May 31, 2011
So we have Source of the Nile rules supplements for finding Lost Civilizations and Dr. Livingstone. Next up are King Solomon’s Mines. The basic idea behind this supplement is that, yes, the explorer can become fabulously rich by looting the mines, but the trick it to get as many men safely into and out of the treasure chamber.
If the expedition has hired a guide from a native tribe within three hex distance from the Mines, then GAGOOL is present.
(passages in italics are from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines)
There, upon huge pedestals of dark rock, sculptured with rude emblems of the Phallic worship, separated from each other by a distance of forty paces, and looking down the road which crossed some sixty miles of plain to Loo, were three colossal seated forms—two male and one female—each measuring about thirty feet from the crown of its head to the pedestal.
Let the reader picture to himself the hall of the vastest cathedral he ever stood in, windowless indeed, but dimly lighted from above, presumably by shafts connected with the outer air and driven in the roof, which arched away a hundred feet above our heads, and he will get some idea of the size of the enormous cave in which we found ourselves, with the difference that this cathedral designed by nature was loftier and wider than any built by man. But its stupendous size was the least of the wonders of the place, for running in rows adown its length were gigantic pillars of what looked like ice, but were, in reality, huge stalactites. It is impossible for me to convey any idea of the overpowering beauty and grandeur of these pillars of white spar, some of which were not less than twenty feet in diameter at the base, and sprang up in lofty and yet delicate beauty sheer to the distant roof. Others again were in process of formation. On the rock floor there was in these cases what looked, Sir Henry said, exactly like a broken column in an old Grecian temple, whilst high above, depending from the roof, the point of a huge icicle could be dimly seen.
Hundreds of large bats are roused as you enter the chamber, zipping amongst and brushing against the expedition members until finally flying out of the tunnel in a roar. Some bearers may freak out and retreat outside. Roll d6 for each bearer. On 5 or 6 that bearer leaves the cave. If a Zoologist is present, bearer leaves on 6 only. These bearers do not desert, but just remain outside until the rest of the expedition returns.
At the back of the chamber is square doorway, like in Egyptian temples, opening into a narrow passage. It leads to a dim rectangular chamber with a massive stone table running down its length, a colossal white skeleton-like figure at its head, and life-sized white stone figures all round it. Water drips from the ceiling in various places.
Roll d6 for each askari. On 5 or 6 that askari leaves the cave. If a Missionary is present, askari leave on 6 only. These askari do not desert, but just remain outside until the rest of the expedition returns.
It was a ghastly sight. There at the end of the long stone table, holding in his skeleton fingers a great white spear, sat Death himself, shaped in the form of a colossal human skeleton, fifteen feet or more in height. High above his head he held the spear, as though in the act to strike; one bony hand rested on the stone table before him, in the position a man assumes on rising from his seat, whilst his frame was bent forward so that the vertebræ of the neck and the grinning, gleaming skull projected towards us, and fixed its hollow eye-places upon us, the jaws a little open, as though it were about to speak.
Death will attack unless Evil Prayers are uttered. GAGOOL knows the prayers and will recite them. An Ethnologist can also utter them by reading the strange markings on the edge of the table.
If an Ethnologist or GAGOOL is present, then Death won’t attack. Otherwise, Death attacks. Roll on the Native Attack Table: Charge in the rulebook. Treat Death as a Medium Tribe for determining the result of combat. Interpret the results as such:
H = Death retreats to Hell in a volley of musket fire.
W = Death destroyed, but go to Results of Victory table A to determine how many askari or bearers are killed. Then determine how much treasure is found: 3d6 x $10. A Bearer or Askari immediately takes the treasure out of the mine.
D = Roll on Consequences of Defeat table to determine how many members survive. Ignore any reference to muskets and rations. Then choose to fight again or leave mine, unless you are captured. When captured, Death places you under a steady drip of water and you cannot escape. In 3d6 decades, you will become completely encased in white stone like a stalagmite.
If Death retreats or is destroyed, you can now search for secret door. If a Geologist or GAGOOL is present, then the secret door is found automatically. Otherwise, it is found on a d6 roll of 1-5.
…we perceived that a mass of stone was rising slowly from the floor and vanishing into the rock above, where doubtless there is a cavity prepared to receive it. The mass was of the width of a good-sized door, about ten feet high and not less than five feet thick. It must have weighed at least twenty or thirty tons, and was clearly moved upon some simple balance principle of counter-weights, probably the same as that by which the opening and shutting of an ordinary modern window is arranged. How the principle was set in motion, of course none of us saw; Gagool was careful to avoid this; but I have little doubt that there was some very simple lever, which was moved ever so little by pressure at a secret spot, thereby throwing additional weight on to the hidden counter-balances, and causing the monolith to be lifted from the ground.
Behind an elaborately painted wooden door is a chamber stacked with elephant ivory and wooden boxes of gold coins with Hebrew characters on them. At the back of the chamber is an alcove with three stone chests full of diamonds.
If Geologist or Explorer is present, then a trap is detected. Roll d6. (Receive a +2 bonus if trap is detected.) The trap is triggered on 1-5, closing the stone door from which the chamber was entered.
Roll d6 again. On a roll of 1-3, that many members escape (without any treasure) before the door closes completely. If GAGOOL is present, then GAGOOL is a traitor, kills a member of the expedition, and is crushed by the door while trying to escape.
By now we are running down the passage, and this is what the light from the lamp shows us. The door of the rock is closing down slowly; it is not three feet from the floor. Near it struggle Foulata and Gagool. The red blood of the former runs to her knee, but still the brave girl holds the old witch, who fights like a wild cat. Ah! she is free! Foulata falls, and Gagool throws herself on the ground, to twist like a snake through the crack of the closing stone. She is under—ah! god! too late! too late! The stone nips her, and she yells in agony. Down, down it comes, all the thirty tons of it, slowly pressing her old body against the rock below. Shriek upon shriek, such as we have never heard, then a long sickening crunch, and the door was shut just as, rushing down the passage, we hurled ourselves against it.
After some searching in the sealed treasure chamber, a passage is found underneath a floor slab of stone. Fifteen stairs lead down into a labyrinth.
When we had groped our way for about a quarter of an hour along the passage, suddenly it took a sharp turn, or else was bisected by another, which we followed, only in course of time to be led into a third. And so it went on for some hours. We seemed to be in a stone labyrinth that led nowhere. What all these passages are, of course I cannot say, but we thought that they must be the ancient workings of a mine, of which the various shafts and adits travelled hither and thither as the ore led them. This is the only way in which we could account for such a multitude of galleries.
One bearer takes a wrong turn and is forever lost in labyrinth. One askari is swept away to his death when he stumbles into an underground river. Eventually, a way is found and the expedition emerges outside. Now tally how much treasure is plundered:
A parcel of treasure is worth $500 and has a weight of 5. Each bearer that escaped from the treasure chamber with the explorer has carried two treasure parcels out of the mine. The explorer and each askari and guide has carried out one treasure parcel each. The mines cannot be re-entered.
An amazing list of nearly all known books and movies related to Lost Races within the past 125 years or so, with special attention given to Haggard and Burroughs.
May 30, 2011
An assortment of lairs to be found in the Ant Tunnels, or elsewhere…
Special Chambers (Assorted Lairs) d6
1 Straggler Lair. Tex deserted during the Wizard Wars. He was a small but tough and brave fellow who could explore the the ant tunnels in search of the enemy. During one mission in the tunnels he got lost, and when he ﬁnally found his way back, Tex discovered that the squad that had been waiting for him outside was wiped out and that area of the jungle was controlled by enemy wizard-soldiers. He retreated back into the tunnels where he has been ever since. Tex grows luminescent fungus and tobacco for trade. Both are much sought after by a variety of ant tunnels denizens.
2 The Great Gobbler. Ten times larger than a normal gobbler and practically immobile from obesity. Gobblers worship it like a god and bring it a constant supply of food. Several gobblers (d6) are attending to it and another gobbler arrives every d6 minutes bringing food. The Great Gobbler assumes that the PCs have been brought here as a special feast.
3 Giant Dung Beetle Hatchery. 6d6 dung balls sit silently here. They are of various sizes, d6+6 feet tall. Each has a 50% chance of containing treasure at its center. If a ball doesn’t contain treasure, it holds d3+3 juvenile dung beetles at its center. They are very hungry and attack immediately.
4 Giant Daddy Longlegs Hibernatoreum. 100d6 of these arachnids are in hibernation, ﬁlling this large chamber completely. To pass through, the PCs must climb through the tangled mass. Any misstep will send them into a frenzy, killing all the PCs. At the center of the chamber is a polished meteorite that grants a random Secret Talisman power.
5 Giant Jack Ant and Giant Fire Ant Summit. Ten of each type of ant is present in this chamber, conducting negotiations to end their ancient feud and work together towards combating the new threats in the tunnels: the Tunnel Rats and the Crater Spawn. In the center of the chamber is a bizarrely complex object…a 3D map of the ant tunnels. Its complexity makes it practically useless for humans. Some of these ants can speak human languages and my attempt to recruit PCs as allies.
6 Lair of the Sleeping Dragon, Pagod. The entrance is blocked by a thick stone door with a carved inscription in a magical language that reads: “HERE SLEEPS THE ANCIENT PAGOD GREAT IN FURY GREAT IN RICHES GREAT IN LOVE PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB MY FRIEND HE IS DEAD TIRED”. The door pushes open with ease, revealing the ﬂame lit room with the red dragon named Pagod on a hill of treasure. He wakes when the door opens, but pretends to still sleep until an opportune moment. If characters who enter are all male, he is likely to attack. If a female is present, he is likely to be friendly. If there is a virgin female present, he will stay sleeping. A magical jeweled sword is ﬁrmly, but harmlessly, lodged into his spine and surely tempting the PCs to extract.
May 28, 2011
The following is an abbreviated version of the Ant Tunnel Exploration System found in the Fire in the Jungle Supplement. It can also be used for adventuring in any complex or unmappable subterranean location, while still retaining the essential tension of dungeoneering: Go deeper or go home?
Previously, I wrote about the ant tunnels beneath The Jungle, including a method for randomly generating ant tunnel geomorphs. The complex structure of the ant tunnels makes them a challenge to explore and nearly impossible to map. A delve into the tunnels can be played without reference to any map or visual representation of the convoluted tunnels by using the Ant Tunnel Exploration System. The complexity of the tunnels and how it might affect adventurers is abstracted into the system.
Depth: The Depth factor reﬂects the increased risk and reward of exploring deeper into the tunnels. It is used in the following way:
• Depth starts at zero when the tunnels are ﬁrst entered, and cannot go below zero or above 10.
• Add the Depth factor as a bonus to the Tunnel Event Roll.
• After each Tunnel Event: The Depth factor increases by one if the party wants to continue going further into the tunnels. The Depth value decreases by one if the party has chosen to turn back towards the surface.
Lost: It can be assumed that explorers are using a method of tracking their path (mapping, wall marks, trailing twine, etc.), but tunnel events can disrupt those methods and cause the explorers to become Lost. When Lost, instead of automatically increasing or decreasing Depth after each Tunnel Event, a d6 is rolled:
• If PCs are trying to get out of tunnels: On 1-4, -1 Depth. On 5-6, +1 Depth.
• If PCs are trying to go deeper into tunnels: On 1-4, +1 Depth. On 5-6, -1 Depth.
Tunnel Event Roll
Each turn roll 2d6. If Snake Eyes (double 1’s) is rolled, then Double Trouble has occurred and no further calculations are made. If a different double is rolled, note the total, roll again, and add the results. Continue rolling and cumulating until non-doubles are rolled. The following bonus and penalty applies to all Tunnel Event Rolls that aren’t Double Trouble:
• Add current Depth.
• Subtract the number of PCs in delving group.
The result is the Tunnel Event Roll Sum.
(Fun Fact: I had originally designed this exploration system for use in a Tunnels & Trolls campaign, hence the resemblance of the Tunnel Event Roll cumulative rolling mechanic to the Saving Roll mechanic in T&T.)
Tunnel Event Roll Sum: Event
Snake Eyes: Double Trouble
15-19: Regular Chamber (4 in 6 chance of Trouble and a 2 in 6 chance of treasure. )
20+: Special Chamber
Double Trouble: Roll twice on the Trouble table. If Monster (1-74) is rolled twice, the party is ambushed by one group of monsters. If Hazard (75-100) is rolled twice, then a trap is encountered but no save is allowed. If a Monster and a Hazard is rolled, then this encounter involves a monster cleverly using the hazard to its advantage before or during combat.
Trouble d100 (# encountered)
1-10 Giant Jack Ants (d6 + Depth)
11-20 Giant Fire Ants (d6 + Depth)
21-30 Giant Centipedes (d6 + Depth)
31-40 Tunnel Rats (d6 + Depth)
41-50 Gobblers (d6 + Depth)
51-54 Crater Spawn (1)
55-58 Giant Daddy Longlegs (1)
59-62 Straggler (1)
63-66 Spiny Spider (1)
67-70 Giant Dung Beetle (1)
71-74 Great Golden Cobra (1)
75-79 Punji Plant
80-84 Throat Roots
85-89 Big Man’s Dilemma. This tunnel is mysteriously thinner than what it appeared a few seconds ago and now the victim is stuck. Any struggle pinches the tunnel tighter.
90-94 Enchanted Snake. A glowing snake launches from a small hole in the wall, striking with poisonous fangs. Seconds later the snake crumbles to dust. Victim save vs. poison, or die.
95 Tunnels rearrange behind party. PCs become Lost.
96 Tunnel collapses immediately behind party (+1 Depth, Lost).
97 Air sucked out. Light source extinguished. Lost. Party must immediately choose whether to backtrack or rush ahead. If backtrack, -1 Depth. If rush ahead, any Trouble next turn is Double Trouble.
98 Indigestion. Fast rising water ejects delvers out of tunnel, Lost, -d6 Depth, Light source extinguished. Water recedes quickly.
99 Flush of water. +2 Depth, Lost, Light source extinguished.
100 Roll 2d6: Snake Eyes = Earthquake! Tunnel collapse immediately behind party (+1 Depth, Lost) and on top of party (Xd6 damage where X = Depth/2, Light source extinguished).
Light source extinguished: Some tunnel events cause light sources to extinguish. If the PCs cannot see, any movement causes them to become Lost and any encounter is Double Trouble.
1 Odd odor or startling silence
2 A pile of poo or puddle of pee
3 Smashed skulls or broken bones
4 Strange sound or troubling tremor
5 Crumpled armor or corroded weapon
6 Something dead or something bled
Special Chambers are encounter areas with features, monsters, and treasure according to the judge’s designs. Roll on the chart to determine which Special Chamber is found. The following is an example of a Special Chambers chart, representing a colony of Giant Fire Ants:
Special Chambers (Giant Fire Ant Colony) d6
(Die roll)x10% chance of Ant encounter each turn.
1 Blaze Furnace. The ﬁre ants gather massive amounts of (mostly) combustibles in these chambers and move about in frenzy to create an intense inferno. Secretions of the ﬁre ants fuel a heat so great that the walls of the chamber become glass.
2 Ash Brood. As the furnaces cool, eggs are moved into the chamber to incubate in the warm ashes.
3 Junk Vault. The ﬁre ants fear things that don’t melt in the furnace chambers. They view such items as threats and dispose of them in chambers like this one. Precious gems and metals and magic items can be found amongst the piles of blackened iron. These chambers are always sealed with thick glass doors.
4-6 Glass City. The soil is excavated from around the glass chambers and tunnels, creating a massive alien city of glass. A maddening hum ﬁlls the city, caused by the ﬁre ants climbing and rubbing against the glass.
Queen’s Chamber. Only found if a 6 is rolled while in the Glass City. A twisted glass temple where drones attend to the Queen. After a drone mates, the Queen immolates him in a purple ﬂame and consumes the remains.
Giant Fire Ants are slightly smaller than their non-ﬁred kin. They are ﬁreproof and secrete a combustible chemical through their exoskeleton. A single ﬁre ant only produces a brief ﬂash of ﬂame, but a well-used trail often burns robustly. During combat, the secretions increase and the ants will swarm and immolate the enemy in ﬂame. It takes a full round for the inferno to form. Anybody caught in the ﬁre takes Xd6 damage per round, where X = the # of ants that contributed to the blaze the previous round.
May 27, 2011
Sure, sure, we always give much attention to the cunning leadership of war commanders and heroic deeds in the face of the enemy. But the more interesting war stories are those concerning the citizens and refugees of wars. At the time of the Japanese invasion in December of 1941, the Philippines was a Commonwealth of the United States and many Americans lived and worked on the islands. I can’t think of any other time or place in US history where so many American citizens were subjected to foreign occupation on US territory.
Here’s two books about families fleeing into the jungle to hide from the Japanese. My Faraway Home by Mary McKay Maynard (2002) and Guerrilla Daughter by Virginia Hansen Holmes (2009).
The authors were both children at the time of their flight into the wilds of Mindanao. Mary McKay was nine and “Ginger” Hansen was seven. Their fathers both worked at different gold mines, not far from each other in northern Surigao. Quite a coincidence, but they never met before or during the war. Despite the similarities of how their stories began, their experiences ended up quite different.
Mary’s family fled away from the coast and into the Agusan River region, staying at a remote, abandoned mine site with other American refugees. They had a store of preserved food, but it was used very sparingly since they had no idea just how long they’d have to stay in hiding. Fortunately, they were safely evacuated aboard the Narwhal in November 1943.
Ginger’s family moved along the eastern coast of Surigao, always just ahead of the expanding Japanese occupation. Her father and brothers eventually joined the growing Mindanao guerrilla movement. The family choose not to be evacuated by submarine, enduring to the end of the war.
Both are wonderful stories and I cherish them. My Faraway Home has a tighter narrative and writing, but Guerrilla Daughter is possibly more exciting and is definitely more extensively researched, with much information about the Mindanao guerrillas.
What were you doing when you were nine years old?
May 26, 2011
I’m short on sleep this week, having stayed up late-late-late several nights in a row, turning the pages. I finished reading Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday by Robin Hemley last night and wanted to write a wonderfully objective and thoughtful post about the Tasaday, but what could I possibly say? If you are at all interested in the topic, the book is a must-read, in which case anything I would say in this rinky-dink blog post is old hat.
I feel hesitation about revealing the twists and turns Hemley took in arriving at his conclusions about the Tasaday, only because I don’t want to rob potential readers of the rollercoaster ride that Invented Eden has in store for them. The short of it is that the author began as a Tasaday skeptic, but his adventuresome investigation and research brought him to a new point of view. Everything about the Tasaday is a point of view.
This NOVA “The Lost Tribe” documentary (this is the first of six parts on youtube) from 1993 does a decent job of summarizing the Tasaday controversy.
Invented Eden was published ten years later in 2003 and sheds much more light on the nuances of the controversy, with a turning-point climax involving a deceptive interview, translated through four languages, surrounded by gun-toting men in the jungle. Just as riveting as any fiction spy novel.
In retrospect, I think the natives in the Fire in the Jungle setting were influenced by my awareness of the Tasaday…small bands of elusive primitives in the jungle. Except I don’t think the Tasaday ever mastered the art of Beast Riding. Imagine how cool would it have been if Belayem had first greeted Elizalde by flying down on the back of a giant cynocephalus volans!
May 25, 2011
The Japanese were twenty miles away. If he moved, he would starve. If he stayed where he was, he would be killed.
There was an alternative. He could chuck the whole bloody business.
Since Bowler was presently unable to take over the net, Fertig could surrender control of the guerrilla to Supreme Headquarters, cache his radios, and tell his men to scatter into the hills. A few men, traveling alone, could always find something to eat. He could wander across the mountains, searching for food, until The Aid came.
Why not? Hadn’t he done enough? After the Regular Army surrendered, his makeshift army had killed seven thousand Japanese. He had re-established a government. He had denied the Japanese any practical benefit of their conquest of Mindanao. Instead, Mindanao had been a constant drain on Japanese resource. They had had to divert 150,000 men to Mindanao in an unsuccessful effort to crush resistance. From an arithmetical standpoint, it was already an enormous victory. Forty thousand guerrilleros had killed seven thousand of the enemy and, in effect, taken 150,000 prisoners. There was also the incalculable benefits accruing from guerrilla intelligence. Supreme Headquarters had never specified whether any particular sightings had led to any particular sinkings, but the Navy had sent the coastwatchers its highest compliment: Well Done. More important, the guerrilla had done much to restore the face America had lost by its abject surrender. The Filipinos would never again allow Americans to call them “little brown brothers.” After all, the resistance was almost entirely a Filipino operation: Fertig was an invited guest. But Americans who refused to surrender, and instead accepted the invitation, had done much to salvage the essential image of an America that was the friend of the Filipino people.
Fertig felt the wight of the Moro silversmith’s stars on his collar. He was Colonel Fertig to (the American headquarters in) Australia, but here on the island he wore his stars. On Mindanao, he was, and would remain, The General.
The above is excerpted from They Fought Alone by John Keats, recounting the thoughts of Wendell Fertig as his guerrilla headquarters deep in the jungle interior of Mindanao was hemmed in by the Japanese and running low on supplies. A previous post this week also excerpted this book. The comment about “A few men, traveling alone, could always find something to eat” reminded me of another recent post here about food shortages in the jungle.
The Filipino guerrilla movement against the Japanese occupation is a relatively little-discussed aspect of WW2, but this is one of the more well-known books about it and there has been rumors of a possible Brad Pitt movie based on it (all movies trying to secure funding will star Brad Pitt, don’t ya know?). They Fought Alone was first published in 1963, coincidentally, just as the Vietnam War was about to escalate. It demonstrates that the US had plenty of experience as jungle guerrillas in Southeast Asia, with knowledge of how they succeed and how they could be defeated. It’s a shame that US leadership during the Vietnam War seemed to ignore some of the lessons in this book.
Though They Fought Alone is heavily based on the journals of Wendell Fertig, it must be noted that it’s actually a novel and therefore should not be depended upon for historical accuracy. Clyde Childress, an officer under Fertig on Mindanao, wrote a rebuttal and critique of the inaccurate history and self-serving nature of They Fought Alone. Download a PDF of the rebuttal here. At times, Childress seems to paint Fertig as a real-life Kurtz character: an aloof leader commanding a force deep in the jungle! (Remember…Apocalypse Now! was filmed in the Philippines.) Unsound methods? I wouldn’t go that far, but Childress ends his rebuttal with this:
“What baffles me is how this man, with such an overweening desire to create a distinguished reputation for himself as the great guerrilla leader, could allow these personally damaging remarks that expose his obviously unsound frame of mind to creep into his biography for everyone to read and assess. This is indeed a strange book!”
Whatever the case may be, Fertig was successful at what he set out to do on Mindanao. The Filipino guerrilla movement was fractured and disorganized in many parts of the Philippines, as shown by the map below. The physical isolation of the many islands explains some of the disorganization, as does the concentration of Japanese forces in some areas. For Fertig to unite the freedom fighters of Mindanao under his command was an accomplishment, considering how the island was and still is embroiled in bloody conflict between numerous religious and political divisions.
May 24, 2011
Journalist Kit Sharp and Missionary Jose Miguel Harpua are the first to arrive at Khartoum from the south via unexplored territory. The feat was accomplished after four expeditions. The first two were previously reported: Kit’s discovery of a lake shore and then Kit and Jose’s initial surveys of the massive inland body of water.
For the third expedition, the explorers took canoes to the far side of the lake. Once there and having found a friendly native tribe to serve as a base of operations, they split up, Kit heading north up the western coast and Jose exploring the coast to the south.
These scouting jaunts didn’t get far or discover much, but at least they established most of the boundaries of the giant lake before ending the expedition. The remaining questions were: Are the southern swamps truly the limit of the lake, or are there feeder rivers into these swamps? How far does the lake extend to the north? Does the lake connect to the Blue Nile or the White Nile?
Kit names it Lake Kentucky, after the brash founder of the Cairo Confidential, the late Von Kentucky.
For the fourth expedition, the explorers departed with a large team of horses from Kilwa and verified the existence of short feeder rivers into the southern swamps. They continued up the western coast of the lake to find desert and swamp terrain where they had hoped to find the northern coast of Lake Kentucky. By this time, their entire expedition had been destroyed due to several unfortunate events (the usual stuff: snakes, bad omens, slavers, etc.). Only Kit and Jose remained, each leading several loaded horses.
Feeling lucky and wanting to make something of this expedition’s investment, the explorers attempted a westerly bypass of the deserts and swamps. This was successful and brought them close to the Sudd marsh at the known edge of the White Nile. They debated further exploration of Lake Kentucky, but decided they were lucky to have made it this far on their own. Also, Jose had discovered several healthy locations to build missionaries that he was eager to report on. Best to follow the White Nile to Khartoum and live to resume exploration another day.
To Kit and Jose’s delight, they found Dr. Smalley and Leski Osmonov in Cairo. The four surviving members of the Cairo Confidential celebrate their accomplishments and drink to the memories of missing friends. Getting down to business, they examine the map and debate where to explore next.
Here’s the initial empty map:
Here’s the complete view of explored terrain:
They decide on a plan: Kit Sharp will continue exploration from Mombasa to Lake Kentucky and up to one or both of the branches of the Nile. Jose Miguel Harpua and Leski Osmonov will lead seperate canoe expeditions up the unpublished western waterways. The missionary on the Niger River and the botanist on the Ogoue River. Both will attempt to cross into the White Nile basin, if possible. Dr. Roger Smalley will complete exploration of the southern Congo basin, skirting that pesky region of impenetrable jungle/swamp northwest of Livingstone’s mountains.
May 23, 2011
The following is excerpted from They Fought Alone by John Keats, describing the mid-November 1943 arrival of the submarine Narwhal to Nasipit Bay, Mindanao, in Japanese-occupied Philippines, approximately one thousand sea miles behind enemy lines:
The words South Sea Islands filled Evans with an almost unbearable delight, and he thrilled, too, to phrases like war zone, clangor of arms, and savage enemy. To Evans, a jungle was always a forbidding jungle, invariably to be found covering mysterious hills. He therefore peered with tense joy at the scene in the periscope–the scene he had come ten thousand miles to see, and which now promised to fulfill his dreams exactly. In fact, he had dreamed of it so long that it looked familiar: the blue mountains rising out of the sea; the dense vegetation growing to the waterline; the coconut palms standing sentinel along the narrow beach; the clouds forming out of the rain forests on the flanks of volcanic hills. He was looking at his own South Sea Island, populated by an enemy savage enough to satisfy any adventurer’s demands, and soon he was to live the drama of a guerrilla soldier in a tropical paradise. Regretfully, he surrendered the periscope to Captain Latta, who had allowed him this one brief view. Evans resigned himself once more to the pale world of oil-smelling machinery stale air, and dim yellow light that was the Narwhal‘s belly. The submarine’s tanks filled, and she settled to the sea floor to await the dusk.
There were dockworkers to grab the Narwhal‘s flung messenger lines and haul the heavy Manila cables over bollards; seven trucks waited on the dock apron; launches with lighter barges waited in the river; excited Filipinos laughed and waved to the men on the Narwhal; girls in filmy dresses waved and then covered their faces with their hands to conceal the embarrassment they were expected to feel for having been so forward, and a band burst in to “Aloha.”
The band, all dressed in white trousers and white shirts, was the military band of the 110th Division of the United States Force in the Philippines, Colonel McClish commanding, and as the Narwhal‘s lines were secured, the bittersweet languor of “Aloha” filled the tropical night and in the light of moon and flickering torches, Evans could see tears streaming down faces brown and white and he heard one of the Narwhal‘s sailors shout huskily, “Jesus Christ, where the hell are we? Hollywood?”
The Narwhal‘s cargo hatches opened, and the band blared “The Stars and Stripes Forever” with a fervor probably never matched before or since, and sailors in blue denim and bare-chested brown men in shorts worked together to unload the huge submarine. Supplies poured out of her: cases of carbine and rifle ammunition; cases of submachine guns, carbines, rocket launchers called bazookas, D-ration chocolate bars, Spam, cheese, magazines, books, MacArthur’s newspaper the Free Philippines, medicines, jungle boots, suntan uniforms, jungle camouflage suits, .50-calibre machine guns on tripod mounts, 20-millimeter cannons, millions of pesos in counterfeit Japanese invasion currency, cases of atabrine pills, the new anti-malarial. There were printing plates and paper for the manufacture of legal guerrilla currency, jungle hammocks, cigarettes, flashlights, officers’ insignia, and spare parts for generators and radios; tools and spark plugs. All this, and more, came pouring out of the Narwhal as the band played songs that had been popular in 1941, which were the most recent songs the bandsmen had heard, and one of the sailors called out to the dock, “Hey, where are the Japs?”
“What’s the matter? You getting nervous in the service?” a voice answered in good American, and Evans saw a thin, grinning figure in faded, patched khakis push through the dockside crowd.
“It’s no sweat,” the guerrillero told the sailor. “The Japs are a mile away.”
“Mile away? Which way?”
“Oh, a mile that way,” the guerrillero said, gesturing. “And a mile or maybe two miles over that way.”
“Jesus!” the sailor said, and the people on the dock laughed.
Evans looked at the guerrillero and wondered how long it would be before he, too, had long hair and a straw hat and a uniform as ragged; before his skin, too, was sun-bronzed and he went about barefoot with a gun on his hip and a rifle slung over his shoulder and was nonchalant about the Japanese being a mile away.
“How long you been here?” the sailor asked, and Evans heard, as though in a dream, the guerrillero say, “What do you think we do? Go home for week ends? We been here since it started. Where have you guys been?”
May 20, 2011
Dr. Roger Smalley and botanist Leski Osmonov explored much of the Congo. Smalley’s journal is summarized below…
Part 1: Off to a rough start.
Departed from Luanda. Overrun by jungle fever and tsetse flies. 7 askari and 14 bearers dead. Expedition much reduced but we continued on.
Part 2: Much progress and good fortune.
Leski discovered several new species of plants: Arctotsis, Streptocarpus Rexi, Acidenthera, Ixia Viridiflora, and Okume. I cured a chief’s son of disease. Several hostile tribes were encountered but they either retreated or were defeated.
Dr. Livingstone was found…a guest of a tribe of natives and delusional. I introduced myself: “I’m Dr. Roger Smalley. I’m here to rescue you.” He didn’t want to be rescued but we had a productive meeting with him. He described the mountainous terrain to the south and east. (Livingstone represented on map by white square with tribe 36. )
Part 3: Perilous Return
Oh how I wanted to explore the rest of the Congo basin, but supplies were running low and we decided to return downriver to the coast and publish our discoveries while we still lived. Europe would be excited to learn that Livingstone still lived. We anticipated a pleasant journey but met the opposite.
Twice we encountered hostile tribes and were defeated. The first time, I made a stand with the askari to allow Leski to escape in a canoe with most of our supplies. I was captured but soon escaped and joined Leski downriver. The second time we followed the same plan, but I was unable to escape quick enough to join the botonist. How it must have pained him when I never emerged from the jungle and he had little choice but to leave me behind.
I escaped a month later with a musket and a monkey carcass the natives were preparing for meal. The meat soon rotted and I was left with nothing. I couldn’t depend on the musket for my survival so, when I came upon a previously friendly tribe downriver, I traded the musket for enough dried meat and nuts to last me to the coast.
Knowing there was a hostile tribe at the bend of the river to the north, I choose to cut across unexplored wilderness directly towards Luanda. My problems worsened when I came upon another unknown tribe. I had little choice but to offer them all of my possessions as a sign of my friendship. It worked.
I stumbled into Luanda several weeks later, carrying nothing and having lived for several weeks off of whatever bitter ferns and rot grubs I could dig up along the way.
The botanist was happy to see me.
May 19, 2011
The opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark is iconic jungle cinema. Unfortunately the original Indiana Jones trilogy (I haven’t seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) doesn’t have much other action in the jungle. Maybe a little bit surrounding the Temple of Doom, but nothing special. Thank goodness for Italian ripoffs of Indiana Jones. Here’s two that were filmed in the Philippines.
Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982). Directed by Anthony Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti). Set on Palawan at the end of WW2. Worth watching just for the British chap’s laugh. Jungle footage is ok, natives’ blowguns are great, and the final volcano temple is aces.
Secret of the Incas’ Empire (1988) aka Alla ricerca dell’impero sepolto. Directed by Gianfrano Parolini. Apparently, the secret of the Inca’s empire was a large electronic synth piano. Worth watching just for the scene where the dude sucks the poison out of the lady’s butt cheek wound. Has a short, but fantastic dark jungle scene, complete with deafeningly noisy fauna.