended non-chord tones. Thus, I hoped to create a feeling of prolonged suspension. (back)
5: I wrote the narrative of our misadventure days after the incident. Reading it now again I see that I omitted some details, such as the fact that our guide’s SMB was dysfunctional. It inflated partially at first but subsequently deflated and became useless. This failure of his SMB necessitated my having to repeatedly ride the waves to their crests in case the ship was capable of seeing us. My repeated trips to the crests contributed to my nausea. (back)
6: I gave the guide my SMB because his wasn’t working, as noted in the footnote immediately preceding this one. (back)
7: Locale names I supplied to the narrative later with the aid of a small map. At the time of these events, I was neither aware of the names nor whether the areas whereof I wrote were separate islands or part of the Lombok mainland. I did believe I was heading towards Lombok proper, and as events later developed, this was a correct assumption. (back)
8: I had a compass, but as it was attached to my octopus, using it was more burdensome than the simpler strategy of swimming parallel to the wave direction. (The “octopus” is the term for the apparatus which contains the elements of the regulator. It is called an octopus because it resembles the creature.) (back)
9: Had Lisa thought about it then, I might have known to look for her wedding ring which was in a BCD pocket. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until later she recalled she had removed it hours earlier. I kept both magnifying lens because beyond our practice of using them to examine nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses, they are excellent firestarters. (back)
10: Since Caliban speaks of filberts too, I want to add that Lisa found some little nuts on the edge of the jungle, in the creekbed we’d later inhabit. They were a little bitter, but we each ate one. (back)
11: From the array of lights that embellished it, I believe the craft was a small commercial squid boat, typical of the many I’ve seen all over the archipelago. (back)
12: The reason was “malu,” which cultural significance I began to understand when the dive company owner referred to it specifically in written answer to my query. (back)
13: The Somer Isles – not the Summer Isle – play a debatable role in the inspiration of The Tempest. Sir George Somers was a respected and war-tested captain in the Royal Navy. Admiral of the Virginia Company’s Third Supply fleet, he sailed from Plymouth, England in June of 1609, on the Sea Venture, heading to the Jamestown colony in Virginia. On July 25th a hurricane struck the seven ship flotilla and Somers’ Sea Venture began to founder. On July 28th Somers determined that the only reasonable course was to steer the ship onto a reef, which allowed for the crew and passengers to reach the shore of what they would later name Discovery Bay on Saint George’s Island, the Northeastern most point of the Somers Isles. The rest of the fleet assumed that Somers and his passengers had perished in the storm. But Somers and his retinue lived for forty two weeks, living on what they could gather on their island. The castaways built two ships, the Deliverance and the Patience and in May 1610 sailed for Jamestown. The one-hundred-forty-two survivors of the Somers Isles arrived at the Jamestown colony which was barely functioning due to the ravages of famine. The food and supplies Somers brought from the Somers Isles were a godsend for the survivors of Jamestown. Somers then returned to the Somers Isles to obtain more food for the Jamestown colonists, on his boat Patience, but he became deathly ill on the journey, dying on Saint George’s Island November 9th , 1610. He was fifty-six years old. (Coincidentally, at the time of our misadventure, I was fifty-six.) In 1614 the Somers Isles Company took over the management of the islands which are also known as Bermuda. Many commentators consider the tale of Sir George Somers the inspiration for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. (back)
14: Indeed the pain to her hands, her inability to grasp anything for long, were the most immediately debilitating elements of her many injuries. Most obvious of her injuries were those on her face caused by exposure and sunburn. Her most painful injury, though, and the one that was still causing her immense pain for months after, was an abdominal muscle strain or tear which she either received or had exacerbated tremendously on the forced march. Prior to the march, Lisa had remarkably few injuries. All of her lacerations and much of her dehydration occurred during the march. I suffered most of my serious injuries during the shore entry. And of course, I had severe dehydration and exposure during the time adrift at sea. (back)
Figure 1: A Summer Shower, oil paining by Charles Edward Perugini (back)
Figure 2: In the Old Age Black Was Not Counted Fair (also known as The Tea Party,) oil painting by Shansi Miller (back)
Figure 3: Eve Aviva Summer, circa 1988, in Tennessee (back)
Figure 4: First page from my juvenile opera sans voices, The Ship of Doom, circa 1963 (back)
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