by Captain W. E. Johns



VI.                   GINGER GOES ASHORE  (Pages 62 – 76)


“On the departure of Biggles for the United Kingdom, the others, having sat about for two days, resting, then proceeded without question on the lines Biggles had laid down to keep them occupied usefully”.  “They would simply fly out to the Crozets and look for signs of occupation, not forgetting the possibility of survivors from the ill-fated Kittiwake being on one or other of the islands.  Given fair weather they would in particular have a good look at Hog Island, where, according to the German who had been marooned, the submarine had spent some time.  Given a continuance of the fair weather there appeared to be no difficulty in landing at Deliverance Bay”.  They take only one machine to save fuel and allow them to all be together.  At dawn on the Thursday, Algy takes off and in due course lands them at Deliverance Bay.  Biscuits and tea from the Thermos are handed out.  Algy says he will stay with the aircraft.  Bertie will put Ginger and Marcel ashore and stay with the dinghy.  As the Crozets were French possessions it was right that Marcel goes ashore with Ginger.  Bertie paddles Ginger and Marcel to a convenient sloping shelf of rock, made of a soft tufa like pumice stone, which had formed from lava from some prehistoric eruption.  This “had formed, as it were, a series of wide, shallow steps leading up to the higher ground.  The effect was, in fact, that of a big ready-made slip-way”.  “Grim, desolate and utterly wretched, with a complete absence of trees, the place appeared to be the end of the world”.  Ginger is in favour of making for the highest point, whereas Marcel thinks this will take too long.  Instead, they walk a short distance back from the coast.  They find a small, pasteboard carton with writing on it in a language unknown to them, probably Russian cigarettes.  They find a piece of rock painted red, like a surveyor’s mark.  Ginger says this is really all they wanted to know.  C’est vrai, absolument,” mutters Marcel frowning.  (We are not given a translation but the phrase means “it’s true, absolutely”).  He is indignant at the violation of French territory.  Ginger sees a rabbit jumping around in short jerks.  It is caught in a snare, which must have been recently set.  It means that there is someone there now.  It can’t be someone from Robinson’s ship as they would have surely shown themselves by now.  Ginger says “It may suit them to hide, hoping that we’ll go away without suspecting they’re here.  But if once they realise that we do know, they’ll see to it that we don’t go off and tell the world that there are settlers in the Crozets”.  They decide to leave and half way back to the bay they are startled to hear the Sunderland’s engines start up.  They then hear it take off followed by the sound of machine guns and automatic cannon.  They see the Sunderland head out to sea, then swing south as if making for Possession Island or one of the other islands.  Ginger hurries to the last ridge and sees a drab-painted submarine moving slowly into Deliverance Bay.  Ginger says to Marcel that they need to hide.  Marcel was aghast.  “But how can we stay here?  We have no house, no food, no fire.  We shall die”.  “Listen, Marcel,” answered Ginger, speaking distinctly.  “We shall die even more quickly if the toughs in that submarine catch us.  From the way they shot at the machine we need be in no doubt as to how they feel about visitors”. They keep low amongst the rocks near the shore for a quarter of a mile and find a crevice that suits their purpose.  “Someone had laid lengths of wood, that looked like planks of a small boat, from rock to rock across the top, to form a roof.  That all this had been done long ago was evident from the rotting and dilapidated state of the whole miserable affair”.  “Wondering vaguely what unfortunate wretch had been forced to resort to such a primitive dwelling, he went inside and saw the answer lying on the ground.  He was still – there – or rather, an untidy litter of bones that had been his skeleton.  Bleached and broken by long exposure, they had obviously been there for a long time”.  “We’ve come a bit late to help this poor blighter, but he won’t mind us using his dug-out, I’m sure, said Ginger.  (“We’ve come a bit late to help this poor blighter…” is the illustration opposite page 65).  “Investigating further they found roughly painted on the rock in lamp black, the name ‘Adam Grey’.  Below was the date, ‘1772’”).  Going outside and peeping over the rocks, they see a heavily-built, bearded man emerging from just beyond the place where they had found the rabbit.  He walked towards the bay and six men in dark uniforms were advancing to meet him.  They meet and have an earnest discussion and then they walk towards the bay and disappear.  Marcel says “Biggles will come”.  “Of course he will, but not yet,” answers Ginger.  “Today is only Thursday, remember.  He won’t be back at Cape Town until Saturday evening at the earliest, so it's no use expecting him before Sunday”.  Marcel hopes Algy will do something but Ginger suspects the flying boat was hit by the way it suddenly swung round to Possession Island after it took off.  They go back to the dug-out.  “With scant ceremony Marcel moved the bones of the long dead sailor aside with his foot and sat down on a square stone which, from the position in which it had been placed, had been the chair of the unlucky mariner.  Ginger, brooding, wondered how many solitary hours the man had sat on it, watching the sea for help that never came”.  “Strangely, their greatest danger lay not in remaining undiscovered, but in being found before Biggles or Algy arrived to take them off, as they were sure would happen sooner or later”.  Ginger realises that much depended on whether their presence on the island was known or suspected.  If it was thought that the aircraft left with all crew, they were likely to be left in peace.  Deciding it is necessary to keep watch, Ginger goes outside into the bitterly cold air for the first watch and wonders if he will be reduced to eating the gulls he sees drifting about aimlessly.  “Slowly the day began to die.  Of human life still there was no sign”.