June 11 – 1 p.m.–The weather is excellent this morning, we have a constant wind from the stern, and Excelsior is leaving behind a beautiful white trail. The dreams I had last night were long and vivid. So vivid I almost took them for real. I’m relieved to see that nobody from my crew is missing in this routine and uneventful journey. In three days we are supposed to arrive at the Northern Fort, unload our cargo, and return to our naval base from the metropolis by next week. Still, the whole dream about the Island was so long, intense, and intriguing! I had the feeling I have lived in that world for a whole week. The story itself is worth remembering. I’d better write down everything on paper while all the details are still fresh in my memory.
“Whales at the prow, about ten degrees to starboard!” shouts the man in the crow’s nest.
“Sir, let’s make a small detour and watch them from closer,” I tell the captain.
“All right,” he says. “It’s a welcome change in our boring journey,” and gives the order for the temporary course change.
It takes about half an hour to reach the huge cetaceans, as they are far ahead and are moving in approximately the same direction with us. In this area rich in krill, they are feeding by swimming graciously with a speed of about five kilometers an hour. It’s a group of five humpback whales, between 10-14 meters in length, apparently made of two bulls and three females. They spend most of the time at a depth of about one hundred meters, where the highest concentration of krill is available and only come to surface once every ten minutes. However, as our ship closes in, the big cetaceans prefer to dive deeper and swim rapidly away, to avoid any potential harm from us. The captain orders the ship back on course and nothing else worth mentioning happens for the rest of the day.
June 12 – 9 a.m.–Since early morning, threatening clouds began gathering in the at prow. Meanwhile, the helmsman is complaining that the compass doesn’t point anymore towards a fixed direction. Its needle is rotating in circles, making impossible for him to keep the correct route. The captain orders the chip log launched behind the ship and we’re doing our best to keep her going straight.
10 a.m.–The sea is still calm, but the sky above has darkened. Lightning flashes slice the cloud canopy once every few seconds. Rumbling thunders reverberate all the way to the horizon a few seconds later. The storm is going to start at any moment. Fortunately, the compass seems to have stabilized back.
11 a.m.–Most of the sails are wrapped up now and our advancing speed has reduced greatly. Under a sky as black as it can be, the wind is blowing furiously, rocking the ship back and forth. No rain is falling yet, but we expect to be hit soon by a flood of water from above.
12 p.m.–The hurricane is at its peak. Excelsior is battered incessantly by huge waves that hit her gunwale like giant fists. A furious shake from underneath and an angry deluge of rain from atop meet on the deck in a frantic battle. The course can only be maintained only approximately and with great difficulty. Some crew suffer from sea sickness and I don’t feel so great, either. Also, I can’t stop myself from having a feeling of déjà vu.
9 p.m.–The waters are calm again, after a storm that lasted over six hours. The sky is still cloudy and the ship changes course towards the direction where we think the shore is, intending to use its features for identifying our position more accurately.
10 p.m.–Many of our crew members are getting nervous, because we haven’t reached the coast yet. It’s a full moon night and the mountains behind the shore line should be easily visible from great distances, even on a cloudy sky. It’s obvious we went off course during the storm. The clouds are gradually clearing and I’m starting to look for the polar star to measure our latitude. However, all the constellations look changed and the stars I can see appear totally different from everything I know. When the moon finally appears from behind the clouds, it seems almost twice the normal size, has a bluish tint and its surface features look unfamiliar. We look at each other with surprised expressions while the ocean’s water around us, full of billions of small light-emitting creatures, sparkles in a strange blue color itself.
“What a crazy night!” says the captain. “Let’s wrap up all the sails and wait for the sunrise”.
June 13 – 7 a.m.–The Sun returned to the sky from the other side of the horizon at around 6 a.m. It appeared from an unexpected direction. The compass from the steering wheel suggested that it had risen from the south…
“It’s obvious, we have encountered a magnetic anomaly” said the first lieutenant. “When in doubt, trust the Sun,” he added immediately with a smile.
It was a strange looking sun, larger and paler than what I reckoned seeing during all my sea voyages, with a faint green tint around its edge. I’ve darkened a piece of glass in a candle flame, held it in my right hand and watched the Sun through this improvised filter for a few minutes with one eye, while holding a small coin in the other outstretched hand, for size comparison. My rough estimates gave me a diameter about ten percent larger than normal. Soon, the green tint extended to the whole sky. Everybody on board was feeling uneasy about this unusual phenomenon. People began talking about spells and curses, making the atmosphere even tenser.
At 9 a.m. I was down in the cabin, attempting to have a good guess about our current location and intending to triangulate our most probable route, when the first lieutenant came and asked me to come on the deck:
“Alberto” he says,“the man in the crow’s nest saw a group of unusual flying creatures. Even though they are still far away, their size seem to be huge, much bigger than any birds we know.”
In a few moments I was on the deck with a small portable telescope in my hand. The beasts were really far and I could only get a short glimpse of their flock. It was difficult to know what could they be, but these things were definitely not flying like typical birds. Their long, trembling bodies, suggested rather the shape of a snake… I could count three of them and they were completely white. The strange beings seemed to follow our ship.
“Whales at starboard!” shouted then a sailor from the crow’s nest. Then, after a moment: “Whales at larboard!” Then again, after a few more seconds of silence: “Whales everywhere around the ship!” Apparently, a large group of humpback wales, more than thirty, emerged from the ocean at the same time, not carrying anymore about a potential threat from our ship. Meanwhile, still flying too high to be seen clearly, the strange creatures began to rotate in large circles around our vessel. I decided to climb the mast myself, for a better view of the whales placement and hopefully a clearer image of the unusually looking animals from above.
From the observation point on the mast I could count now about fifty whales. This was an impressively large herd! All seemed to be occupied with feeding, totally ignoring the nearby presence of our vessel. Meanwhile, the three flying serpents came closer to us and I could recognize what they were: mythological dragons, with a length of about ten-fifteen meters! The way they actually swam in the air with their long and narrow bodies seemed to defy the laws of physics. I tried to use my small telescope to see the creatures better, but the ship’s roll had made it useless. I was just starting my climb down to the deck when suddenly the wind changed direction and the mast tilted strongly towards the larboard side with a jerk. Caught by surprise, I lost my balance and fell over the protective barrier of the crow’s nest. Desperate, I grabbed a hawser that happened to be in my way and managed to slow down considerably the speed of my unwanted descent. However, in the end, my landing on the deck was a bit too rough and resulted in a sprained ankle…
7 p.m. - The ship’s physician recommended a couple of days rest until my swollen foot shall be healed and I could walk normally again. I had to go to my cabin and lie in bed all afternoon, using most of my time there checking navigational charts. At about 3 p.m, land was finally sighted. A land that did not look like any coast we expected to see. It seemed to be an island. An island in a region where no islands existed. No matter how much we had strayed from our course, there was no island in this are of the ocean that we could possibly reach in such a short time. Puzzled, we kept sailing towards it.
One hour later we were entering a small harbor with a tall stony quay. Higher, on the rocky shore, an imposing unusual city of a queer beauty was visible. It displayed massive marble buildings covered in ivy, wide streets were visible intersecting at right angles and tall white towers were surrounding its edges. The urban area extended all the way to the ocean on both sides, more than three kilometers across, as if holding the port in a perpetual, paternal embrace. I counted twenty five towers guarding the unusual metropolis. Everything looked like in my dream, and that was really unsettling.
Excelsior set anchor close to the tall pier. Several wide roads made of hundreds of stone stairs were connecting the quay with the high promontory where the city was located. With the help of a crutch, I climbed on the deck and told the captain and first officer about my vision. They already knew we must have come to the Island and paid careful attention to my story.
“It’s out of question to go in the city unarmed, but I shall caution all the people to use their guns only in case they are attacked. We shall not give the locals any reason to become our enemies,” said the captain. “I’m sorry, lieutenant, you have to remain on board for now, but shall have plenty of chances to visit the city later, because we plan to stay here for up to a week. This new mission takes priority over the ammunition transport to the Northern Fort. If the legends about the gold here are true, the crew of Excelsior is going to return home with unbelievable riches. As the highest ranked officer, you’ll be in charge of the ship while we’re on the shore.”
With these words said, they stepped on the quay, followed by a large group of about fifty people from our crew. I remained behind the rail with my worries and the rest of the sailors.