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Location:Texas, USA Naturalized US Citizen of Irish extract -   Fixed Wing and Helo trucker.Interests: "The Absurdity of Man". I am a proud supporter of Blarney, Nonsense, and Hooey. I enjoy being a chopper jockey, and trying to figure the world, people and belief systems out. I'm just not very good at it, so it keeps me real busy. I scribble, blog, run this website, mess with rental houses, ride motorbikes, and read as much as I can. I went solo 44 years ago, and I like to say I'm gonna get me a real job one day. When I grow up. ("but not just yet, Lord, not just yet") For my aviation scribbles see www.chopperstories.com.... enjoy! I wish you Peace in your Life. May you always walk with the sun on your face, and a breeze ruffling your hair. And may you cherish a quiet wonder for our awesome Universe. Life isn't always good. But it is always fascinating. Never quit.
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A Blip on the Radar (Part 38) - The Missing Fisherman


A Blip on the Radar

Part 38: The Missing Fisherman


      As you grow older, you inevitably witness tragedies.   
It's part of the Great Learning we experience on this little, blue, pipsqueak planet of ours, lost in the Immense Universe.  We are small, tiny in fact, short-lived, but we matter. Our lives matter. Our kindness matters. None of us can save the world, or even change it in any really significant, long lasting way. But what we can do, is to strive to make our tiny little corner of the world a nicer place to be. For other people. For animals. And for all living creatures. When the world starts revolving around me in a blurred, psychedelic, un-feeling cacophony, and when nothing makes sense anymore, I often fall back on that piece of child-like simplicity.
And I marvel: Is the whole world gone nuts? How can people be so mind blowingly cruel? Holy smokes...
Oh, well. In the immortal words of the Lost Irish mystic Shameless O'Shaugnessy, from Ballygobackwards in County Kerry, Ireland:  
"Jeez...! People suck!!! Oh, well... GOOD MORNING, WORLD!  Make way for Mozes!"   
And on we go...  Never give up. Gotta get your ticket's worth...

*              *                *               *                *

     We were flying along on a calm day. It was the first mellow day after several days of stormy seas and high winds. Good visibility. Mostly overcast. Light breeze. The Pacific Ocean was misleadingly peaceful. Laid back,almost lazy waves.  You kick back, a little bit. Maybe.
But a wise TunaHead isn't fooled. The unexpected lies in wait. Always...
Our Hughes 500 was purring along, and my observer and I were relaxed.
     Looking for tuna...

I saw it first. An unusual shape on the horizon. I elbowed Jimmy and pointed. Obediently, he trained his gyro stabilized fancy lookers on the sighting.  He looked for a long time, but couldn't figure it out. We discussed it as we raced towards it.  Weird. What was it?   Unusual floating objects always interest the Tuna Hunters. It often means 'fish'.
I arrived overhead. It was the shiny white hull of an upturned boat.  A pretty clean looking, modern boat. About sixteen feet long. With a new looking outboard engine, its propeller sticking up unnaturally in the air.  What the heck...?  We were eight hundred miles from the nearest group of small islands. What was he doing out here?  In such a small craft? The suspicion that a tragedy had occurred quickly raised itself.
We circled the boat cautiously, and soon more evidence of disaster showed itself. A bright green fishing net was ominously tangled around the propeller. It wasn't hard to speculate on the fate that had befallen the missing fisherman.  He had thrown out his net, and somehow it had gotten seriously entangled in the propeller. He had been in the process of reaching over the stern to free up the mess, when he had probably lost his balance and gone overboard. Either he had been unable to climb back on board, or an attendant shark, perhaps attracted by the commotion, had gotten him. But either way, our unknown fisherman had not regained his ship. The fact that we were some eight hundred miles south west of the nearest island group, well beyond the endurance of the small outboard on the open dingy, was mute testimony to the probability that the accident had occurred several days prior. The rough weather of the previous few days had likely caused the vessel to subsequently turn over. It had drifted, a mute witness to the exact fateful happenings, to this very spot, where we now circled it slowly.
With the permission of the Taiwanese captain, we conducted a search in the area. We spent a good deal of time on it, with little hope of success. We strongly suspected our unfortunate fisherman was long gone.  
Our ship turned up on the scene, and the mute witness was hoisted aboard.  No sign of the occupant.  Just the tangled net, twisted many times around the prop. It took us that long to untwist it, that it seemed likely that he was under way, motoring, when the net contacted the spinning prop. Perhaps he was busy backing up. It would have been no easy to task to sort it out, leaning precariously over the stern of the boat, riding on a choppy sea.

     The discussion then raged as to what to do. The Captain, our Taiwanese Fishing Master, not universally known for his compassion and humanity, wanted to do exactly nothing. He let it be known he did not want his ship tied up for days. Transporting the small boat to the nearest harbor, and dealing with bureaucracy.  I said that I was sure that somewhere a family was needing some degree of closure, and would be waiting desperately for any news. My pleas however, fell on deaf ears. Soon we were fishing again, as if nothing had happened. The ship's mechanics calmly set to work on the outboard engine, and soon had it running. It appeared the decision was made to simply keep the vessel on board as a convenient harbor 'run about'. I felt sorry for the victim's family. I thought about it a lot. I wondered if he had been able to swim ashore, and had now lost his source of income. I wondered about his family, his life style. I wondered if this new looking boat was in fact the pride of his family, and had been acquired with their sustenance in mind, at great expense. Try as I might, I could not shake off the theme of my wonder. I sensed tragedy, and a man's lonely, perhaps terrifying death.  The Unknown and the Unknowable bothered me, and even now, nearly twenty years later, I have a picture of him in my mind's eye. A vision of his home, his village, and his loved ones. I'm sure he is still remembered somewhere, and once in a while, people speak of him, and wonder what happened to him. It is Life. A Mystery. Unknowable, troubling, but endlessly fascinating.

      Soon we sailed into a port in Papua New Guinea. Our new boat stored incongruously on the deck. It didn't match either the style or the paint of the Taiwanese net boats.
A Ministry man then came on board. An official from the department of Fisheries. Raggedy shorts, stained shirt,beetle stained teeth, but that cunning glint of officialdom. The knowledge of power. He zeroed in almost immediately on the new boat. "What is THAT?"
There was no choice but to tell him the story. The gentleman nodded solemnly, but a furtive gleam crept into his eyes. Within hours he was back, triumphantly waving a stack of ferocious looking official paper work. The gist of his spiel was that our vessel was "not licensed for this boat". It did not appear on the "approved list of equipment" as approved on the approved bureaucratic paper work.
Therefore: give it up!
The last I saw of the Lost Fisherman's boat, freshly overhauled by our mechanics, was the Ministry man proudly setting of in it.
In (his) new boat, most likely.  
It seemed an irony. I doubt very much if the Ministry man ever contacted his superiors to say that he had seized an unregistered boat. Requesting instructions. What to do with it. I'm sure it was a perk to him.
Perk of the job.  
The boat is probably still fishing off the coast of Papua new Guinea. Fifteen hundred miles or so from where we found it.  And somewhere, on a small island group, a village still remembers a lost son. They wonder, what happened to him.
     And his new boat.

*             *              *             *              *

      Humanity can be in-human. But just when you think there is no pity, compassion reaches out.
On another occasion, the story went around the combined Taiwanese and Korean fishing fleet that an open boat had been seen, drifting offshore between remote islands. Full of islanders. They were frantically waving at passing boats and helicopters. With towels, and sheets, and shirts.  No wonder. Their engine had broken down, and they were out of water and food. But nobody came to rescue them. Too busy. What, deal with those stupid islanders? Their own fault for setting out in the first place!
It was later said that two helicopters flew right up to the boat on two different occasions. Hovered around. Observed the obvious distress. Reported to their ships. And flew off.
No further action.
How the Mighty Dollar rules the hearts of men...
But one Taiwanese Captain, one amongst many, heard the radio chatter and did not switch his heart off.  This gentleman sailed out of his way, for hundreds of miles, and picked them all up. By the time he got there, one man had died, and a pregnant woman had also succumbed. The remainder of the exhausted occupants were saved in the nick of time, and transported by our compassionate Fishing Captain back to their home island. Where he received a hero's welcome, and the grateful thanks of the relatives. But he lost money. Time. Fish. You wonder what the ship owner said.

What your problem!? Can you bank compassion!?   More fish!

*             *             *            *              *

     It seems to me that 1)  the highest quality of Man is his ability to freely choose to exercise compassion. Empathy. Or not.
And 2) it seems that there is often an inverse relationship between "compassion/empathy" and "privilege". Speaking  The more privileged people are, the wealthier they are, the more educated they are, the fuller their bellies, the dumb luckier they are, the more prosperous they are... oddly, that often means they become LESS compassionate. Less feeling.  Noooo
Always looking UP the ladder, towards MORE. Never looking DOWN the ladder of life, and reaching a hand down to help somebody up.  Yes
It's not an absolute rule. Thank Goodness. But often holds true.  

*           *            *             *               *

     As you grow older, you inevitably witness tragedies.   
It's part of the Great Learning we experience on this little blue pipsqueak planet of ours, lost in the Immense Universe.  We are small, tiny in fact, short-lived, but we matter. Our lives matter. Our kindness matters. None of us can save the world, or even change it in any really significant, long lasting way. But what we can do, is to strive to make our tiny little corner of the world a nicer place to be. For other people. For animals. And for all living creatures.
Every day is a gift...

It's early in the morning in Intercoastal City, Louisiana, USA, as I pull pitch in my beautiful Bell 407. I'm happy to fly. Blessed.
    Lucky beyond words…
In the words of The Great Wise One, the Philosopher, the Mystic, the True Believer:

YIPPPEEEEE!!!!    YEEEEEE-HAAAAAAH!!!    Devilwhip

Make way for Mozes!
(Love it, love it...)
  


Francis Meyrick





Last edited by Francis Meyrick on October 1, 2013, 9:10 am
We little humans, hurtling through the Universe on our tiny, pale blue dot, will find few answers to Life's great mysteries. But we should at least find many of the questions. To write is to ask. To seek. To grope. With humility, and humor. Peace.
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