Saturday, May 11, 2013

Gerald's Adventure, Part Two

The Continuing Adventure of Gerald the Skeleton at Nikumaroro, 2010

The Nikumaroro Lagoon
One of the first places AUV and I visited was a group of coral heads down near the south end of the lagoon.  Coral heads are big lumps of coral growing out of the bottom of the lagoon.  The TIGHARs thought it was funny that Andrew, who drove their skiff, kept running into them.  Karl, a tough guy with a chain saw who laughs a lot, used to take bets on whether Andrew would run into a coral head, and won a lot of money.  Andrew and John went around marking the coral heads with floating bath toys – a fire engine here, a life ring there – so Andrew could see them and not run into them. 

A man named Clyde had contacted Ric and Grandpa Tom and said he was sure that in Google Earth he could see a Lockheed Electra – the kind of plane Amelia was flying – among the coral heads in one particular place.  Grandpa Tom and his friends had checked it out and not seen anything, but John had asked AUV to check it underwater, so I went along.  I sat on his back like on a horse, and away we went, way down the lagoon.  It was fun to watch the island’s sides slip by, with their tall green trees and circling birds.

Nikumaroro Forest
Finally we came to the spot that AUV’s instruments and the satellite they communicated with told him was Clyde’s Electra site.  We looked and looked, and couldn’t find an airplane anywhere.  But wow!  There were a lot of sharks!  They were mostly little baby sharks.  We talked with them.

“Hi,” I said.  “My name’s Gerald; what’s yours?”

“My name’s Sherman,” said one little shark with a squeaky voice, “and my friends here are Sheldon, Shelly, Samuel, Samantha, Sasha, Said, Sabbatical….”

“Sabbatical’s a funny name.”

“He rests a lot on the sand bars.”

“So what do you guys do for fun?”

“We eat stuff.  You don’t look good to eat, though.”

“I’m not; I’m plastic.”

“Oh.  Lucky for you, or we’d have your bones stripped clean before you could say ‘yo-ho-ho.”

“Well, in my case that wouldn’t matter much.

“I guess not.”

“Have you seen any airplanes around here?”

“What are airplanes?”

“They’re big metal things that fly in the sky.  They look kind of like my friend here, AUV, but they go up in the air, not in the water.”

“Well, we’re in the water.”

“Yes, but I’m asking about airplanes in the water.”

“I thought you said they go in the sky.”

“Yes, but…..”

“Look, we stay in the water.  Humans who are smart stay on land.  We don’t know anything about the land, or the sky, so you don’t need to ask us about things in the sky; we’re not interested.”


“Are you going to sit around wasting our time all day?  We gotta cruise, man!”  And with a swish of the tail, they all disappeared into the murky water of the lagoon.

“There is no airplane here,” AUV buzzed in his mechanical voice.

“How can you be so sure?”  I asked.  “The water’s so cloudy; I can’t see three feet.”

“That is because you have only two feet,” AUV buzzed.

“I mean, I can’t see far in this cloudy water, so maybe there’s an airplane out there and I can’t see it.”




“How do you know?”

“Sonar,” he buzzed.

I thought about this.  AUV has sonar built into him, which means he can send out sound waves that bounce off things and tell him where the things are, and what they are.

“So,” I asked, “do you mean that you can see an airplane with sonar?"

“Yep.  But I don’t.”


“How what?”

“How could you see an airplane – if there was one?”

“It sounds different than coral.”

“How does it sound?”


“And how does coral sound?”


“Oh.  So there’s no airplane?”

“No biiing, no airplane.  Just clunks.”

“Oh well.  Grandpa Tom and Ric didn’t think there was an airplane here anyway.  What shall we do now?”

“Go back to Club Fred.  Time’s up.”
AUV had very clear orders from Jesse and John and Walt to come home to Club Fred when he finished a search, and he always followed orders.  There was no use arguing, though I wanted to explore some more.  So we went back, and I found Frederick, who carried me back to the ship.  It was a good thing he did.  It was morning and the TIGHARs were getting up.  They would have been pretty surprised to find me gone.
AUV, Back Home

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