Its a horrible thing when a child has to bury a parent. It is one of the most traumatic things any human being has to go through, an awful and unfair rite of passage that life requires from all of us eventually. The loss of one so deeply loved - one who can never be replaced - is a painful experience that can barely be imagined by anyone who hasnt gone through it.
But no parent should ever have to bury a child.
Like, I suspect , many others, I was a teenager who considered committing suicide several times ; it is only when you get older that I think you can truly understand what effect this has on other people. I've lost two friends to suicide over the years and these remain events that have had a lasting effect on me and always will.
But neither were my daughter.
Today, someone I know lost their daughter.
I cannot imagine the anguish that they are going through. I can only hope that their pain and grief will one day pass and that they find solace somewhere down the line.
But to all teenagers out there : no matter how crappy life seems, dont ever give up. It gets better, I promise. There are things yet to come that will be wonderful, unexpected, thrilling and surprising ; it comes even to the least of us, and I promose you, I was very much one pf the least of us when I was a teenager,
you just have to hang in there for a while. You will see them, just as long as you dont ever -EVER - give up.
I'll hope you'll forgive that this is not directly Cthulhu related, but this is a subject that has cropped up on the forums in the past, and I know there are other suffers out there in the yoggie community...I'm hoping this might help others.
Plus, it might be a useful insight for gamers into how mental illness affects sufferers.
In the old days they called it "having a nervous breakdown"....
These days they call it "depression".
Its very much on my mind this week, as I've had a particularly bad episode which occurred in the (electronic) presence of some of the forum members, to whom I apologise.
There are many flavours of it, and I am not a doctor...so let me talk about mine.
The word gives a certain mental image to a non-sufferer ; it certainly did me , before I became ill. Calling the condition "Depression" makes it sound like you turn into some sort of stereotypical uber-goth teen, moping about and not doing much.*
Now, while theres undeniably an element of that - you certainly find it difficult to motivate yourself to do activities- it doest address other elements to the problem.*
Difficulty sleeping is a common element, which adds genuine physical fatigue to the lack of motivation.*
It can make you sensitive to overanalysing what people say, so that a remark may seem personal when its not.
*It also makes you very prone to emotional stimulae, particularly those of a distressing or sad nature. Not horror stories in the monster or gore stories, but certainly horrific (as in distressing) stories. In my case, I was moved to complete distress this week by learning about the events surrounding the death of Retaeh Parsons , a story I'm sure many of you are familiar with.*
My form of depression is *caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, a lack of seratonin, a chemical that is replenished during sleep. Quite often a physical or emotional trauma (in my case, my mothers death closely followed by the breakup of a long- term relationship) can cause sleeplessness. This reduces the seratonin in your brain and , over a long period, your body begins to think this is the "correct" level...but in reality this level is leaving you seratonin deficient.
These days, of course, depression can be treated, to a certain extent. Depending on the sufferer, various *medicines or cognitive behavoir therapy (shrinks) may help minimise the symptoms *for example. I've personally found shrinks useless, but seratonin replacement tablets helpful., but different types of depression require different treatment.
Many are even cured over time -although a significant proportion are not.
Emotional distress is not necessarily the only element. In my case, I also suffer from the occassional rare anxiety attacks, which pumps adrenaline into my system and fires off my fight/flight reflex. *
Doesnt sound too bad? Not until you realise what an ass an attack turns you into. *Depression can mean a passing *comment from a stranger can seem like a *personal attack, and guess what? Your system is already primed by the anxiety to pick an argument.*An unreasoning, full blooded and likely bitter argument which, at the time, you will be convinced is perfectly justified....a perfect storm, as it were.
And of course, you're not necessarily aware that you're having an attack.
After the attack passes there is the post-adrenaline rush shakes, and then....then you have to live with the humilation of the way the attack made you act.
How do you apologise to a stranger who doesnt know how you are normally?
"Sorry, I'm not usually like this, its the illness" sounds badly like *making *an excuse for just being a horrible, or immature, person. Even your friends may wonder if you've been "secretly" like this all along.*
And thats not including any genuine remorse you may feel about what you may have said or done. *Some things, after all, cannot be unsaid. Its the sort of thing that destroys relationships.
Oh, and dont forget that you're immensely over-sensitive to setbacks and sad situations like... Well, upsetting your friends and humiliating yourself in public. Theres that perfect storm again.
For those suffering depression, even on a day when it is in abeyance, the illness is always there - and there is always the fear that it will flare up again. Today I might be *in a fine, perfectly normal, positive mood but...Go to someones birthday party next week? I cant guarantee I'll feel up to it. Go on holiday? Will I be able to get my medication ? Go to your brothers ? How can I face him after what I said last time ? Visit friends? I'm not sure I have any left after the way I acted...
...and so on. This all can lead into a viscious circle, where socialising is a minefield of combined fear and humiliation. Add to that the demotivation and the lack of sleep.... It is no wonder that many suffers become isolated or suicidal.
I am quite lucky in that I dont fall into the last category, but I do understand those who do. There can be days whem it feels like there is noone who can help you,*
But the truth is you're not alone. There are fellow sufferers out there, and we do know what its like.*
How do * I * cope ? I make a deal with myself to try out new hobbies and sports, the more unlikely the better - and have found several that I was amazed to find I liked - and in the process learned about all kinds of things that go on in the real world which are surprising, fascinating, wierd, exotic, interesting and just plain awe inspiring.
Not to mention I've learned some cool skills, guitar playing and salsa dancing (and if *you dont think thats cool, you havent seen the ladies you meet doing salsa dancing ) amoung them.
It doesnt make my life perfect - far from it. But it helps lessen the impact.
So to my fellow sufferers, I say this : There is hope, it is an amazing world, and things truly *do* get better. Much like a gamer throwing a dice, sooner or later, if you keep on trying, you'll get a better result...
and thats the trick- keep on trying, and dont ever - ever! - give up.
The return to camp is another tiring ski, but upon their return, the group are welcomed with open arms -or rather the new supplies are.*
That night, the exhausted explorers are once more troubled with bad dreams.
*James Ford dreams that the black opals in Mandys neckless turns into hundreds of squalling babies (1) ;*Harry dreams that he and Albert are being cannibalised by other members of the expedition and something with lots of eyes and mouths (2) ;*Clive's nightmare is of a large unnatural black rat that chases him and Mrs Chippie around the Gabrielle *(3); *Fitzwilliam dreams of being on board the Wallaroo, seeing his drowned sister in the water ; Dibden dreams of his late wife.
Somewhat shaken, the PCs regroup the next morning. The weather is not great, as strong winds and heavy snow is falling. It is unlikely that they'll be able to fly the planes, so they concentrate on other chores -feeding the sled dogs and checking over the drill equipment.
A bell begins to ring out from the hut that contains the radio. A mayday signal is being recieved.
They rush over to the*radio hut, where the expedition radio operator, Louis Larouche, is monitoring the incoming message.
"Help, the camp is under attack ! "*
It is the Lexington expedition -they barely get this message out before there is the sound of gunshots, and they drop off air.
Starkweather and Larouche stare at each other in shock as an explosion is heard in the distance, and smoke is seen on the horizon in the direction of the Lexington camp.
Fitzwilliam immediately springs into action ." We need to send a rescue mission !"*
Starkweather nods. "A good idea. You start organising the sleds, I'll round up the men."
The two dash out to begin assembling*the mission.
Ford pauses at the door, and turns to Romford.
*"Did they say they are under attack? Out here?...by what?"
"There's no bears in Antarctica...."
Ford and Romford look at each other uneasily.
The rescue party , consisting of three sled teams , is shortly underway, accompanied by men of skis. Once again it is hard work, the glacier being pitted and broken, with thin ice, crevaces and ridges all adding to the exertion of skiing in the extremely cold conditions.
It doesn't help that Dr Green, who is accompanying the expedition, is a poor skier, and he is eventually relagated to a passenger on one of the sleds.
He is less than amused to discover the husky's habit of pooping while they pull the sled.*.
The snow blows into their faces, and the strong wind whistles around them, making conversation difficult, and the low visibility makes it a tedious slog. Rime materialises on their eyebrows and beards as the chill seeps into any exposed surface.*
Romford twists his ankle while skiing over a particularly awkward pierce of morraine hidden beneath the snow, which slows them up slightly, but he is quickly placed onto one of the sleds, and they start off again.
In all, it takes several hours to cover the eight miles between the camps, but at last they see the Lexington camp.
The air over the camp is black with oily smoke of burning fuel, the radio mast has collapsed, and while the tents still stand, *they are covered with a film of ash, and where the generator shack once stood is merely a burnt hulk.
What could possibly have happened here ?*
Scurrying *across the sea ice, the team work furiously to stop their vital supplies from falling through a crack into the sea.*
Romford's first thought is the planes. They are safely distant from the crack, but they cannot be used to transport anything immediately, as they*are not warmed up -a process of ice thrawing and oil heating that will take some time. Halperin runs over, blowtorches in hand to help speed up the warming *process.
" Everyone move the stuff that wont float first ! "Fitzwiiliam suggests , and this is done, men working quickly to tranfer goods onto a tarpaulin.
It quickly becomes apparent they cannot save everything ; they prioritise the food, then the heating fuel. It is hard, tiring work in the bitter cold, and once the tarpaulin is hauled away to safety, they start working on the remaining supplies.
*In the end, they cannot half of the aviation fuel (" av-gas") *and also lose some of the heavy equipment to the Ross Sea.
Its is a bad setback,but their quick action has prevented from being a complete disaster.
However, it does mean that without further supplies, many of the planned exploration flights will have to be curtailed, a major disappointment.
Romford uses the Miss Enderby to fly supplies up to the barrier. However, when the aircraft was reassembled (last game session) one of the skids was not properly fastened, and as he comes into land, it bends, and the plane slews sideways, bruising the passengers and flinging unfastened items around inside.
"Any landing you can walk avay from.." comments Halperin, once they skid to a halt. *"But next time, I drive, ja?"
The crew disembark, and begin work to repair the damage, yet another job to be done in a day of unplesant surprises.*
The next couple of days are spent ferrying supplies up onto the Ross Ice Barrier.
On the 15th, there is news that Lexington has flown over the South Pole, which is a blow to morale., but work doesnt slow, and the camp slowly takes shape.
While the others are busy building the camp, Romford, Halperin, and engineer Patrick Miles spend long shifts in the aircraft, shuttling people and gear between the top and bottom of the shelf.*Fitzwilliam uses the flights to take some photographs for cartography purposes, although it takes him a few attempts to get the exposure length right. Their "real" jobs have begun, it seems,
In the meantime, the cook introduces the team to "hoosh", a watery stew of pemmican with which they soon become familiar with. The best thing that can be said about it is that its hot and filling, which is welcome after a long cold days work. One of the camp crew produces a banjo, and a sing- along is held around the camp fire.
Moore discusses the supplies situation with Peter "Frankie" Sykes, Halperin, and the team. They*volunteer to head over to Ross island to "bag" some penguins and seals and see if they can scavenge some supplies from the huts left by previous expeditions.
The huskies yap happily as the sleds ski over the ice. James Ford and Harry take the first shift as sled passengers and discover to their "delight" that huskies excrete while on the move. The others resort to skiing alongside, which has the benefit of being a warmer activity, but also intensely tiring.
Reaching Ross Island, they take in the sight of several wooden huts nestled in the shadow of Mount Erebus.
Rifles are handed around to everyone in the hunting party, except Halperin.
"I no longer use these" he saids. "I saw enough of zat during ze var"
The penguins are fascinated by their visitors, and nose around them, making it easy to catch several. The huts provide some bonus supplies, including cigars and chocolate, a welcome surprise for the team. The prospect of using chocolate for bribery is lightheartedly discussed.
Ford joins Sykes in attempting to shoot some seals, and learns a few lessons in butchering and salting meat from a fresh kill. After the disposal of the carcass, he stands for a moment to contemplate the ring of bloody,salty, re-frozen ice left behind. *
A shiver passes over him. Could this be a foreshadow of what is to come ?
Antarctica is at last at hand.*
The sight of the Admiralty range, and Ross island, is welcome after days and days of nothing but ice. The raucous sound of the Adele penguin colony on the island is less so.
Spirits in the Starkweather-Moore expedition are high, despite the fact that the Lexington expedition has made landfall before them. A mixture of relief and delight sweeps the crew, with the exception of Fitzwilliam who is disappointed to have been beaten there.
The next two days are a non-stop flurry of activity ; moving supplies off the boat, assembling the aircraft, transfering the snowtractors and building of the camp is all required. The cold whips across the Ross ice barrier, the huge cliff of ice looming over them as they work. Distant sounds of gunfire announces that Frankie Sykes has shot some penguins for dinner.
"That's not even sporting !" protests Dibden.
The penguins are undeterred, and very inquisitive. They follow the party, getting underfoot, peering inquistively into every tent and package.
The work in the cold has its drawbacks - Fitzwilliam, Ford and Harry all suffer from some mild frostbite, which is fortunately spotted and carefully treated by the expedition doctors. Ford observes that getting frostbite on the very first day is not a promising sign...
Meanwhile, Romford , Dewitt, Halperin, and Miles begin assembling the survivng aircraft. Romford is pleased to see the aircraft he will be flying, the Miss Enderby, has been decorated with a pinup style mascot.
The camp is finally assembled on the ice flow. The wind howls, pipes and whistles as it blows across the barrier above...and then there is the loud *sound of cracking ice-
A huge crack has appeared *and is moving rapidly across the ice flow - and is moving towards the camp. If they dont act rapidly, they *are in danger of losing their supplies to the sea !*
First Officer Turlow checks out the ice bound whaler through his binoculars.
"Its the Wallaroo" he says uneasily. "she disappeared last year during a squall."
"There may be survivors." points out Harry .
"Or at the very least, supplies" adds Fitzwilliam.
A row boat is provided to reach the flow in which the whaler is trapped. *Harry, Fitzwilliam, Ford, Romford, are joined by Enke Fiskarson and make their way over to the whaler, wearing their arctic furs for the first time.*
They moor the boat on the flow, and as they march across the snow in bright sunlight, the crunch of their boots and the creak of the whaler the only the sound in an otherwise eerie silence.
"Halloo! Anyone there ? " shouts Ford. There is no reply.
The ship is tipped sideways in the ice, the twisted metal of a boiler explosion evident to the aft. Icicles hang from the deck rails, like the teeth of some extinct monstrocity.
Harry clambers on board through the rent ib the side, and is startled by finding the remains of a dead crew member.*
"It reminds me of the Russian front." he mutters.
Working his way along, he tracks the damage through the ship, into the galley and then into the boiler room.*
There are signs there were survivors, initally at least. Food shelves have been emptied out, and wood has been stripped from every available surface. Frost and ice coats any area exposed to the air.
Ford makes his way to the engine room, where its clear the explosion wrecked the area beyond repair. He discovers some bodies laid out in lines, victims of the original explosion.
Fitzwilliam makes for the captains quarters, while Fiskarson and Romford start searching through the crews quarters. The crew are absent...but the Captain is still present.
The frozen remains of the captain lie on the bed, a pistol clasped in its hand, a clear bullet wound it the skull. Next to the bed is a handwritten note, and the ships log.
"March 12th...it is over. My hand is lost to the gangrene..." the note begins.
"Bowers passed in the night....I am no Shackleton, no Mawson...
I will die alone on the ice.
It cries, and whispers, and moans to me in the still air...
Even the whales are gone....
If anyone finds this log, let me praise the crews bravery and loyalty. I hope they make it home safely....
*I give my love to Nancy and the boys. I only wish I could hold them one last time. God forgive me for what I am about to do...."
No further sign of the crew is found on board. The team return to the Gabrielle, where a small ceremony is held in rememberance of the the Wallaroos crew.
The Gabrielle resumes its journey south.*
A few days later a small amount of wreckage is found, the shattered remains of a rowboat.
It is now evident that the brave crew of the Wallaroo succumed during their attempted to row to safety ; even these hardiest of souls have lost their lives to the ice...the cold, pitiless ice...
With another mighty crash, the loose aircraft engine bounces across the hold while the group look down from the hatch in the roof. Another huge wave impacts the boat, sluicing icy cold water over them, as they debate the best way to catch it.
The eventual plan is to try and trap the engine using rope and nets. Waiting until the engine rolls into a corner, they clamber down to assess the situation.
"If we place a net on the ground and then we can try and throw a second net over it" Dr Arthur Dibden explains to James Ford, as they begin to unload some cargo nets from the wall.
"I'll set up the higher net" volunteers Harry, and he begins to clamber up the entry ladder holding the edge of the second net.
Another wave impacts the boat and frigid water dribbles down from the hatch onto their necks and heads as they cast the nets at the engine as it rolls towards them.
Dibden manages to get one net over the engine, but the rope isnt secured properly, and it is yanked out of his hands.
James Ford rolls his eyes.
"Dammit Jim, I'm a surgeon, not a stevedore" retorts Dibden.
Another heave of the boat brings the engine back towarss them, and they dive for cover. Unfortunatley Dibden isnt quick enough and the heavy machinery catches him a glancing blow, badly bruising him and leaving him with suspected cracked ribs.
A desperate effort finally entangles the engine, and they assess the damage to the holds contents. Sadly, the aircraft (the Shackleton) is battered beyond airworthiness, but at least they have avoided a fire. The engine sling that was supposed to hold it in place, proves to have been sabotaged - Hennings parting gift to the expedition.
They examine Dibdens injuries, and conclude that it isnt safe to transfer him across the pitching deck in this viscious storm. They set up a hammock and bandage him as best they can.
Clive Romford checks out the lower hold for damage, and is very relived to find the Fairchild monoplane -sitting on an array of fuel drums - is intact, although some kerasine has leaked through.*
Concerned about the prospect of fire, they clean up the kerasine, and then, as*the storm begins to subside, they help Dibden back to sickbay. Dr Green examines him, and ascertains that while *the injuries arent immediately life threatening , Dibden needs to rest for a while.
Harry goes to report to Starkweather and Moore, and tries to break the news carefully.*
Starkweather is livid. "She's done it again ! I dont care..THREE planes, TWO planes. ONE...we go ON!" he rages.
There is a pounding from the cabin wall :"Keep it down, I'm trying to sleep!" complains Dibden.
The furious storm continues for another two days. Fitzwilliam remains badly seasick- and tries to numb the pain with the moonshine they acquired in New York. It is debatable whether the concoction helps or makes the situation worse.
Dibden is visited by a concerned Charline Whitsun, although he protests, clearly being uncomfortable by her attentions.*
"You need to take better care of yourself- there are people on this boat who care about you!" she declares as she uncovers a bowl of her special chicken soup.
"Would you like some of this broth ? " Dibden asks Fitzwilliam.
The only reply is a tortured groan.
The storm blows itself out and finally abates on the 28th.*
The *ship continues to sail south, and brache ice begins to appear. Over the next few days, the ice begins to solidify and eventually, on the 31st, the ice freezes around the ship, stopping it dead.
Work parties are formed : each man is issued with a pick, and they spend a hard, long , day, digging a path through to the next lead of open water.
Once free again, the ship sails east and spends the next few days looking for a better path south.
On November 5th news comes that Lexingtons ship, the Tallahasee, is trapped in ice. Starkweather is immensely cheered at the news. The following day, a cold fog descends, and the ship slows its progress to a crawl.
Just after midday, a cry comes from the lookout - the bow of a whaler has been spotted, trapped in the ice of a nearby flow...
For the next day or two, the ship sails south into increasingly rough seas. Starkweather and Moore pore over charts while the less seasoned members of the expedition suffer from mal-de-mer.
Finally, a huge storm hits, and the deck heaves up and down as huge waves batter the ship. The team are taken on the wildest rollercoaster ride of their lives, increasig the misery of the sea-sick members. Dibden, a seasoned traveller, is unaffected, and cheerfully downs a full fried breakfast, to the torment of his roommate, Fitzwilliam.
As the ship rolls in the swell, items fall off of shelves and tables, and they learn to stow their gear carefully. Dibden, as about the only member of the team fit to move, teams up with Moore to check to stowage in the holds. Pulling on waterproofs, and clinging precariously onto the lines rigged on the deck, he is subject to the icy waves crashing over the deck. Making it to the hold, he checks the items are safe, and then staggers along the perilous trip back to the cabins, soaked through and thoroughly chilled. A change of clothes later, he cracks open a bottle of whisky which he shares with the suffering Fitzwilliam.
Shortly before 7pm the storm dies, and the crew are presented with a glorious sunset.*
The next day, mist forms, and the first ice-flows and bergs are spotted. Seals are spotted on some of the flows, and Frankie Sykes shoots one to add to the supplies.*
By October 26th the ice is increasingly visible, and immense waves have been commonplace. The ship reels in the largest storm yet, and the crates in the hold strain against their ropes, and the dogs howl miserably.
Amidst the noise, there is a ringing crash from the forward hold as the ship falls into another trough. As the ship rolls again, the crash is repeated, Romford leaps to his feet. "The aircraft engines !" he (correctly) surmises.
Rushing to the door, he is met with a wall of pitch black, a deck awash with freezing water, the rain blasting into his face.*Roping himself to the guide lines, he inches his way along the deck. Forced to his knees, he has to crawl towards the hold. The others begin to rope themselves together to assist him. The air cuts into their faces as they work their way along the deck ; everyone has to shout to be heard.*
Yet another huge wave impacts the deck. One of the guideline pinions breaks, and Ford is swept off his feet and dragged across the deck towards the black ocean beyond. Fords rope is all that stands between him and certain drowning.
Fitzwilliam frantically begins to haul on the line. At first it is difficult to see, but eventually, he comes into view. Harry moves to help Ford, just as another wave hits; they are swept away from the deck and towards the freezing waters below. Frantically the others haul them to safety, leaving the two stunned and gasping in the lee of the hold door.
Reaching the hold, they find that two of the airplane engines have broken loose and are bouncing aroynd in the hold, crushing everything they came into contact with. A pallet of kerasine tins has been cracked, leaving the floor of the hold awash with flamable liquid.
All it will take is a single spark....
*Mazel tov !
As Dibden arrives for his shift making pemmican, he is greeted by the sound of swearing in a broad irish accent. Miles and Dewitt emerge from the production facility stinking of pemmican and blood.
"Its bad enough eating the f***ing stuff, let alone making it !" growls Miles.
"And thats the politest thing he's said all day" mutters DeWitt.
Dibden sighs, and accepts he will have to find some way to make it up to the crew later.
The next few days consist of little but hard grind, as they produce the pemmican. However, eventually the weary men have produced all five tons, and they return to the ship with it packaged and ready for transfer into the hold.
Moore meets them at the boat and announces "*The mayor *is throwing us a party before we leave. All are invited. Isnt that great?"
The weary men nod, unable to take in any news before they've had a shower and some sleep.
The night of the mayors party arrives. They are all welcomed, champaigne and cake is handed around, and their health is toasted.
Fitzwilliam laughs about the apparent contradiction *"They toast our health and then give us lots of wine and cake? "*
Romford raises an eyebrow. "You'd prefer if they fed us pemmican?"
Fitzwilliam gives him a dirty look.
Halperin and DeWitt are particularly popular with the Melbourne ladies, while Moore and Starkweather hold court with the mayor. The tired team do their best to keep out of trouble and spend most of the evening quietly in a corner.
At the end of the evening a messenger arrives with a telegram for James Ford. Curious. The team cluster around. Its from Mandy Carnegie.
How does it feel to know you're going to be a father?"
There are cheers and many congratulationd from all and sundry.. The only one not cheered by the news is Ford himself, who wonders morosely if he can avoid returning from Antarctica.
" I might die first." he says, hopefully, and reaches for the wine bottle.
The next morning, October 18th, Starkweather arrives in a truck labelled with the name of a local welding firm. The repacement oxygen has arrived. Starkweather gives an impromptu press conference as the oxygen is loaded and signs off from the gangplank with a "thank you lads...we'll be back in a few months!"
The SS Gabrielle sets sail, and the last outpost of civilisation before Antarctica fades into the distance.*The team lean over the rails, looking expectantly to the south. Who knows whats awaits them before they next make port ...?
Arriving in Australia...
...Moore confers with the team about replacing the destroyed supplies. They put together a list of supplies and potential suppliers, and try to prioritise the list.
As they descend off of the boat,*Dibden and Ford watch the police take Henning away.
"Well, thats that sorted."says Dibden, sounding very satisfied. He starts to consider plans of what to do while in port.
" Are we staying at a hotel while in town?".
In the distance,Henning turns and gives them a broad smile as he is bundled into a police car.
"I am now." says Ford, emphatically.
Harry contacts a local business about replacing the pemmican. However, to his surprise he finds that the company doesnt normally make pemmican exept in special circumstances. They are happy to hire out the production line - but not the manpower. The team will need to either hire staff, or make it themselves...
Harry discusses the possibility of hiring staff with the others. Reluctant to hire locals, the team examine the list of expedition crew members, and negotiate with Moore to Help make it. "Frankie" Sykes, *Patrick Miles, David Packard and Enke Fiskarson are seconded to them for the effort. Dr Dibden suggests he oversee the process - as a trained chef (as well as a medical doctor) he can check the results are fit for consumption.
Harry and Clive Romford pick up the replacement radios and, mindful of previous problems, check them over.
Next they join up with Fitzwilliam to pick up photographic supplies, but the shop they had been referred to has burned down. They quickly track down the supplier at his new place of business, and as they dodge the trams and carriages on the drive to the new site, wonder aloud if the fire was accidental or deliberate.
Arriving at the supplier, they again check the products through carefully. A few unfamiliar items turn out to be nothing more suspicious than local brands for familiar products. Harry makes a point of having these local products replaced by brands he is more familiar with.
Dr Dibden coordinates with Niles (the ships cook) in getting the ruined shipboard food replaced, while Bert Pacquare and the ships engineers fix the refridgerator hold.
James Ford goes looking for Enke, who is busy feeding the huskies.
"i need you" he tells the dog handler.
"I'm afraid you're not my type..." replies Enke, straightfaced.
"Err...I mean I'd like you to help me to make some pemmican." says a rather harried Ford, as he fends of the enthusiastically friendly dogs. *A damp sensation from his trouser leg tells him that Duchess, the lead dog, has marked him as her territory.
The brief appearance of Mrs Chippie, now glorying in her role as offical ships cat, causes some temporary havoc, but all is soon calm again, and Enke agrees to help with pemmican.
Later that evening, they discuss the possibility that while they're in port they could get some ladies to join them on board for the ballroom dance classes, and eventually Dr Green and Frankie Sykes manage to rummage up some dance partners from somewhere (the team decide not to enquire too closely....).
Next morning, the pemmican crew assemble, and head off to the production facility. Dibdens half-joking idea that they add chocolate flavouring to it is voted down, and after organising some overalls to keep their clothes clean, they roll up their sleeves and get to it.
It is hard, smelly and hot work; by the end of the day the smell of pemmican pervades the air, and splatters of *blood and mollasses cling to their overalls and hair. After the first day, they have produced half a ton of pemmican.
"We need five tons" explains Dibden.
"We'll never get it done in time at this rate." mutters Ford wiping his forehead and leaving a bloody smear.
Dibden goes to see Moore, who promises to try to free up more expedition members.
The following day, the expedition party is assembled by Moore. "All shore leave is cancelled. I'm afraid Dr Dibden needs us all to get the pemmican produced in time."
Dibden winces, realising his popularity on the crew is about to take a nosedive.....
The Saboteur Revealed.
The discovery of the makeshift bomb naturally concerns the team greatly, and they continue their checks. A number of other items come to light, including the ruining of Harrys photographic chemicals with bleach.
"Thorough buggers, aren't they ? " comments Fitzwilliam.
Their next step is to request to see the dynamite in storage , which raises a few eyebrows with First Officer Turlough (who is currently unaware of the nature of their search). They are relieved to find *the dynamite,safe in its bed of sand in its locked shed*.
As night falls, they are still working their way through checking the supplies. Once satisfied they've been through everything, they speculate on the identity of the sabouteur over a dinner of pemmican.
Fitzwilliam decides to secretly camp out in one of the holds, hoping to catch him.
In the meantime, the party continue their investigations against a background of pemmican for breakfast, pemmican for lunch , and pemmican for dinner. Grumbles amoungst the crew begin, and mutterings of "jinx" and jonah" begin to circulate.
Towards the end of the week, messages are sent from the radio shack to Starkweather. His mood is foul for the rest of the day - for the Lexington Expedition has arrived in Tasmania.
The shipboard regular business continues on, without further excitement for a day or two. Fitzwilliam continues to camp out in the hold, surfacing for meals (of pemmican) , and occassionally for new reading material. Occassionally he is joined by other members of the team.
On October 11th, he and Clive Romford are sharing the vigil when they are interrupted by the sound of the hold being opened. A shadowy figure enters, carrying a package. Clives attempt to sneak behind the intruder fails as Romford stumbles over something in the dark. The intruder tries to flee, but after a physical struggle, they at last wrestle him to the floor.
Fitzwilliam shines a torch on their captive. It is Adam Henning, the ships steward.
A search of Henning reveals a timing device ready to be attached to the explosives, damning evidence indeed. They decide to use the (now disused) refridgerator room as a makeshift brig, and Moore, Starkweather and First Officer Turlough join them there.
Questioning Henning proves tricky, as he is not inclined to talk, even under threat of excessive violence and torture (much to Moores discomfort).
Fitzwilliam goes to the kitchen and returns with pemmican that he claims is part of the batch tainted with arsenic (actually, just dusted with flour). After a quick, quiet word with Moore and Starkweather and to the startlement of the group, the usually mild-mannered cartographer promptly force-feeds it to Henning !
Henning panics, and in order to recieve an emetic from the Doctor to clean put his system, he admits that his brother was killed on a previous Starkweather expedition, so that when *"the red-haired man" approached him to sabotage the mission, he was glad to do so.
"The red haired man? " muses Dr Dibden. "I hadn't thought of him for a while..."
Dr Dibden provides an emetic , but at this point the horrified Captain intervenes and takes a vomiting Henning into custody.
Bert Pacquare turns to Fitzwilliam.
"You bastard." he says. "oh, not for catching Henning." He indicates the vomit. *"i'm the poor sod who'll have to clean that up..."
The next morning dawns, and James Ford opens his eyes to a pounding headache, and a closeup view of a gulls beak. The gull squarks in an offensively loud fashion, and flies off.
It appears he fell asleep in a chair on deck last night. Across from him are two feet sticking out from under a blanket. From the snoring sound, he identifies the steward, Adam Henning , who blearily wakes up and heads down to the kitchen.
Dr Dibden wakes up on a couch in the bar, having fallen asleep fully dressed, sitting between Fitzwilliam and Charlie Whitsun. The three rouse themselves, and view the scattered casualties of the party lying around them, most of whom are still in their outfits from the night before.
Romford is roused by what (at first) appears to be a furry motorcyle sitting next to his ear - but on second sight it turns out to be Mrs Chippy, who is waiting breakfast. After retrieving his shoes, he heads towards the kitchen to find some food for the cat. However, as he passes the refridgerator hold, he is struck by the smell of ammonia and food going off. Suddenly feeling very sober, he investigates and discovers that the pipes in the hold have broken. He runs off to find Moore.
Shortly thereafter, Moore, Starkweather, Ford, Dibden, Fitzwilliam and Romford stand in the hold, looking forlornly at the pallets of spoiled food.
Ford, an experienced engineer, takes a look at the copper pipes - they are pitted and eaten through. They could probably be repaired, but much of the food supplies are ruined. On closer inspection, he realises that the break is not due to natural rusting - someone has sabotaged the pipes with acid !
Starkweather and Captain Vrendenburgh discuss the problem. The Captain suggests returning to port, to Starkweathers consternation.
"We must turn back, sir !" objects Vrendenburgh
"No, Captain, we must not !"
"Mr Starkweather, we are four days out from Panama, and two weeks away from Australia. We cannot repair this machinery in the middle of the ocean - your remaing supplies will spoil, sir !"
Starkweather explodes. "We have lost too much time already. SHE is already several days ahead of us - we shall not wait another day. We press on !"
As Starkweather storms away, the watching Bert Pacqaure shakes his head.
"He's gone mad."
"He's bloody starkers !" adds in Niles.
"Bloody Starkers is about right." grunts Bert. "Ah well, we'd better get to work..."
The team discuss the sabotage, and decide to spending the next few days checking the other supplies and equipment in detail.
Romford is relieved to find the Miss Enderby appears to be fine. Fitzwilliam discovers that the pemmican (a specialised high calorie food used in many antarctic expeditions) currently being used to feed the sled dogs has been dusted with a white substance - which turns out to be strychnine.
This latest development causes the most concern. There's enough strychnine over each portion to poison any man or dog on the expedition - no minor matter. Fitzwilliam points out that the dogs are still alive, son this must have happened the previous night. It has to be someone currently on the boat.
Dibden rushes to find the dog handlers, and persuades them to hold off on feeding the dogs, as their food may have been poisoned. Enke Fiskarson goes to check on the animals, and returns reporting that fortunately they seem fine. The poisoning has been discovered just in time.
The pemmican blocks are examined one by one, and the ones which are safe are kept and the others dumped.
They realise that given there are over 70 people on board, they have a long list of suspects. The team go to find Harry , who had been taking photographs at the party. Developing the photos, they begin examining them to see who they can account for during the party.
Over the next couple of days, over 12 tons of food has to be thrown away, but the meals provided by the kitchens are sumptious. Then, as the last of the fresh food is used, the team get their first taste of pemmican....and their second...and their third... After a few days, the diet is beginning to get distinctly dull.
Ford chases down a list of those people with access to the various sabotage sites. It turns out that only four keys exist for the refridgerator hold - The First Officer (Turlow), the Duty Engineer (Pacquare), the Steward (Henning) and the Chef (Niles). Checking the lock suggests it hasn't been picked - so these would appear to be the main suspects. He determines to interview them all.
With Moore's permission, Romford and Fitzwilliam to work through checking the expedition gear, one item at a time, a painfully slow process given they have to rig lighting to help them with their search.
They discover that many of the oxygen tanks seem suspiciously light. The valves have been loosened and the affected tanks are now empty. Given these will be vital on the Antarctic plateau, they'll have to be replaced in Australia.
Meanwhile, Ford and Dibden are interviewing the suspects. The results are sadly inconclusive, given most of the suspects had official reasons to be near the refridgerator hold the previous day, and the confusion of the party made it difficult to keep track of individuals.
Back in the holds Romford and Fitzwilliam continue their checks. Romford finds a small parcel lodged between the fuel drums; a makeshift bomb made from the missing fuse-wire and blasting caps. They take it to Ford, who has experience with explosives from his mining career. His experienced eye shows that its not fully readied - someone would have to come back to finish setting it up......
Between this and the strychnine, its now quite clear someone is playing for keeps.....
The next morning, over breakfast, they discuss how they will approach the harbour master with the incriminating photographs. They spot Bert Pacquare sporting a black eye.
"What happened ?"
"Adam and I ran into some marines in a bar, and we had a ...discussion...over the benefits of the merchant navy against the marines. If you think I look bad, you should see Adam..."
Dibden and Fitzwilliam go to check up on the clearly hungover Adam Henning.
"MORNING HENNING !" bellows Fitzwilliam good-naturedly. Henning winces.
They confirm that Henning has no serious injuries, albeit a generous buffet of bruises.
Ford goes to see the harbour master, and after navigating his way past the secretary, discusses the paperwork. It appears that the paperwork belonging to people with incriminating photos has a habit of being processed quickly, and Ford is soon on his way back with the signed permits.
The supplies are quickly arranged, and soon the S.S.Gabrielle is ready to leave. Lola and Maria come to wave goodbye, and just as the ship pulls away from the pier, Fitzwilliam hurls them a small cannister containing the negatives of the blackmail photos, much to the amusement of the team.
The Gabrielle sails into the pacific, and the weather begins to turn. Strong winds and steep waves buffet the ship, and as they deck rises and falls rapidly, mal-de-mere is the order of the day for many of the expedition. Mrs Chippy is a most unhappy cat too, having been soaked by a particularly large wave, and she hides in Romfords cabin for the duration of the storm.
Below decks, the classes continue. Fitzwilliam joins in with the barbershop quartet, and Romford resumes teaching the aerial navigation class with Halperin, the two having become quite a double act.
"In American, zey have a habit of flying through barns..." observes Halperin, to chuckles from the class "...but if they could navigate in the first place, they might actually be able to fly OVER it once in a while..."
Over the next couple of days, some of the sailors begin to act a little odd. There are secretive huddles, and conversations cease when the party come close. Henning is questioned about it and while being mildly evasive, he admits that Starkweather is getting a reputation as an unlucky man to have around.
The storm continues until the 24th, when the weather clears a little, but the suspicious activity by the sailors continues. Group of crewmen are spotted carrying mysterious packages around, and even the first officer Paul Turlow begins acting secretive.
That evening , about an hour after sunset, the ships engines stop, and the ships horn sounds three times. There is sounds of movement all over the ship.
Up on deck, they are met by a bizarre sight. Marching across the deck, dressed in an elaborate frock coat - and a long green wig - is a man they barely recognise at Bert Pacquare. He turns to a nearby crewman.
"Ho ! Shellback ! Permission to come aboard in the name of his Majesty, King Neptune, monarch of the sea !"
The sailor says in theatrical tones "Why, 'tis Davy Jones himself. Welcome aboard, sir..."
The 'Crossing the Line' ceremony has begun.
The following morning, the 25th, several crewmembers dressed up as old fashioned policemen round up the "landlubbers" amougst the expedition. The crew look on amusedly as the players are brought before the auspices of "King Neptune" and his court (including "Princess Amphrodite", a burly bearded crewman wearing a wig and the dress they saw Pacquare looking at in Panama).
Davy Jones steps forward, and begins to read from a scroll in his hand. *
"Mr James Ford, " (boos from the crowd) "...you are here to answer for your henious crimes against his Majesty." he proclaims. "For I intend to prove that not only did you...
".....willingly wear an OFFENSIVELY loud shirt in a built up area, " (pantomime hisses and boos)
"....and did knowingly AND WITH AFORETHOUGHT, wear shorts, thus showing knobbly knees after dark..." (laughter)
"... and even worse, was seen to be DRUNK while under the influence of alcahol !" (cheers)
Similar charges are read out to the other landlubbers. The sentence of the court, it seems, is a mild hazing at the hands of the crew, followed by a dunking in a specially prepared tank.
Their crimes thus expiated, they are then presented with a certificate to confirm them as "shellbacks" and no longer lowly landlubbers, and members of King Neptunes court.
A party follows , lubricated by copious amount of beer. The party continues late into the night, and eventually the somewhat merry expedition members crawl into bed having had an eventful, but tiring day.
* To any GM's reading this : I definitely recommend getting the players who are not currently the "accused" to roleplay the cheering and booing from the crowd. Its alot of fun.
September 19th 1933
On the morning of September the 19th, 1933 the S.S.Gabrielle arrives at Colon (the Atlantic side of Panama canal). They reach the first gates where large electric train-tugs pull the ship into the locks, and the water level is raised.
As the group sit around on deck,watching as the water level rises in the lock, Henning serves them with a drink. The sun warms them, and the stress filled days of New York seem far away. They are joined by some of the off duty crew, and ships engineer Bert Pacquare starts a small poker game to pass the time.
They discuss the Panama canal, and the likely queues waiting at the next set of locks. Rumours picked up by Pacquare suggests that bribery is rife amoungst the Panamanians, and that for a suitable sum, the queues can be jumped.
Reaching the inland lake on the other side of the lock, they sit and watch the verdant green landscape pass, capuchin monkeys climbing in the trees on the shore line and canoes laden with bananas tied up on makeshift piers leading to inland plantations.
They fall to discussing Mrs Chippy's latest escapades with the expedition huskies, Ford's romantic entanglements with Mandy Carnegie, and the Roerich kidnap. Provided with a constant stream of food and drink by Henning, the first stage of the transit is very relaxed.
At the next set of locks, there is indeed a queue of five or six ships ahead of the Gabrielle, and waiting seems to be the order of the day. Even the wind seems to feel a lack of urgency, barely blowing at all, and as the afternoon wears on, the still hot air begins to get uncomfortable. The group head downstairs to escape the heat, and emerge in the later afternoon, by which time the ship has made it past the second set of docks, and arrived in the bay outside Panama city.
Ford and Romford propose a "leg stretch" in the city, possibly as a prelude to sourcing some of the supplies lost during the dockside fire in New York. Joined by Dibden and Fitzwilliam, they get a crew member to row them to shore, and they explore a dockside packed with stalls selling uncooked (and cooked) food, tequila, cloths, hats, and souvenirs. Local women walk around wearing bowler hats and brightly coloured shawls, fresh fruit balanced in baskets hoisted on their shoulders.
Ford buys a sombrero and some postcards of the nearby capuchin infested island, known as Monkey Island. The hat seller assures him that the island is "cursed..." but that they will be safe as long as they don't land.
First on Ford and Dibdens agenda are, unsurprisingly, women and a bar. A likely bar advertising "dancing girls" and "American beer" is found in short order, and the four decide to spend the evening there. They strike up a conversation with the bar staff while they listen to the band play a selection of latin rhythms while two pretty girls dance on stage.
As obviously affluent tourists, they soon attract the attention of the dancers, Lola* and Maria, who come over to talk to them. The dancers prove a good source of information, and confirm that the Tallahasse sailed through some time before. They mention seeing the Habourmaster, who is well known take bribes, meet with some members of the Lexington team. A certain amount of flirtation ensues , to the delight - and embaressment - of the sheltered Fitzwilliam.
Romford history as a pilot in the war also attracts the attention of the Lola and Maria.
"Is it true you airmen were only expected to last 17 minutes during the war?" Lola asks wickedly, her voice dripping with innuendo.
As a flummoxed Romford searchs for a reply, a jealous Fitzwilliam mutters "Yes...f-f-firing blanks".
As the evening wears on, they arrange to meet Moore,who is a little flustered. "Apparently we need some permits to buy our supplies, but the Harbour master is refusing to sign..."
The group are not surprised, voicing suspicion that the Lexington expedition have bribed the habourmaster. After Moore leaves, they determine to resolve the permits situation by fair means - or foul.
A further conversation with Lola turns up the fact that the Harbour master has a particularly formidable wife, who he avoids by going to bars after work. The barman, Hector, adds that according to rumour, the Harbourmaster has a mistress somewhere in town.
The potential for blackmail is then discussed. Fitzwilliam returns to the boat to fetch his camera - bumping into Bert Pacquare on the way , who seems to be taking a distinct interest in a ladies dress in a shop window**.
On Fitzwilliams return, they decide to shadow the harbour master. This brings dividends later that evening as they follow him back to his mistress' residence, a narrow four story colonial era house.
Desperate to get photographs suitable for blackmail, Ford and Fitzwilliam risk climbing a drainpipe to reach the balcony of the residence while the others keep look out. Peering in through a gap in the blinds, they catch a glimpse of the Harbour Master with his mistress. A dozen photographs later, they shin back down the drainpipe, and head home for the ship....
* Yes, the bar IS called the Copacabana. why do you ask ?
** All will be revealed*** later
*** No, not in that way. Behave.
Her side blackened and scorched, the Gabrielle is towed to a new birth.
The police grill the team until the early hours of the morning, but they decide not to hold the expedition.
9th September 1933
The next morning the smoke has cleared, and the warehouse is little but smoldering embers.
After a check over of the ship, its apparent that the damage is superficial. Many supplies have been destroyed, but the firefighting efforts have saved vital items, so a resupply in Panama and Australia should be possible. The conclusion is that the Gabrielle can sail as planned.
Detective J.J.Hansen visits the team to inform them that Polk has a police record as an arsonist, and notes mildly that it is a bit odd that the known arsonist was the one person amoungst the dead who has been shot. However, he has insufficient evidence to hold them, and the S.S.Gabrielle sets sail at last on the afternoon tide.
The next couple of days, the group get used to shipboard life.
Every morning after breakfast, a chalkboard is set up displaying the weather forecast, the longtitude and latitude , and which classes are available for that day.The party discovers the joys of learning polar survival, aircraft maintenance, meteorology, dog sledding and even ballroom dancing.
Romford and Halperin run a class on aerial navigation and Harry and Fitzwilliam run a class on photography. Adam Henning starts a poker game with Ford, the ships Cook Nils, and the ships engineer Bert Pacquare.
Dibden organises a bridge night - and thus the week is whiled away on a mixture of schoolwork and leisure.
Dibden and Fitzwilliam are introduced to the huskies properly, especially Princess and Duchess, two lead sled dogs, and begin to get to know the viking-like Enke Fiskarsen, aone of the dog sled team leaders.
During the bridge nights, Charlene gets to know Dr Dibden and Fitzwilliam better, and Charlie hints that she has already met Dr Dibden before. She talks about growing up with her four brothers, and that she's more than capable of taking care of herself in a male-dominated environment.
Fitzwilliam mentions sailors have superstitions about having a woman on board. Charlie replies that this doesnt seem to be a problem but some of the sailors are beginning to feel a bit superstitious about the Starkweather Expeditions run of bad luck.
At the poker evenings, Romford and Ford discover they're not particularly good players, and learn a few tricks from the ships crew - albeit at the expense of their wallets. Ribald tales are told by Pacquare about Hennings previous voyages, including smuggling three women onboard from the Rio festival - complete with costumes.
At the end of the week, lights are spotted on the horizon, and eventually Panama hoves into view.
The next morning, the team discuss the mystery of the "red haired man" over breakfast, with no clear conclusions.
Starkweather stands up and gives a short speech in which he asks the expedition to organise their room mates for the voyage (apart from Harry who will share with the photographic equipment, and Charlie Whitsun, who will have a bunk to herself).
Fitzwilliam and Dr Dibden agree to room together, as do Romford and Ford. They finish their breakfast, and begin to transfer their gear to the S.S. Gabrielle, the expeditions ship.
As he heads downstairs to the hotel lobby, Harry runs into his friend Albert Priestly (who has now joined the Lexington Expedition). Albert warns Harry that there is "something wrong" with the Lexington expedition - she is having very secretive meetings where the rest of the team are not invited. The two friends agree to keep in touch, and wish each other luck.
"Whoever gets there first buys the other one drinks ?" suggests Harry.
"Agreed." smiles Albert.
At the docks, Ford is thanked by the new workers, many of whom have not worked for some time. It is mentioned that due to one of the workers' being absent due to his wife having had a baby (delivered by Dr Dibden in a previous session) , that Jerry Polk, another one of the workers, will have to work double shift tonight.
The team have a quick look around the ship as they store their gear, and meet Adam Henning, a crew member from London, who introduces himself as their steward for the voyage. "Anything you need lads, snacks, drinks, just ask, I'm here to help..."
Once they have stowed their gear, they decide to check out Lexington Expeditions ship, the S.S Tallahasse, hoping to speak to Acacia. They are rebuffed at the gate by a security guard, and after a short time watching the busy dock, they decide there is little more to be seen at present, and leave.
Chores complete and the afternoon free, they return to the boat, and relax on deck in the warm September sun. The team discuss a number of items - Fords relationship with Mandy, the potential for boredom on a long voyage, the tradition of "crossing the line" ceremonys. Much to their delight, Adam Henning produces some sandwiches and a bottle of brandy ; Peter 'Frankie' Sykes (the expeditions head polar guide), Dr Green and Halperin join them, and the group begin to swap stories.
As the group begin to get increasingly tipsy, Sykes challenges Dr Green to a good natured swimming competition. Bets are laid, Dr Dibden offers to be the referee, and the crew gather around to watch the entertainment. Amidst cheering from the crew, Sykes narrowly wins the race.
An impromptu party breaks out, carries on through dinner (where the team are introduced to the new ships Captain, a scandanavian named Vrendenburgh, and the first officer, Paul Turlow. ) and into the evening.
During the party, a scampering sound is heard and a crew member pursues a blur across the deck. The blur leaps for Romford, who discovers to his startlement that it is Mrs Chippie, his mothers missing cat. "Mrooow!"
"It looks like we have a ships cat". observes Dr Dibden.
BOOM !!! The revelry is rudely interrupted by an explosion and the sounds of shattering glass. A whooosh of flames from the warehouse is followed by screams within it. Cries of "FIRE ! FIRE !" ring out as fuels drums on the dockside erupt. Secondary explosions ring out as the flames run along the dock, steveadores running in all directions as they try to save materials,injured workmates, or just themselves.
As the winch operator flees, a cargo sling carrying fuel drums is left suspended over the blazing dock. Fitzwilliam clears the deck to make space for them, while Dr Dibden and Charlene Whitsun run to grab the medical supplies from below decks.
Braving the flames, Harry runs to the winch cab and Ford runs towards the warehouse.
Romford recruits Patrick Miles and Halperin, and they begin manning the fire hoses. Struggling with the high pressure, Romford accidentally soaks Fitzwilliam before he gets the hose under control, and begins spraying the fuel drums in an effort to keep them cool.
Ford reaches the warehouse, and begins dragging unconscious steveadores aware from the fire. Harry flings himself into the winch cab at which point he realises that he doesnt know how to operate the winch....ironically Ford does but he's too far away to help !
Panicked howling huskies add to the din, and choking black oily smoke begins to fill the air.
Fitzwilliam hauls drums for all he is worth as Dr Dibden rushes up from delow, medical kit in hand.
On the dock, Ford spots a figure moving amoungst the smoke. Could this be their saboteur ?
Its Jerry Polk, the guard, and he's busy splashing gasoline around the area !
As flames begin to lick the side of the winch cabin, Harry frantically pulls levers. The sling swings wildly through the air, nearly decapitating Romford.
Ford draws his pistol, and shoots at Polk. Wounded, the arsonist throws a small gasoline can at Ford, but misses. The grin on Polks face is unnerving as the fire begins to lick around them. Another "KA-BOOM !" echoes across the docks, as Polk tries to splash gasoline over Ford, but the engineer reacts faster and shoots him at point-blank range. Polk staggers back and collapses to the ground, dead.
In the rapidly heating Winch cab, Harry manages to find the right levers, and manages to lower the fuel into the ships hold. Job done, he leaps from the cab, his coat smoldering.
Dr Dibden narrowly avoids a crate of cooking ammunition, and starts rescuing and treating some of the unconscious steveadores on the dockside, assisted by Charlie Whitsun.
Inside the warehouse, an ominous creaking sound begins to come from above. Ford flings himself out from underneath the collapsing roof and onto the dockside, shaken.
The firehoses begin to make progress against the fire, and the fire brigade begins to arrive. As the first engines begin to attack the fire and the glare begins to abate.
Looking downriver, lights are moving. The S.S. Tallahasee, pulled by tugs, is moving out into the main flow of the river.
Acacia Lexingtons expedition is on its way to the Antarctic, one day earlier than expected...and the crippled Starkweather -Moore expedition can do nothing but watch it sail away....,
Douglas Halperin comes running over.
"I don't mean to worry you" he says, "but I have just seen the strangest thing out in the main hall...."
They rush out into the foyer and see Nicholas Roerich being ushered into a car -it appears Mr Roerich is being kidnapped at gun point !
As the car drives off, the team urgently hail a taxi.
â€œIâ€™m sure youâ€™ve always wanted to hear this â€¦â€ says Arthur to the taxi driver. â€œFollow that car !â€
â€œSi, senor !â€ cries the delighted taxi driver.
A game of cat and mouse through the New York traffic ensues ; the taxi driver manages to keep up with the kidnappers for quite a distance, until their prey reaches a group of warehouses on the river front. At that point the kidnappers manage to lose them.
The team drive around trying to find them again ; after about half an hour they spot the car parked hidden down a side alley near one of the warehouses. On the other side of the warehouse, a small motor boat is tied up by the river side, with signs a second was recently present.
Examining the warehouse while the taxi waits, the group try to work out if anyone is there. No lights are visible from the outside but after Clive listens at a door, he states he can just about hear movement. The warehouse is definitely occupied.
They try to work out how they After careful examination of the exterior doors, they spot that one has previously been forced but is now padlocked shut.
They also examine the kidnappers car.
â€œI could cut their tyres with my scalpelâ€ suggests Dr Dibden.
â€œYou call that a scalpel ?â€ says Harry. He produces his Russian army bayonet. â€œThis is a scalpel.â€
Meanwhile, James Ford is having a date with his girlfriend Mandy. Over drinks they discuss the possibility that someone might wish to steal her black opal necklace.
â€œSounds like I need someone big and manly to protect me, then.â€ she says, as she affectionately runs a finger down his chest. â€œKnow anyone who might qualify ?â€
Ford grins in reply.
Back at the dockside, the rest of the party decide to force the padlock with a tire iron borrowed from the Taxi driver. Quietly sneaking in, they discover a warehouse containing some boxes, an office, and an old car. Its obvious the warehouse has been disused for some time.
A German accented voice echoes down the stairs from the next floor up.
â€œWhere is Herr Professor Dyer ?â€
A gently spoken reply in a Russian accent : â€œI cannot tell you, I do not know.â€
There is the sound of a blow.
â€œWhere is Herr Danforth ?â€
â€œI do not know who you mean.â€
â€œWho else knows about the Pym book ?â€
â€œWhy are you doing this ?â€
â€œYou are not being helpful, Herr Roerich.â€
The sounds of another blow ring out.
The group quickly confer. Examining the disused car inside the warehouse, they discover the battery still has charge. They come up with a plan to draw the Germans down the stairs ; Fitzwilliam will start the car engine, whilst the others will ambush whoever comes to investigate.
They put their plan into action. At the sounds of a car revving, a torch light appears at the top of the stairs.
â€œVas is das?â€œ
As someone comes down to see what is happening, Fitzwilliam switches on the headlights, blinding their prey - a bulky middle aged man in hat and overcoat, who is waving a gun around.
Harry, Arthur and Clive jump him ; after a brief but noisy scuffle they knock him out. Romford retrieves the handgun, and the rush upstairs , where they find Anthony Sothcott guarding a hog-tied Nicolas Roerich.
Sothcott dives behind a crate and opens fire. His panicked shot goes wild as Arthur and Harry rush him. As they grapple the gunman Arthur manages to pull out his scalpel and pin the mans gun hand to the crate. Unable to move, and held at gunpoint by Romford, Sothcott surrenders.
Roerich is untied, and proves to be bruised but not seriously hurt.
â€œMy package ? Where is my package ?â€
Roerich explains that he is an old friend of William Dyer, who sent him a package a few days ago. Dyer, it appears, wanted to get the package to his old friend William Moore, but was worried it might be stolen if it was sent directly, and so sent it to Roerich, knowing he was in New York.
â€œUnfortunately, there was a third man with these two, who took the package from me. I think he left in a motorboat.â€
Meanwhile, Harry & Arthur question Sothcott.
Arthur twists the scalpel in his hand.
â€œThe police want to question you for the murder of Commander Douglas.â€
â€œMurder? The old drunken fool attacked me and fell into the water. He hit his head on the pier. I didnâ€™t touch the man.â€
â€œWhy did he attack you ?â€
â€œI just wanted to find out what he knew about the Pym document.â€
â€œWhere is it now? And what about Douglasâ€˜ logsâ€
â€œThey were forwarded to my employer.â€
â€œWhy did you sabotage us ?â€
â€œThe sabotage is nothing to do with me !â€
â€œWho is the red haired man ?â€
â€œI do not know. I have seen him though - standing around near the docks to the Tallahassee, Acacia Lexingtonsâ€™ ship.â€
â€œWho are you working for ?â€
â€œKill me if you like - you vill not find out.â€
The police are called and Sothcott is taken away. Roerich is escorted to Hospital to be checked over.
When they meet back up with Ford they discuss the nights events.
â€œSo, they have the Pym book stolen from Lexington, Douglasâ€™ logs and Dyers document as well.â€ muses Ford. â€œThatâ€™s a lot of information.â€
â€œHow do I sign up for their expedition ?â€ jokes Romford.
September the 6th (flashback for the player who missed last week)
Clive Romford has not had a fun day.
Having escorted his mother to the train station, her cat (Mrs Chippie) escapes from its carry case. Unable to delay the train any longer, his mother departs, leaving him to spend the rest of the day in a fruitless search for the missing feline.
He returns to the hotel in the evening, frustrated with having lost so much time, but relieved that his over-protective mother has at last returned home.
September the 7th
Harry Corkendale steps off at a train station in upstate New York, having travelled overnight from Manhattan. A short taxi drive later, he arrives at the farm of Phillip Douglas, the brother of the late Commander J.B Douglas. After a brief explanation, and some coffee, Harry raises the question of what happened to J.B on the previous expedition.
Phillip mentions several stories that J.B. used to tell - of some black jewels that were found on the ice , leading to the loss of two of his fingers to frostbite ; how the student Danforth used to scream every night of the voyage home ; the arguments with Professor Dyer ; how a couple of the crew went snow crazy and attacked their crewmates ; and finally, that J.B suspected that the dead men were not killed by a storm but murdered - probably by Gedney, the missing man.
"He swore never to go back after that." adds Phillip.
A look around the farm shows nothing much else of interest, so Harry gives Phillip his condolences, and begins the long journey back.
Meanwhile, Dr Arthur Dibden, James Ford and Clive Romford have breakfast in the Rose room in the Amhurst hotel. Over coffee and bagels, they discuss their plans for the day.
Their planning session is interrupted by Charlene Whitson - apparently one of Arthurs charity patients in Hooverville in having problems delivering her baby. Pausing only to grab his bag, Arthur leaves in a rush for Central park, with Charlene in tow.
Ford fills Romford in about what they found the previous day.
They discuss the Poe book "The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym", and Romford decides to see what more he can find out. After a long trawl of the various libraries and newspaper morgues, he turns up a newspaper article that suggests that Acacia Lexingtons father once owned a "unique" version of the story - a copy that was reported as missing after his suspicous death !
Arthur returns to the hotel, having successfully delivered the baby, and arranges to meet Nicholas Roerich for dinner at the Amhurst at 6 o'clock that evening. Roerich mentions that he has a document he wishes to deliver to them.
Fitzwilliam, who in typical disorganised fashion, has overslept, charges off to get the train to Arkham (via Boston).
Ford goes to visit the two fishermen that tried to save J.B the night he drowned. They didn't see how J.B fell in the water, but it did look like he had taken a blow to the head.
They mention a man who they heard arguing with the deceased sea captain - a man with a German accent. Suspicion immediately falls on Anthony Sothcott, the man who rented a room at the same hotel, and was mentioned in J.B.'s last letter.
Returning to the hotel, he meets up with Arthur. They compare notes, and decide to take this information to Detective J.J. Hansen, who they find lounging at his desk in the police station. They explain what they've learned.
"Why do you feel this is a job for amateurs ?" demands the cop.
"You didn't find out the man arguing with Commander Douglas had a german accent." replies Ford.
The cop gives a wry smile. "Touche."
"Perhaps the German expedition...er... the Barsmeier-Falken expedition.... are trying to sabotage us?"
Hansen looks up sharply "Do you have any proof of that ? Or just making wild accusations ?"
Ford shrugs. "Just wild accusations at this point."
Fitzwilliam visits his old Alma Mater, Miskatonic University. After a search around the library and the university book store, he gets hold of two copies of Dyers summary report on the 1930-31 expedition. The report itself is rather dry and technical, and really needs a Geologist to understand it fully. He decides to show it to Ford when he returns to New York.
He then takes a trip to Arkham asylum, where he discovers that Danforth escaped several years back. He manages to persuade a doctor to let him look at some of Danforths writing. The doctor shows him a drawing of a jagged line and the words "Te-ke-li-li" written above it.
He also learns that Danforth tried to break into Miskatonic University's geology department. Comparing the Geology departments display with Dyyers summary report, he notes that the black opals found by the expedition are no longer there. Some further research shows they were sold off at auction to Carnegie Jewelers Inc, of New York...the company owned by Mandy Carnegies father.
Harry and Fitzwilliam return from their trips, and the group meets up back at the hotel.
"You couldn't get your girlfriend to lend us one of her opals, do you think?" asks Fitzwilliam of Ford. "I think thats what the escaped lunatic Paul Danforth is after."
"Not likely ! You reckon he's after these opals ?" says Ford. "Well, I can warn her not to wear them I suppose."
The party compare Danforths handwriting to the second warning note ("Dear man of science...."), and conclude that he may well have written it. *
Harry notes that J.B. lost two fingers to frostbite because of the opals.
"It seems odd that an experienced man would make that mistake." he says
Ford takes a look at Dyers summary report, a very thorough and well written report by an expert geologist. However, he finds that the last section - that says the only thing found over the mountains was a plateau covered in grotesque rock formations - doesnt add up. Any geologist worth his salt would have taken photos - of which there are none. All very odd.
"Grotesque rock formations ? Grotesque. Thats a strange choice of words." he adds.
Ford calls his girlfriend, arranges to meet her for dinner, and hurries off to let her know the worrying news about her necklace.
By now, 6 o'clock is nigh, and it is time for the others to meet with Nicholas Roerich. Just as they're sitting down at the table in the restaurant
of the hotel, Douglas Halperin comes running over.
"I don't mean to worry you" he says, "but I have just seen the strangest thing out in the main hall...."
They rush out into the foyer and see Nicholas Roerich being ushered into a car -it appears Mr Roerich is being kidnapped at gun point !
(to be continued !)
6th September 1933
Dr Arthur Dibden wakes up on this particular morning, feeling somewhat refreshed after the first decent nights sleep he's had in a week. He is just contemplating putting on his slippers and having a shave when there is a polite knock on his door.
"Arthur, are you awake ?" comes William Moores voice. "May I come in ?"
There has been a disaster it seems. The newpaper headlines scream it out in large type : "FAMED SEA CAPTAIN MURDERED -Watery death for Commander Douglas". The man who was planned to captain their sailing vessel is dead, before he even reports for duty.
Moore and Starkweather gather Dr Dibden, Harry Corkendale, Fitzwilliam and James Ford together. The co-leaders are very concerned about this latest set of events - have the mysterious saboteurs now turned to murder ?
"While I have every confidence New Yorks finest will get to the bottom of this eventually, we may well have sailed by then. I could do with knowing if we have saboteurs aboard BEFORE we sail, as I'm sure you can appreciate." says Starkweather.
Moore nods. "During the stock-checking, you've proven to be resourceful and good at spotting things that are wrong. We'd like you to look into Commander Douglas's affairs, see if there's anything suspicious about them."
"So what do you say men ? Are you up for it ?" adds Starkweather.
"It beats making kennels in the hold." mutters Dr Dibden to the others. They readily agree to check out Douglas' belongings in Room 23 at the Westbury hotel, to see if there are any clues to why he was murdered.
After a quick breakfast in their rooms, they start to head out of the Amhurst, only to find the foyer packed with press. In an effort to avoid them, they decide to slip out the back exit. Just as they're reaching the door, tihnking they've escaped all attention, they run into a scruffily dressed man in a suit and homburg.
"Detective J.J. Hansen, NYPD." the man introduces himself. "May I ask you a few questions ?"
The group look at each other.
"C-Certainly " says Fitzwilliam "I-if you d-dont mind if we talk on the go. We'd r-rather avoid the press, y-you see."
"Indeed ?" says Hansen with a raised eyebrow. "Well, my car is out back, perhaps I can give you a lift."
During the short ride Hansen asks them some fairly standard questions with regards to the crime last night.
Where were they at about 11 o'clock last night ? "Drinking coffee in the hotel"
Do they have any witnesses ? "Err...just each other I'm afraid"
Do they know where Douglas was staying ? "A hotel somewhere I suppose. Not at the Amhurst..."
Having decided they don't want to tell Hansen that Douglas was staying at the Westbury, they get him to drop them off after a few blocks. A quick Taxi ride later and they arrive at the Westbury.
The Westbury turns out to be considerably shabbier than they expected - little more than a flop house, with litter in its gutters and hobos lounging outside. After some discussion they nominate James Ford (as the only native US citizen, and thus theoretically the least noticable) to go in. He is to rent the room next to Douglas' and they will then climb in Douglas's room via the fire escape.
The clerk looks up from the newspaper he is reading. A picture of Harry Corkendale and Albert Preistly adourn its cover under the headline: BROTHERS-IN-ARMS JOIN RIVAL EXPEDITIONS. It appears that not only is the news out about Harry joining the S-M Party, but his old friend Albert has joined up with Lexington !.
"Yeah, Buddy ?"
"I'd like to rent a room. Number 22 if its available. Its my lucky number." says Ford confidently.
The clerk, a shabby, greasily haired man, eyes him suspiciously, but after payment of a weeks rent, hands over the key to number 22.
Climbing up the stairs, Ford realises he's made a mistake. Room 22 is not next to room 23, it is opposite it. THe even numbered rooms are on one side of the building, the odd numbers on the other. What is more, a uniformed police officer stands outside the door to number 23.
Ford goes into room 22, opens the window, and the group use the fire-escape to clamber in.
"Well, I can't go down and claim I got my lucky number wrong, can I ?" says Ford.
"And I'm in the paper this morning." says Harry.
"And m-my st-stutter m-makes m-me m-memorable" points out Fitzwilliam.
Arthur lets out a sigh, clambers back down the fire escape, and reenters the building.
A $10 bribe to the clerk works wonders.
"Yeah," says the clerk. "I can give you room 21. The guy who was in there checked out very early this morning."
This peakes Arthurs interest.
"Oh yes, what was his name?"
"Sothcott. Anthony Sothcott."
"What about the man in room 23 ?"
"The dead guy ? Yeah, he checked in aobut 3 days ago. Commander Douglas, or something like that."
Arthur makes a note of that. He walks upstairs, passes the police officer, and into room 21. A few moments later the rest of the group join him there.
They try the door that connects room 21 to room 23. Locked, and none of them a locksmith.
James volunteers to go down to the stairs to act as a look-out while the others break in through the window. Harry, Arthur and Fitzwilliam climb out onto the fire-escape, and begin working on the rotten window to room 23 with Harry's army knife.
The others looks surprised that a photo-journalist would carry such a wicked looking weapon.
"Very useful on the Russian front,these." he explains.
Inside, the room is a shambles. Someone has clearly searched it, and not been too covert about it either. They move about quietly, not wishing to alert the police officer outside the door.
Down in the foyer, James Ford is startled * to meet Detective Hansen.
"Fancy meeting you here Mr Ford." says the Detective with a smile. "Shall we go upstairs ?"
Ford has had no chance to warn the others. Desperately, he casts about with some way to let them know someone is coming. As he and Hansen approach the door, Ford says loudly " Its mighty fine of you to let me see the room, detective."
Inside the room, their search has turned up several items of interest:
--Harry finds an unfinished letter (by Douglas,to his brother Phillip) that states that he NEVER intended to join the expedition...and "I have no interest in Starkweather's voyage, as you well know. To make matters worse, a lunatic German keeps running into me 'by chance'. The man is obsessed with fairy tales. I've never heard of Pym, or Tslal. If I see him again, so help me Phillip, I shall knock him senseless !"
--Fitzwilliam checks out the contents of the waste paper bin - and finds a scrap of paper with names and telephone numbers on it (including Starkweather and Lexington), as well as the name of a business called "The Purple Cup", and annotated with the names of three sailors.
--Douglas's sea journals for the last 13 years are scattered around the room. Arthur notices that the ones for September 1930- March 1931 are missing.
Fitzwilliam, who is standing near the door, hears Ford's statement. The three rush for the window, but in their haste, Harry and Fitzwilliam bump into each other and Fitzwilliam falls off the fire-escape into the trash bins below.
He is bruised, covered in potato peelings, and now somewhat odourous, but not seriously hurt. The other two clamber back into room 21.
Hansen opens the door to an empty room. "Was this window open when you arrived, Sergeant ?" he asks the officer.
"Don't recall sir." replies the officer.
After a few questions, Ford is allowed to leave. Hansen is suspicious, and the Arthur and Harry in room 21 overhear him telling the police sergeant to keep an eye on the miner.
After some discussion, they decide to see if there is any more information at the library. They discover that 'The Purple cup' is a bar near Battery docks, about 3 blocks from the Westbury hotel. Battery wharf, where Douglas was murdered, proves to be in almost a direct line between the two.
The telephone directory reveals that "Gerald Brackman", one of the telephone numbers on the scrap that Fitzwilliam found, belongs to Brackman and associates, attourneys.
Fitzwilliam decides to do a search on the names Pym and Tslal. While he doesnt find their source, he finds enough to suggest it is related to a novel. Arthur follows this clue up and discovers it is likely to be 'The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym', a novelette by Edgar Allen Poe. Sadly the library's copy is on loan, but the team decide to try and find a copy as soon as possible.
Fitzwilliam is struck by an idea. He phones the Westbury hotel, and the clerk confirms that Anthony Sothcott was german. It seems Douglas' lunatic german and the resident of room 21 are one and the same.
Arthur recalls that there is a German expedition (the Barsmeier-Falken expedition) due to leave for Antarctica sometime soon. More research turns up the names of a few of the scientists on that expedition (none of them are named Sothcott, to the party's disappointment) , and the fact that it will leave Bremehaven on September 15th.
Meanwhile the others visit the purple cup. A conversation with one of its patrons, Orrey Wheaton, establishes that Douglas met several of his friends for a drink the previous evening, but left alone shortly before his death. Fitzwilliam voices the suspicion that there may have been some sort of a pact to avoid going back to the Antarctic.
Talk turns to the South Seas. "You have to watch out for them Orcas." observes Orrey. "Big buggers. Will have your leg off if you're not careful." ***
Harry decides to go and visit Douglas' brother (Phillip) at Phillips' farm upstate. He books himself on the overnight train.**
Heading back to the Amhurst hotel, the Dr Dibden, Fitzwilliam and Ford speculate as to why Professor Dyer decided to move to Hawaii, and what (Dyer's pilot) Danforth might have seen to drive him mad.
On their way past reception, the desk clerk catches Dr Dibden's eye. During the day, a typed letter has been delivered for him.
Upon opening it, Arthur lets out a startled oath. It is another warning.
"You must listen to this warning - there will be no others. After this only action remains...consider this a threat if you like....The expedition must not sail south.Captain Douglas was only the first to die.... Let the dead lie peacefully with their secrets - they are the only ones beyond pain." he reads out.
They begin to lay out plans for the morrow. Moore mentions that a reknowned artist, Nicolas Roerich, has been asking for a meeting, but he (Moore) is too busy - could the group meet with him instead ? They agree.
Questioning Moore establishes that Dyer wrote a report for Miskatonic University, and that Frank Pabodie still works there. This, added to information they have suggesting Danforth is in Arkham asylum, leads to the possibility of going to Arkham for a day trip.
Ford suggests talking to the two fishermen who found Douglas' body; Fitzwilliam volunteers for a visit to his old Alma Mater, Miskatonic University ; Dibden will ring Roerich to organise an appointment.
With their plans made, they head for bed.
4th September 1933
Lost in the realms of dream, Harry finds himself back in Russia.
Times are hard, and the fight for the White Russian cause does not go well. His unit of foreign sympathisers are out of food, low on ammunition, and close to freezing to death.
One of the privates, Jenkins, died overnight of his wounds, and as the survivors shoulder their arms to leave the trench, Harry's friend John comes alongside.
( Didn't John die in Sevastopol ? a part of Harry's mind wonders)
"I haven't had anything since we cooked those dogs two days ago." complains John as they march along, crouched to avoid snipers. "All I want to do is sleep."
As John collapses, his eyes disintigrate leaving two empty rotten pits. A rat sticks his nose out from one eye socket and as Johns face melts away to show the skull underneath, a mass of rats run down the trench and envelope him.
"Don't let them eat me..." cries John as the horde devours him, one agonising bite at a time - and then they turn on Harry. They swarm towards him, a heaving tide of grey-brown bodies...
....and Harry sits bolt upright awake in his bedroom in New York, his heart pounding and a thudding in his head...
...but the thudding is not in his head. There is a banging noise coming from further down the corridor.
Its turns out to be James Starkweather, in robes and pyjamas, who is hammering on the door to Moore's room, his face livid .
"Moore !" shouts Starkweather. "Moore ! Blast it man I need you awake !"
The sounds of doors opening all along the corridor shows that it is not merely William Moore who has had a rude awakening.
"Mr Starkweather, please ! Remember you're British !" complains the tired voice of Arthur Dibden.
James Starkweather is in no mood to listen. He shoulder-charges the door, bursting it open, to reveal Moore sitting up in bed blinking blearily.
"Its HER, Moore !" Starkweather cries as he hurls a newspaper into Moore's lap. " I should have known it all along. I suspected her hand in this from the beginning. The conniving witch ! Who else has the money to spy on us ?! Bribe our employees ?! Sabotage our equipment ?!"
His voice gets even louder as he bellows "She won't get the better of me THIS time ! I'll prove to everyone that she's nothing but a...."
Suddenly, he realises where he is, and that a small audience has gathered at the doorway to Moore's room. He breathes deeply for a moment and then says, his voice icy cold:
"Advance the schedule, Moore. We leave on the ninth. The ninth, Moore - see to it. "
His eyes narrow viciously. "And Moore- GET ME A WOMAN !"
He then storms from the room back to his own, slamming the door as he goes.
Moore bemusedly picks up the paper, looks at it, and goes still for a moment. Then, he sighs.
"Well, you heard Mr Starkweather." he says to the watchers. "The schedule is advanced. We shall leave on the ninth....we'll all have to work a little harder, it seems."
.... at breakfast, it is the talk of the expedition. Indeed, the news is out;
"ACACIA LEXINGTON SETS SIGHT SOUTH- Blonde Beauty to fly to South Pole. Acacia Lexington, heiress to the late Percival Lexington, will set aside business in an attempt to be the first woman to stand at the bottom of the world - to leave 10th September"
Harry observes:"Lexington - thats the woman that Starkweather rescued from danger in Africa a few years back."
"Rescued can depend on your point of view. Possibly she was happy where she was." points out Fitzwilliam.
Arthur is unsure about the wisdom of recruiting a woman to their own party :"One woman and 30-odd men could be a problem..." he muses.
They ask Peter 'Frankie' Sykes if he knows any more.
"I understand he saved her bacon a few years back." says the guide. "She's quite independant and Mr Starkweathers a little...ahhhh....traditional....when it comes to a womans' role. On the last expedition I took with Mr Starkweather, there were rumours that there was some kind of romantic involvement, but I don't know if thats true."
Clive Romford receives a visit from his mother, who has come to New York with the family cat, Mrs Chippie. She presents him with a scarf she's knitted specially for him. The former military man finds her protective attitude a trifle embaressing, and he is most relieved when she agrees to head back home soon.
Harry uses his contacts in the newspaper industries to help him researching Acacia Lexington. He discovers that she inherited her fathers estate when he was murdered, and that one of his rare books - an unusual version of Poe's "the narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" - went missing at about the same time.
In the meantime, he runs into an old friend from the photo-journalist corps ; the cajun Albert Priestly, who fought alongside him in Russia, now down on his luck and out of work.
Albert congratulates Harry on his recruitment into the expedition and jokes about writing a will;
"Ah, mon ami... that way when a penguin savages you to death, I can inherit all your money, non?"
A laughing Harry wishes Albert good luck with his job search.
Arthur is tasked with meeting the expeditions latest member, Charlene Whitson, who has been hurriedly recruited by Moore. Upon her arrival at the train station, he is surprised to find that she is not only a well-educated and experienced scientist, but a strikingly attractive young woman to boot.
"Should I call you Miss Whitson, or do you prefer Dr Whitson ?" he asks with impecable manners.
She smiles charmingly: "Just call me Charlie."
His concerns about her being the only woman on the expedition re-surface, but she does her best to reassure him : "I grew up with four brothers, I can take care of myself."
Her recruitment makes the news headlines:"Woman of education adds poise to Starkweather expedition". Starkweathers U-turn on recruiting a woman gives the group a great deal of amusement.
Back at the docks, the equipment checks continue. Ford assists Sykes with checking the cold-climate clothing... mittens, over-mittens, socks, over-socks...the list is never ending, it seems.
Tempers are frayed and labourers seem hard to come by. The union leader is grabbed by Starkweather to find out why there are so few of them.
Seconds later, "They've gone to work for WHO ??!!!" rings out across the water.
A compromise is reached : the union leader will allow a (smug) James Ford to bring in the men he tried to recruit earlier in the week.
5th September 1933
The replacement supplies arrive, and the team spend a couple of hours loading checking they are correct. During the afternoon a note is delivered :
Ford opens the note, to discover a dire warning. It begs them not to go to the south pole, and continues: "The cage must not open .....turn back or we all die !"
"Wonderful - I can add it to my collection of crank notes." comments Fitzwilliam,dryly .
The rest of the day is spent loading the supplies, and by nightfall all the replacement supplies, including the dynamite, have been loaded on board.
Exhausted, the group roll into bed....and awaken the next morning to dire headlines ...
(Dah-dah-dahhhhh!,,,,to be continued ...)
END OF CHAPTER ONE.
Somewhere in the realms of dream, Archibald Fitzwilliam is being terribly seasick ; the rhythmic motion of the ship as it bobs up and down on the cold southern ocean is doing him no good at all. As he throws up over the side, he sees a seal leaping through the icy waters.
The scene changes.....
Now he finds himself kneeling on the ice, staring into the water ; The seal comes closer...closer....and as it peers up from the watery depths of him it changes....into the face of his drowned sister. Quick as lightning, her arms reach up and drag him into the water...!
...and Fitzwilliam awakens in his New York hotel room with a scream.
3rd September 1933
The party meet up for breakfast to discuss the latest news: Starkweathers' announcement to the press that Commander J.B. Douglas is to captain the S.S Gabrielle.
"Ahhh.....he won't be too happy." observes Romford. "Didn't Moore say Douglas wanted to avoid the press ?"
The group update mechanic Patrick Miles with the progress with the hanger break-in, and they compare notes about the ginger-haired man they've seen. It turns out most of them have seen him at one point or another, and they wonder about his motives.
Arthur uses the opportunity to quiz Moore about the previous expedition
- did any of them have red hair ?
"No, not that I recall."
-Did the previous expedition write any reports ?
"Yes, I believe there's a report that Professor Dyer wrote- you should be able to get a copy from Miskatonic University".
Ford receives a phone from his girlfriend Mandy, and they arrange to meet for lunch.
Most of the morning is taken up with correcting the remaining supply issues from the previous day. Sardines are ordered and the oil returned ; Valves for the radios are arranged; forms are signed and delivery of the explosives is organised.
The delivery of laboratory glassware is carefully loaded onto the vessel by Arthur, Romford and Fitzwilliam, and just when they think they might escape further chores, Moore asks them to assist Halperin in building the wooden kennels for the newly arrived husky dogs.
"Dammit Bill, I'm a medical man, not a carpenter !" protests Arthur.
Photojournalist Harry spends his morning doing some research on Starkweather.
James Starkweather, it appears, has had a glittering career. A former captain who served in Rhodesia during the war, he has spent his time since leaving the army as a safari guide and explorer. One particular incident catches the journalists eye : When the safari of an American heiress , Acacia Lexington, becomes stranded due to unexpected floods, it was Starkweather's quick thinking and heroic leadership saved the day.
Ford's lunch with Mandy proves to be at a rather nice cafe near Times Square. She encourages him to meet her parents but it turns out he will be leaving for Antarctica before they return from California - to Ford's evident relief. Her father owns a chain of jeweler's shops, it transpires, and she takes him to see the neckless her father keeps in a safety deposit box ; a beautiful gold necklace decorated with 7 black opals.
Apparently the black opals were found by sailors on a recent expedition to the south pole. Ford promises to keep an eye out for more while he is there.
The afternoon is spent finishing off the kennels, and making sure the "Miss Enderby" is safely placed on board.
The group reassemble for dinner, and decide to stake out the shack/speakeasy from the previous night, in the hope that they might catch the mysterious man who has been watching them. The expeditions resident german, Douglas Halperin, volunteers to join them, and they spend the evening playing cards and ordering the occasional drink- but sadly their ginger haired quarry does not appear.
Romford is less than impressed with the moonshine being served: "I've tasted AvGas that's better than this !"
Halperin comments that "Vorking with Patrick Miles, my English vocabulary is expanding quite rapidly, I think."
"Yes," notes Fitzwilliam "but you can't use those words in mixed company..."
On his return to the hotel, a message awaits Romford. His mother has indeed arrived and has checked into the hotel, and plans to see him in the morning.
Somewhere in the land of dreams, Dr Arthur Dibden is dancing with his late wife ; light reflects off of the dance-hall glitterball as the band plays their favourite tune...but soon the reflections become snowflakes, and as Arthur blinks away the snow he realises his wife has moved away from him.
Blink; she moves away again.
Blink; she is even further away.
He goes to move towards her but then he hears her voice : "I must go, but you cannot join me yet, my darling. You still have much work to do."
And so he stands there on the snow covered glacier, bereft and alone.....
...and then he wakes up.
2nd September 1933
Finally, the main expedition team has arrived, and they all meet for breakfast in the hotel. In between bagels, bacon, cereal,croissants and coffee, Starkweather briefs them on what is to come.
"We will be departing New York on the 14th of September" , he tells them " and arrive at the Ross Sea on the 1st of November. From there we will fly to Lakes camp to retrieve the remains of the previous expedition....and then we shall travel over the Miskatonic mountains to the plateau beyond.
But for now there is lots to do !"
Indeed there is, as Moore's overflowing clipboard proves. He circulates around the room, giving people tasks.
When Moore gets to the PC's table, he tells them of the impending arrival of Captain J.B.Douglas, who will captain the ship - would they meet J.B. when he arrives on the 6th ?
Also, some of the supplies have been turning up late (or wrong) - could they check the latest deliveries and make sure its all present and correct ?
One of the aircraft mechanic, Patrick Miles approaches Romford with a strange mystery. Miles has found the padlock to the aircraft hanger on the floor - it looks like someone has cut it with bolt cutters....but nothing inside the hanger is disturbed. Romford meets one of the other pilots, Ralph Dewitt, and the two compare notes.
Dewitt predicts Romford will get bored doing the "...supply runs all summer on the ice, while *I* wll be enjoying myself exploring in the Fairchild."
After a discussion, the group decide it would be prudent to hire some additional guards for the warehouse. Ford goes down to the shanty town in Central Park to hire a few likely folk, but to his frustration runs afoul of the docker's union who refuse to allow them to work on the docks.... and hiring staff at union rates is, Ford decides, far too expensive.
Meanwhile, Fitzwilliam goes for a short tour of the hotel, but ends up running into Starkweather and yet another press scrum. He manages to escape before too many questions are thrown his way, and Starkweather smoothly diverts the press-men into another room. "As you can see from my display here...."
Arthur checks in with Dr Greene, and discovers that he has a long line of expedition members yet to have their medicals. Arthur finds himself a space room, rolls up his sleeves, and starts helping out with the medicals. He is mildly surprised and pleased to find that the expedition is fairly well racially integrated.... but no women, of course.
"Not the sort of place for a girl" he reflects.
At the warehouse, Romford begins checking through the equipment. While most of it is present, there are odds and ends missing or wrong. Two generators have not arrived; A whopping great 72 snow shovels (nearly 2 for each member of the group) have been delivered instead of a dozen ; Sardine oil has been delivered instead of Sardines ; the sour cream is on the wrong pallet ; and most worryingly of all , explosives haven't been delivered, and some blasting caps and fuse wire have gone missing.
He is joined by Fitzwilliam and Ford and the three begin to plan correcting the missing items. Ford establishes that the explosives were never delivered as they require a licence, and Fitzwilliam begins the process of obtaining one.
The missing blasting caps is more of a mystery - the players are able to prove they were delivered, but are now missing.
As the sun goes down, the party regroup at the hotel, and are joined by the expeditions newest recruit, Harry , a journalist . To his horror, Romford receives a message that tells him his mother is planning on the morrow to come to New York on the train to visit.
After some discussion they decide to spend the evening at the airstrip, to keep an eye on the aircraft (the Miss Enderby) and gear stored in the hanger. harry returns to his appartment to pick up his gear and notices a ginger haired man watching the hotel.
He returns to the hotel and picks up the party, who drive to the hanger.
There they sit, drink some of Arthur's medicinal whisky, and play cards into the wee hours.
Sometime after midnight, Harry hears someone creeping about. They manage to catch the prowlers, who turn out to be two local teenagers. Questioning them, they discovered the boys were know nothing about the broken padlock, and encouraged to rob the hanger by "a man they met in a local speakeasy in an old shack" ... a man with bright ginger hair and beard.....
A visit to the shack provides little information ; at this point, they decide there is little more they can do that night, and retire back to the hotel.
The summer of 1933 brings 3 new faces to New York - Clive Romford ,former military pilot ; James Ford, miner and geologist ; Dr Arthur Dibden , an MD all the way from England. The purpose of their visit ? Joining the Starkweather-Moore expedition to the Antarctic !
Arthur's interview with the two expedition leaders goes very smoothly. It turns out the chief medical officer for the expedition, Dr Richard Greene , is a former pupil of his, and Dr Dibdens application is accepted within a matter of minutes.
Ford & Romford both have slightly trickier interviews, but they are able to convince Starkweather and Moore that both their professional skills and their attitudes are right to take on such a risky endeavour.
Arthur looks up his old pupil, Greene, and the two reminisce about their time together during the influenza outbreak in London just after the war ; Greene tells Arthur not to blame himself for his wife and childs death of the flu, but it is clear that Arthur still carries their ghosts with him, and has turned to drinking whisky to cope.
Ford meets a "pretty young thing" in a speakeasy, and talks up his role in the expedition to impress her. They agree to meet up for a date a few days later. He also has to cope with being mobbed by press at the hotel, and makes up a story about an exciting mine rescue in order to satiate them.
Romford meanwhile recieves a phone call from his brother and (slightly senile) mother - apparently news of his joining the expedition has reached his home town, and press are camped out on his mothers lawn, scaring the cats and trampling the flowers. He decides to research the perils of flying in Antarctic conditions and discovers the list of dangers - and wonders - to be considerably longer than he expected.
"Ice crystals in the sky?!" he exclaims after one particular discovery.
Alll 3 are invited to attend a fund raiser prior to the main expedition assembling ; There they meet formally for the first time and toast their good luck in joining such a famous expedition.
In an effort to access better whisky than he can get from illicit sources, Arthur makes a deal with Dr Montoya Jones (a member of the NY registry commitee) - in return for expediting Dibden's application to be formally registered as a medical practitioner in the US, Dibden will help Jones' pro-bono work amoungst the homeless in Central park. The work is hard but rewarding ; the only cloud is that one night he is followed by a ominous man with ginger-red hair and beard. Dibden loses sight of the man once he leaves central park, but he wonders whether the man means harm.
Romford meanwhile checks out the delivery of the first of the expeditions planes, a Boeing 247 the crew call the 'Miss Enderby'. He and fellow pilot Douglas Halperin (an expatriot german jew) perform a demonstration flight for watching pressmen - and a scowling man in sunglass and hat with a bright ginger beard. The man is gone when they land again, but they are left wondering just who he is.
Ford discovers that his date is actually the famous young socialite "Randy" Mandy Carnegie , a member of a rich family and scandal-sheet darling. His face appears in several papers and they are forced to dodge photographers as they continue their fledgling relationship. On one of their dates they visit a gallery displaying the artwork of the famous artist Nicholas Roerich, but quickly become bored and go to see King Kong at the local cinema instead.
"After all," giggles Mandy, "The cinema is very dark in the back row...who knows what we may get up to ?"
Meanwhile, Archibald Fitzwilliam , a nervous cartographer from Miskatonic University becomes the expeditions latest recruit. Shy and socially inept, he is saved from the inquisition of a large press-pack ambush by the more confident Ford.
The night before the ship that will take them to the Antarctic, the SS Gabrielle, arrives, they take dinner with an unusally downbeat Moore.
Moore confides that the leader of the previous expedition, William Dyer, was a good friend of his, but upon the expeditions return from Antarctica, Dyer was a changed man.
"I have to know what happened on the ice to hurt my friend William Dyer so terribly. No-one alive is willing to tell me why. I hope he is happy wherever he is ; I hope he is sleeping well."
September 1st 1933
The SS Gabrielle arrives in port, and the rest of the expedition begin to assemble.
Arthur, Ford, Romford and Fitzwilliam meet up with the expeditions chief polar guide , Peter 'Frankenstein' Sykes , and discuss outfitting and the perils of Antarctic exploration.
'Frankie' Sykes shows them the large number of scars he has accumulated during ten years of polar exploration :
"See this ? Leopard seal. This ? Killer Whale. This ? Mother Elephant Seal. This ? Scar from an operation to remove gangrene after frostbite..."
Ford begins to feel a lot less confident now that he realises just what he has signed up for. Even Romford, a veteran of "flying over enemy lines in a small kite made of cloth painted with a target" is beginning to be a little daunted.
Fitzwilliam points out they'd be mad not to be at least a little nervous....
"Its w-well k-known to be h-hell on earth" he adds cheerfully.
Yup, I'm at it again - I am be running Beyond the Mountains of Madness for a small group at the Milton Keynes club , including a couple of members from this board....
Week 1 (13th December)
Character generation, and a light prologue consisting of the a video I put together covering the events of 1933, and an audio of what the world knows about the MU expedition of 1930-31.
As part of an experiment I'm recording the whole campaign ,and I've given each of the players a lightly prop-ed up A5 notebook (from the local supermarket, Asdas) to paste/store their handouts and write their notes in .
I'll be doing one copy of every handout for every player - which is a lot of ink, but I'm hoping that by the end of the campaign we'll all have a fantastic memoir of the adventure. I've also discovered the notebooks have a small pocket in the back big enough for CDs - finances allowing I'll be buying each player a (Legitimate) copy of the Wayne June audio of "At the Mountains of Madness" to store along with the MP3s of the campaign.
I've also prepared some short clips from various TV and audio media (including youtube) to illustrate various events.
We've only done one week so far but I must say that as GM I've felt this has added lots to my game atmosphere already. To any other GMs reading this, I can highly recommend this approach but ONLY if you have the time on your hands - it is *very* time consuming doing the preparation !
Sadly.... this also means I cannot post the audios of my game online (I'm only using very short clips so can avoid UK copyright issues but I'm less comfortable about what I can post internationally) ....
...but to other GMs considering this approach I can thoroughly recommend : Shackleton (drama staring Kenneth Branagh) , the "Worldwide wireless news " section of the HPLHS "At the mountains of madness" , and the whole of Wayne Junes work.
I also once again owe a debt of gratitute to Christian for providing me with some excellent handouts from his own campaign which are already garnering praise from my players (Thanks Christian !)