Saturday, November 5, 2016

Tauy Creek Digest #28: Bouvet Island

The waves crashed along Bouvet Island like they always do. There had been a storm raging the last couple of days but it had finally subsided and the clouds were starting to part but the seas were still angry. Bouvet Island was in the middle of the Southern Ocean, the farthest landmass away from other landmasses. It was 1,600 miles from South Africa and 1,100 miles from Antarctica and was a wildlife preserve controlled by Norway. Currently, it was uninhabited except for two climatologists that had been stationed there for the last three months. Hans and Andrew were there to monitor the weather station that was installed on Bouvet back in the eighties.

It was almost noon when Hans and Andrew stopped over analyzing the weather and ventured out onto Nyroysa, the flat area of the island that was the easiest place to access the island. As looked out onto the ocean and recorded what they saw, something caught Andrew's eye off to the side. "What's that?" he shouted at Hans over the waves, tapping Hans on the shoulder.

The brown object stood out the bright white glacier. They carefully made their way to the object and saw that it was a boat, possibly a lifeboat but it had no discernable markings on it. They peered into the boat and saw a body, soaking wet and half frozen.

"It's a girl," Hans said. He removed a glove and placed two fingers on the girl's neck. "I think she's dead."

"Where'd she come from?" Andrew asked.

"She's black. Possibly Africa. Maybe South America. Couldn't be from any further. Her breasts are just starting to come in and based on her size, she looks to be 12, 13," Hans said. He pressed around the girl's stomach. "Still healthy. She didn't starve. Probably just died of exposure."

"What's she doing out here alone?"

"We don't know she was alone. She may have been with others and they fell overboard," Hans stood up and put his glove back on. "What do we do with her?"

"We have to log it and we should radio it in. Maybe people are looking for her. Height about five-seven, weight around 110? What color are her eyes?"

"She's black. More than likely brown," Hans smiled.

"I guess you're right."

"Let's pull the boat further onto shore. We don't want her floating away while we're back at the weather station," Hans said and began pulling the boat further onto the glacier. Andrew got on the other side and started pushing and they easily got the boat well onto the island, safe from the waves of the Southern Ocean.

Hans and Andrew walked back to the weather station and Andrew got onto the radio. "This is Bouvet meteorological station. We have a situation here. Over."

"What's the situation?" a voice asked, unclear and staticy.

"A boat has washed up on shore carrying a dead teenage girl."

There was silence from the other end for almost a minute. "Please, repeat."

"A boat has washed up on shore with a dead girl in it. Please advise."

"A dead girl?" the staticy voice questioned.

"Yes," Andrew sighed. "Please advise. What should we do?"

"When does the next ship arrive?"

"Not for another three months," Andrew said. "Please advise. What should we do about the body?"

More silence but this time only a few seconds. "Give me a description of the girl. We'll compare it to recently missing people."

Andrew gave a description of the girl, the staticy voice repeating each feature. "What are we supposed to do with the body? Just leave it in the boat? It's cold enough, the body will keep perfectly fine out there."

"We'll send the body's description to any and all nearby inhabited places but I don't know if we'll get any bites. As for the body itself, we'll leave that up to you. I would suggest burying it if you can but I know ninety-three percent of that island is ice so do what you want."

"Thanks," Andrew said sarcastically and sat the radio microphone down. "We're on our own," Andrew said to Hans.

"I heard. Do you want to bury her?"

"What if she has a family? If they find them, they won't want her body thousands of miles from where they can memorialize her."

"But we can't just leave her in that boat. The weather and ocean will do a number on her body within a few days."

"What should we do? Just flip the boat over? Or do you want to bring her in here?"

"Is there anything in that wooden shack up on the hill behind the station?" Hans asked, referring to a single person shack built in the 1950s and abandoned when the ones who built it continued on their Antarctic journey.

"I don't think so. You want to put her in there?"

Hans shrugged. "What else can we do?"

Andrew looked at Hans for nearly a minute before tapping the radio console and standing up. "Let's go," he sighed.

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