60 knots…

Today I’m hosting Ed Griffin on my blog – and what we’re talking about…is deleted scenes- though with Ed, his deleted scene was…about wind. Without further ado….ED!

 

This is the first draft of the first chapter of my novel. I felt this chapter was almost poetry. It was all about the wind. My friends and writing teachers told me to drop it, unless the story was going to be about the wind. This hurt me a lot. I loved this chapter. But they were right. The first chapter should introduce the hero. The wind was more of an adversary that a hero.

PRISONERS OF THE WILLIWAW

          “One of the most dangerous local phenomena occurring in the Aleutians is the “Williwaw.”  This is a type of wind which results from the damming up of air on windward slopes followed by an overflow of air down the leeward slopes.  These gusts often are in excess of 60 knots.”

U.S. Navy publication, “Welcome to Adak”

Chapter 1

Williwaw

            For centuries the Devil Wind blew across the island of Adak in the Aleutians.  Even before Adak was an island, when it was part of the Alaskan Mountain Range, the Devil Wind screamed through the rough terrain and beat to the ground any vegetation taller than tundra grass.

The Devil Wind watched earthquakes shake the land and divide it.  Adak became an island, only twenty miles wide by thirty miles long.  The cold waters of the Bering Sea met the warm waters of the Pacific and moisture poured onto Adak, rain and fog, sleet and snow.

Travelers arrived, the Aleuts, bold men and women, descendants of those who had crossed the land bridge from Asia.  They came in their kayaks and they stayed on Adak.  The Devil Wind hid in the mountains and roared down on them, smashing their tiny encampments, blowing out their fires, and capsizing their kayaks.  Sometimes it found a child alone on the tundra and in seconds it stole all the warmth from the child’s tender body.  The Aleuts put a name to this Devil Wind, Williwaw.

Williwaw, the Devil Wind, watched as Russian fur traders arrived in the eighteenth century and, in trade for seal pelts, gave the Aleuts social diseases and slavery and death.  He knew that the Russians, too, would soon be gone.  And they were.

For two hundred years Williwaw ruled supreme over Adak with only an occasional hunter or fisherman to torture.  Then on August 28, 1943 Williwaw met his match, an invasion force of the United States Government.  In ten days Army Engineers and Navy Seabees built a runway, devil wind or no devil wind.  Adak became a powerful base of ninety thousand troops bent on driving the Japanese from the islands to the west.

The war ended and the Navy stayed.  Williwaw flattened buildings, smashed aircraft, injured people, but still the Navy stayed.  In fact, they defied Williwaw.  They constructed a city of gale-proof buildings and called it ‘Downtown Adak’.  They dug tunnels between some of the major buildings and they told every child to seek shelter in a Williwaw.

In 1951 they planted twenty trees even though Williwaw allowed no trees to grow on Adak.  He uprooted every tree seedling whether brought to Adak by a bird or by the wind or by a boot.  The Navy hammered a sign into the tundra, “Adak National Forest”, it said.  The sailors nurtured and protected the trees.  No matter that generations later the trees were still no bigger than the sign itself, the act of defiance had been done.  The Navy had planted trees on Adak.

In 1958 a contractor, working for the Navy, carved a totem pole and near the top he chiseled the image of fierce Williwaw.  The Navy put the totem pole in the parking lot of the community center and Navy families would gather around it for a snapshot to send home to Aunt Gertrude.

Devil Wind indeed!

In 1985 McDonalds built wind proof golden arches in full view of the totem of fierce Williwaw.

At the Eagle’s Nest Officer’s Club, the senior weather officer would sip his dry martini and explain pompously to the new officers that, “Yes, Williwaw has been clocked well in excess of 60 knots.”  If he had many sips of the dry martini, he would dramatically show the youngsters how the wind would dam itself up on one side of the mountain and then, suddenly, – here he would often spill his drink –  it would flood over to the other side of the mountain and create a williwaw.

The ordinary sailors in the Husky Lodge on Bering Hill would drink their beer on a Friday night and once in a while a sailor with country music in his soul would strum a guitar and sing about Adak and the wind:

Well, I’m on an island in the Aleutian chain,

It’s the kind of place drives a man insane.

In Adak, that’s the island’s name;

It’s the Aleut American Rock.

 

Well, it’s chilly most every single day of the year,

And the wind’s so cold it’ll freeze your ear,

And if you don’t watch out, you’ll be crying in your beer,

Just thinking ’bout the people back home.

 

Well, the weather man says it’ll probably snow and rain and sleet,

The sun might show, but not for long,

Cause the wind’s gonna blow,

And the sky’s gonna turn a hazy gray.

 

Well, I’ve got Adak water running in my blood,

Cause I’m cold as hell and my shoes are full of mud,

And I’m out of cigarettes and full of suds,

Just countin’ all the eagles over here.

 

Williwaw was tamed; he’d been snapshoted, studied, built against and sung about until he didn’t feel much like a devil wind anymore.

But Williwaw wasn’t the only demon on Adak.  Any visitor who stayed long enough to experience a clear day – or even a clear hour – would be told to look to the northeast, “There, across Kulak Bay, do you see it?  That’s Great Sitkin, twenty six miles away, rising a mile high out of the Bering Sea.  And look there on the top, do you see the smoke?  Great Sitkin’s an active volcano!” Or as the sailors on Adak liked to say, “Great Sitkin’s a sittin’ over there, huffin’ and a puffin’.”

Tiny Adak sits on what is known as the ring of fire, a belt of active volcanoes that encircles the Pacific. Worse still, Adak rests on a line where two giant plates of the earth’s surface collide, an earthquake zone.

But it was not Williwaw or volcanoes or earthquakes that put an end to the Navy base on Adak.  It was peace.  In the early 1990s the Soviet Union fell apart.  The Pentagon questioned why they were spending millions on a base to watch the Soviets, when the  Soviets, as such, did not exist anymore.

The Navy turned the base back to the Aleuts who put it on the world wide web to see if they could sell it.  “It would make a great prison,” they said.  State legislators made speeches, “Let’s send all our inmates to Adak.”  But it was too far away.  What guard would like to leave Oregon to go to Adak?

Williwaw celebrated the departure of the Navy and the failure of the Aleuts to make a deal.  It was his island again.

One morning  at three fifteen an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale struck Adak. Suddenly the north half of Runway B was four feet lower than the south half.  The pipeline that brought the clear, cold waters of Lake Bonnie Rose down to the Naval Station broke in three places, and the Birchwood housing area shook itself down to rubble in less than a minute, wind resistant roofs and all.

Over on Great Sitkin the earthquake put intolerable pressure on the magma chamber and Great Sitkin blew, throwing rocks and fire and ash into the Bering Sea.  A giant rock sailed through the wind-proof top of the Operations building and destroyed some of the best radar equipment in the Pacific.  Another rock destroyed the Yakutat Hobby Store which so many people had relied on to keep their sanity on this hard duty station.  Ash covered the island and the sea lions on the Yakak Peninsula snorted at the gritty substance in their lungs and rolled their fat bodies back into the Bering Sea.

But the greatest tragedy came from the  tsunami, or tidal wave, that roared in seconds after the earthquake.  The cold waters of the Bering sea came towering into Kuluk Bay and without a second’s warning fell on top of the hospital and sucked half the building out to sea.

Just to the east of the hospital, on the shores of Kuluk Bay, Petty Officer John Kerner woke suddenly, bounced out of bed by the earthquake.  Kerner’s title was liaison with the Aleuts, but really he knew he was a handy man who spent most of his time cursing Williwaw and repairing roofs.  He had moved into the best housing on Adak, a cottage on the shores of  Kuluk Bay.  Here he could watch the storms coming or going over the water and once in a great while he even saw the sun, especially in the morning.  A few steps out his back door was the beach where his two boys, Timmy, five, and Jack, seven, built forts, collected shells and watched the sea otters rolling over in the cold waters of Kuluk Bay.

Kerner ran across his vibrating floor to check on the boys. He heard a noise, turned his head and saw Kuluk Bay coming in his large picture window.  The water smashed him against the wall and pinned him there.  Suddenly the flow reversed and he was sucked to the front of the house and wedged beneath the picture window.  He opened his mouth in a desperate attempt to get air to his lungs.  As he did he saw Timmy and Jack being sucked through the picture window into the Bay.

As the new millennium dawned, Adak was abandoned as most of the Aleutians are.  Williwaw ruled supreme again and laughed as he worked at the wind resistant roofs.  The years passed and the Adak National Forest grew a few more inches and the number of Norway rats increased.  Williwaw thought highly of the rats, for they destroyed the works of man just as he did.

A few years later, on a Saturday morning, Williwaw watched a strange new invasion.  Three hundred convicts, most of them lifers, landed on what was left of Adak’s Runway A.  These three hundred had petitioned Congress to set them free on an island.  “Give us our families”, their petition read, “give us our freedom and give us just half of what it costs to keep each of us in prison for a year.  We’ll become self sufficient – and we’ll rehabilitate ourselves.”

“Bullshit!” Congressman Jack Murphy of Ohio said to the committee chairman, making sure first that his microphone was off.  “Pure bullshit!  But what the hell, give them their island.  Maybe they’ll kill themselves off.  My constituents are damn sick and tired of paying the bills for people who rape their daughters and steal their savings.  Let the sons of bitches go!  Just make sure they stay there!”

The committee chairman nodded his head at Murphy.  They both knew the real reason this island prison was going forward — a certain friend of the committee wanted to set up an electronic assembly plant where he could pay less than third world wages.

The prisoners had asked for waterless, uninhabited Kahoolawe, just south of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands.  The Navy used Kahoolawe for target practice and the joke around Washington was to give the convicts what they wanted, but not tell the Navy about it.

Congressman Jack Murphy, however, heard a lot from his constituents about giving these killers a Hawaiian Island. “Hell, I wouldn’t mind having one myself,” they said.  And so tiny, treeless, waterlogged, cold, windy, rat-infested Adak was chosen as the site of this new experiment.

When the first plane landed and the convicts filed out – their arms and legs chained together –  Williwaw laughed.  No US Navy here.  These three hundred and their families would soon be gone—killers, thieves, and rapists.

The Devil Wind greeted each of them with a blast of arctic air mixed with stinging rain as he or she stepped off the plane.  “You are mine now!  We are alike!” it howled as the federal marshals removed the handcuffs and leg irons.  “You think you are free, but now you are prisoners of the Williwaw!”

 

 

 

Find Ed online at

Personal FB https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1024992482

FB page https://www.facebook.com/EdGriffinWriter

Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/EdGriffin2

Personal Blog http://edgriffin.net/

Writer’s Write Daily Blog http://writerswritedaily.wordpress.com/

Prison Uncensored Blog http://prisonuncensored.wordpress.com/

Ed Griffin teaches creative writing in his community and in a federal prison in Canada. He’s written five books, three novels and two works of nonfiction. He’s an ex-everything, ex-politician, ex-businessman and ex-Catholic priest. He believes with Aristotle that “Art releases unconscious tensions and purges the soul.”

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1 Comment

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One response to “60 knots…

  1. Wow, Ed! You left this out? This was awesome! Thanks for sharing it!

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