Saturday, May 14, 2016

PHOENIX and GOLDEN RULE (10) We take the baton

    The Golden Rule cast off at noon on June 4, 1958, as scheduled--and a policeman immediately arrested Capt. Bigelow and took him to jail. At four that afternoon Bill Huntington arrived back from the mainland and took command.
     Skipper records that "shivers of delight at her courage, at her audacity, ran down my spine" as the Golden Rule pulled out. This time she got a couple of miles beyond the three-mile limit but the Coast Guard intercepted her and brought her back, putting the second captain in jail with the first.
     All five men were in custody serving their 60-day sentence when, having notified the newspapers, we cleared for the high seas on June 11. As we pulled out, a member of the local Society of Friends (Quakers) held up a sign saying TELL THE PEOPLE OF THE MARSHALLS WE'RE SORRY. We wondered if we would get the opportunity to do so.
     The Golden Rulers had given us their charts of the Marshalls and Japan, tools, a medicine chest, and a shortwave radio. Also four simple respirators, the type painters with spray guns use. Skipper wrote, "What a pitiful protection against radioactivity!. . . Besides, how does one divide four masks among five people?  
     Skipper spent the three weeks en route to the zone reading through his newly-acquired "floating reference library" of books, scientific journals, magazines, and pamphlets on radioactivity, nuclear weapons, disarmament and peace, including a stack of Congressional Records. We listened to world news from Voice of America, Far East Network, British Broadcasting, Radio Sydney, Tokyo, Peking, Moscow. We continued to discuss the issues and, as Skipper put it, "for those who felt so inclined, pray."
     On June 30, Skipper records, "Tonight, in the cockpit, Barbara and I had a long talk. The time has come for us to make a decision: Do we enter the test zone, or do we go around?
     "We both agree that during our nineteen days at sea, there hasn't been the slightest indication either that the tests will be stopped, or that any agreement will be reached. . .
     "'What did you get from your reading?' asked Barbara.
     "'Everything I've read and learned on this trip has just strengthened me in my convictions,' I said.
     "'Then doesn't that settle it?' asked Barbara quietly.
     "'I suppose so. But. . .' I looked out from the security of our little floating world, to the utter darkness all around us. I thought of the poem Ted had written, in the style of a Japanese haiku:
          How can I believe
          This soft rain that I so love
          Radioactive?
     "And there was a soft rain about us now, falling on us and on all the people of the world--a rain silent, invisible, undetectable by any human sense, a deadly rain, a rain of ionized atoms.
     "'But. . .' I said again.
     "'Have we any choice?'
     "'No,' I said, 'no choice.'
     "There was a sound in the darkness, and Nick had joined us in the cockpit. Rather tensely he asked what we were talking about.
     "'About whether we should go into the test zone.'
     "'Don't you know? Haven't you decided?' He seemed angry.
     "'Yes, Nick, we've decided. If everybody agrees, we go in.'
     "'Good,' he said.
     "So it's settled. I talked to Jessica and Ted. Our plans are simple: to carry on, make no physical resistance, and try to act with dignity, and I hope courage, whatever happens. I can't think beyond that."

(From Earle Reynolds, The Forbidden Voyage.)

 


 

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