by William Mills
VIEW OF THE PYRENEES FROM THE AEROPLANE
The Great War
Long ago, long before even Grandpa was born, the Allies were at war with the Germans. It was called the Great War of 1914-1918.
These bad people, the Germans that is, had submarines. These long, black whale shaped, man made, metal fish patrolled the ocean causing mayhem.
This mayhem appealed to Porky. He lived in the deep wide ocean with his mother and brothers and sisters. An uncle was also swimming by occasionally. Sadly Dad got mistaken for a giant tuna. He got canned.
The German submarines, or U-boats, as they were known, patrolled the oceans and seaways of the world looking for prey. Rather like Porky and his family.
The World War 1 U-boats used to motor rapidly along the surface. When a likely target appeared on the horizon the sub dived. It swam along under the sea and waited to pounce on its prey.
One day Porky was swimming through the wreck of a passenger ship. One of the cabins had yet to flood. Porky looked in through the porthole, as ship windows are called.
He saw a box with moving pictures across its screen. It showed an aquatic theme park somewhere in land. The dolphins were rising up on their tail fins and swimming backwards.
The humans clapped loudly. They threw the dolphins lots of dead fish. ‘Gosh! That’s my diet!’ thought Porky.
Roger peered out of the aeroplane window. As any other eleven year old he was excited to be finally on the best bit of his summer holidays.
His mother was taking him and his sister to Ibiza for their summer vacation. Mum’s boyfriend started out with them. But there was some problem at the airport. So he hadn’t been allowed to board the aircraft. Mum had been a bit tearful when she had come back from the interview room. But she had managed to get the cash from his wallet. So their ‘spends’ were OK.
Roger’s sister, Barbara, went to the senior school. She didn’t usually talk to him. Certainly never at school. At home she always came home in a strop and slammed her bedroom door. Mum said ‘she was that age’ and they must be patient. To Roger she had always been ‘that age’. The under carriage went down with a definite click. The ‘Fasten seat belt’ sign lights came on.
“This is your captain speaking.” Said the voice over the intercom. “We are approaching Ibiza on our final decent. We will be on the ground shortly. The temperature is 28 degrees C. The weather is warm and sunny. Thank you for flying with us.”
Roger loved the landings. It was usually when his big sister was sick.
Porky lived with his family in a deep trench in the seabed near a big island. His gang would spend all day swimming deep down. His mum had told them all to stay down below the fishing nets laid out by the humans. That way they would be safe.
The baby sharks would need another year of growth before their mother would take through the narrow Straits of Gibraltar and out in to the big wide ocean. The humans called this ‘The Atlantic.’
When things die they usually sink. If Porky and his family don’t gobble them up they float back up. This has something to do with the gases expanding.
Porky’s mum had said time and again they must wait patiently. The food will drop and they will find it. In the depths they remain safe. They remain undiscovered.
Alas Porky was young. He was impatient. Worse of all he was hungry. Giving mum the slip wasn’t easy. She was a lot bigger than him. She could swim much faster than him. It seemed she had eyes in the back of her head. So he just had to wait his turn. It would come.
Roger stood on the tarmac at Ibiza airport. The sudden change from the air conditioned plane to the blinding heat of the parched, sun drenched Mediterranean was overwhelming. He reached for his mother’s hand and held on tightly.
“Oh cry baby!” Barbara immediately said. She towered over him as she always did. Her face still looked grey around the gills.
Maybe he shouldn’t have dropped his rubber toad into the sick bag before passing it opened to the stewardess. She in turn had promptly retched up too.
He had only avoided an immediate female lynching by Mum saying Barbara could watch him being spanked as soon as they got to the hotel.
Barbara pulled his and Mum’s arms apart.
“You are sissies!” she screamed. “It is so un cool being seen with you.” She was on the verge of tears again. A state she was never very far from at the best of times.
“Hush.” Said Mum.
That was about as close as Mum was going to get with standing up to her head strong first born.
The upshot of the tarmac tantrums was that Mum paid for a taxi to the hotel instead of making them wait for the bus.
Although this hadn’t turned out to be as brilliant as they had first hoped.
“You speel the nama of ‘otel?” asked the driver.
Mum tried shouting back as loudly as possible.
“Island not big. You should know.”
Barbara sat looking at her feet. ‘Dying from embarrassment seems to be a slow lingering death.’ Thought Roger.
Next they were on the balcony of the hotel room. The sea glistened in the distance. The swimming pool was right outside. It was fabulous!
Mum was sniffing about how it should have been a direct sea view instead of an oblique one.
His sister was just sniffing.
“Can we go to the sea? Can we go to the sea?” Roger shouted. He jumped up and down with excitement.
“Oh take him Barbara. I need to stay here and have a quiet faint for a bit.” She said.
“Right you!” Barbara snarled. “Now you degenerate hoody, you wait. And any peeping while I’m getting changed and it’s instant death.
“If any boys I smile at come over, you are dust. If I don’t smile and they still come over, you get a pain in your foot. You will, because I will stamp on it.” she explained.
“What if you smile at them and they walk away?” asked Roger.
“Then it’s death. Your death.” With this Barbara closed the conversation.
The pale blue sky combined with the bright July sunshine. It caused a million sparkles on the rippling sea.
The beaches at Ibiza are particularly clean. The Spanish these days take great care of their coastline and fish stocks.
While most people fly to and from Es Corbola, the name ofIbiza’s airport, some arrive by boat.
The nearest Spanish mainland port is Alicante, some 90 miles away.
On a boat ride from Alicante to Ibiza one passes huge fish farms. These can be bigger than one square mile. That’s 640 acres and is a huge area. Regent’s park in London is about 300 acres.
These fish farms are about eight miles out to sea and stretch all along the coastline. The Spanish authorities are being very responsible about conserving fish stocks and marine conservation.
Off Alicante there are some small islands called Isla di Tarbarca. If you are lucky enough to visit them you are in for a truly amazing experience.
The area has been declared a marine nature reserve. This means when you dive in you are surrounded by fish. They are not only tame. They have attitude too.
Coming around the headland into the bay of Tarbarca was a yacht with a big white sail. A boy was standing on the deck at the bow. His name was Pedro. He was waiting the command from his father, Manuel, to let go the anchor.
The echo sounder is the electronic instrument that shows how deep it is. It was reading 5 metres to the bottom of the sea. The yacht had a draft of 2 metres, which is how far the boat’s keel stretches down beneath the surface.
This was about the right depth to anchor in. Too deep are there is a risk of being run down by a bigger ship. Too shallow and there is danger of smashing the bottom of the boat into a rock.
“Let go!” Came the shout from back aft.
Pedro promptly pushed the lever which let the anchor chain pour out.
Soon they were safely anchored and the boarding ladder clipped into place. Pedro slipped off his shirt, grabbed his mask, and dived over the side into the wonderfully clear, translucent sea.
Peering through his snorkelling mask he saw a fish swim right up to him.
“You can’t touch me!” It said to a startled Pedro. “I’m an endangered species. But I’m allowed to peck at you. Have you any food for me? Humans are supposed to bring food. We do tricks in return.”
A little way out to sea Porky had seen the sign on the seabed.
‘Nature Reserve. Fishermen stay out.’ Porky liked watching huge shoals of fish swimming by. He liked even better the thought of munching his way through them.
His Mum has impressed upon him that they only ate dead fish. Live ones weren’t allowed. This however only increased his appetite further.
‘After all there is no harm in having a look.’ thought Porky. He swam along the bottom following the contours and the gradual slope upwards.
Soon he saw the black shapes of the anchored yachts floating up on the surface. Near one of them was a strange looking creature with bubbles of air coming out of it.
Porky circled on the bottom for a couple of circuits before coming up behind the boy. Porky gave Pedro a little nudge in the back with his snout. Pedro turned around and stared Porky in the face.
“Hello.” Said Porky. “Are you tasty?”
At that precise moment there was a pressure wave across his antenna. His Mum was thrashing her tail around. The message read; “Where are you?”
“Sorry! Got to dash!” said Porky. The boy seemed frozen in the ‘hors d’eoures’ position.
With a flick of his tail he was gone.
Manuel, who had just nipped into the cabin to get a coke from the fridge, returned to the deck to see his son floating comatose just beneath the surface.
He dived straight in with a shout of alarm to his wife.
Esperanza shook her son.
“There are no sharks in this part of the Mediterranean.” she insisted. “They do not come this close in shore.”
“Shark, shark!” mumbled Pedro.
“What you saw was a dolphin. And dolphins are friendly.” She said with a hint of exasperation in her voice.
His father had soaked his clothes diving in. He was less impressed. “Have you been on the glue again?” He demanded.
Pedro’s parents had been summoned to school to find him light headed and all woozy. He had been behind the bicycle shed trying to impress the girls. It hadn’t worked. Right now they were both over keen on the discipline thing.
He decided playing dumb was the best policy.
His father turned to his wife. “We must get on to Ibiza. The charter party are arriving today.” He said whilst toweling his hair dry. “Do stop dripping all over my cockpit. Stand on the on deck.” She replied.
What mystery lies ahead? Find out in part two coming soon….