Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado, New Zealand - Zane Grey - ebook

Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado, New Zealand ebook

Zane Grey

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New Zealand is one of the „hottest” industrial sites in the world. Known for the brilliant, crystal clear rivers, New Zealand, Zain Gray has the image of a great and mythical trout. In „The Saga” of Eldorado, the „Seaman” Gray combines the legendary streams, and also haunts a monster off the coast of New Zealand. This is an adventure story and fishing history right away.

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Liczba stron: 218

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Contents

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

I. THE VOYAGE TO NEW ZEALAND, 1925

THERE is always something wonderful about a new fishing adventure trip–for a single day, or for a week, or for months. The enchantment never palls. For years on end I have been trying to tell why, but that has been futile. Fishing is like Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece.

The most humble fisherman has this in common with fishermen of all degrees. Whatever it is that haunts and enchants surely grows with experience. Even the thousandth trip to the same old familiar fished-out stream begins with renewed hope, with unfailing faith. Quien sabe? as the Spaniards say. You cannot tell what you might catch. And even if you do not catch anything the joy somehow is there. The child is father to the man. Saturdays and vacation times call everlastingly to the boy. The pond, the stream, the river, the lake and the sea. Something evermore is about to happen. Every fishing trip is a composite of all other trips, and it holds irresistible promise for the future. That cup cannot be drained. There are always greater fish than you have caught; always the lure of greater task and achievement; always the inspiration to seek, to endure, to find always the beauty of the lonely stream and open sea; always he glory and dream of nature.

When I fished under the stark lava slopes of the Galapagos and in the amethyst waters around Cocos Island and around the White Friars I imagined each was the epitome of angling, that I could never adventure higher and farther. But in this same year, 1925, when we shot the wild rapids of the Rogue River and cast our flies where none save Indians had ever fished, the same elusive and beautiful thing beckoned like a will-o’-the-wisp. It is in the heart.

On December thirtieth, when Captain Laurie Mitchell and I stood on the deck of the Royal Mail S.S. Makura, steaming out through the Golden Gate bound for the Antipodes to seek new waters, the same potent charm pervaded my being. There was a Lorelei calling from the South Seas; there was a siren bell ringing from the abysmal deep.

San Francisco Bay at that hour was a far cry from the turquoise-blue water of the tropics. A steely sun made pale bright light upon the ruffled bay; gray fog shrouded the dome of Mt. Tamalpais; from the northwest a cold wind drove down on the bare brown hills to whip the muddy water into a choppy sea. The broken horizon line of the beautiful city of hills shone dark against the sky. A flock of screaming gulls sailed and swooped about the stern of the vessel.

A big French freighter kept abreast of the Makura through the Golden Gate, then turned north, while we headed to the southwest. The Royal Mail ship Makura was no leviathan, but she certainly was a greyhound of the sea. In less than an hour I saw the mountains fade into the fog. That last glimpse of California had to suffice me for a long time. We ran into a heavy-ridged sea, cold and dark, with sullen whitecaps breaking. I walked the decks, watching as always, until the sky became overspread with dark clouds, and a chill wind drove me inside.

That night after dinner I went out again. The sky was dark, the sea black, except for the pale upheavals of billows which gleamed through the obscurity. The ship was rushing on, now with a graceful, slow forward dip and then with a long rise. She was very steady. Great swells crashed against her bows and heaved back into the black gulfs. There was a continuous roar of chafing waters. An old familiar dread of the ocean mounted in me again. What a mighty force! It was a cold, wintry almost invisible sea, not conducive to the thrill and joy of the angler. It was a northern sea, gusty, turbulent, with rough swells. I leaned over the rail in the darkness, trying to understand its meaning, its mood, trying to be true to the love I bore it in tranquil moments.

Next morning when I went out the decks were wet, the sky gray, except low down in the east where rays of sunlight slipped through to brighten the cold gray buffeting sea.

I noted several sea birds following in the wake of the ship. They were new to me. Dark in color, marvelously built, with small compact bodies, sharp as a bullet, and with long narrow wings, they appeared to have been created for perfect control of the air. They sailed aloft and swooped down, skimmed the foamy crests, rode abreast of the rough seas, and dipped into the hollows, all apparently without slightest effort of wing. I did not see them flap a wing once. This is a common habit of many sea birds, especially the shearwaters, but I had never before seen it performed so swiftly and wonderfully. These birds had a wing spread of three feet, and must have belonged to the shearwater family. Lonely wanderers of the barren waste of waters!

Morning and afternoon swiftly passed, the hours flying with the speed of the Makura over the waves. Toward sunset, which was only a dim ruddy glow behind the fog banks, the chill wind, the darkening sea, the black somber fading light all predicted storm. The last daylight hours of the last day of 1925 were melancholy and drear. I was reminded of November back in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where so often I heard the autumn winds wail under the eaves, and the rain pelt the roof–mournful prelude to winter.

This rough sea was like that of the north, where off the rugged shores of Puget Sound the contending tides are raw and bold. The winter twilight quickly merged into the blanket of night. Then out there in the opaque blackness the sea roared by the ship, tremendous and inscrutable, with nothing to inspire love, with everything to confound the soul of man. What was the old year to the sea, or the new year soon to dawn with its imagined promise, its bright face, its unquenchable hope? Nevertheless, the thought that overbalanced this depression was of the magic isles of the South Seas, set like mosaics in the eternal summer blue, and the haunting Antipodes, seven thousand miles down the lanes of the Pacific.

All morning of the the third day out the Makura sped on over a lumpy leaden sea, mirroring the gray of the sky. How tenaciously the drab shadow of winter clung to us! Yet there had come some degree of warmth, and on the afternoon of this day the cold wind departed. When the sunlight strayed through the fog, it gave the sea its first tinge of blue; but the sun shone only fitfully. There was no life on the sea, and apparently none in it. Neither bird nor fish showed to long-practised eyes. I wondered about this. We were hundreds of miles offshore, out of the track of the schools of sardines and anchovies that birds and fish prey upon. Still there should have been some manifestation of life. How vast the ocean! Were its spaces and depths utterly barren? That was hard to believe.

Sunset that night was rose and gold, a gorgeous color thrown upon a thin webbed mass of mackerel cloud that for long held its radiance. It seemed to be a promise of summer weather. Sunrise next morning likewise was a blazing belt of gold. But these rich colorings were ephemeral and deceiving. The sky grew dark and gray. From all points masses of cumulous clouds rose above the horizon, at last to unite in a canopy of leaden tones. A wind arose and the sea with it. The air still had an edge.

All day the Makura raced over a magnificent sea of long swells rising to white breaking crests. The ship had a slow careen, to and fro, from side to side, making it difficult to walk erect and steadily. The turbulent mass of water was almost black. Its loneliness was as manifest as when calm. No sail! No smoke from steamer down beyond the horizon! No sign of fish or bird! I seemed to have been long on board. The immensity of the sea began to be oppressive. That day and the next we drove on over a gray squally expanse of waters.

The time came when I saw my first flying fish of the trip. It was an event. He appeared to be a tiny little fellow, steely in color, scarcely larger than a humming bird. But for me he meant life on the ocean. Thereafter while on deck I kept watch. We had sunshine for a few hours and then the warmth became evident. The sea was a raging buffeting rolling plain of dark blue and seething white. We were a thousand miles and more off the coast, where I felt sure the wind always blew. We were in the track of the trade winds.

On the sixth day the air became humid. We had reached the zone of summer. Every mile now would carry us toward the tropics.

I saw some porpoises, small yellow ones, active in flight. They were a proof of fish, for porpoises seldom roam far away from their food supply. I wondered if they preyed upon the tiny flying fish. Swift as the porpoise is, I doubt that he could catch them. As we sped south I noted more and more schools of flying fish, rising in a cloud, like silvery swallows. Presently I espied one that appeared larger, with reddish wings. This was a surprise, and I thought I had made a mistake as I had not a really good look at it. Not long afterward, however, I saw another, quite close, and made certain of the red wings. Then soon following I espied three more of the same species. They certainly could sail and glide and dart over the rough water.

We ran into a squall. Rain and spray wet my face as I paced the deck. Out ahead the gray pall was like a bank of fog. The sea became rougher. Our wireless brought news of a hurricane raging over the South Seas, centering around the Samoan Islands, where tidal waves had caused much damage. What had become of the tranquil Pacific? Late that afternoon we ran out of the squalls into a less-disturbed sea.

Captain Mitchell met two widely-traveled Englishmen on board, brothers, by name Radmore. They came from the same part of England where Captain Mitchell was born; and it must have been pleasant, as well as poignant, for him to talk with them. He introduced them to me, and I found them exceedingly interesting, as I have found so many Englishmen. I did not need to be told that they had been in the war.

I was particularly interested in their voyage to New Zealand, which was for the same purpose as ours–the wonderful possibilities of adventure, especially fishing, to be had in the Antipodes. The elder Radmore had been often to New Zealand, and in fact he knew Australasia, and island seas to the north. He was a big-game hunter, having had some extensive hunts in Burma, India, the Malay Peninsula and British East Africa. He said game of all kinds had increased enormously during and since the war, especially in Africa. Tigers were abundant in Burma and seldom hunted. What the fishing possibilities might be in the waters adjacent to these places he had no idea. No sportsman had ever tried them. I conceived an impression of magnificent unknown virgin seas, so far as fish was concerned. What a splendid thrill that gave me!

Radmore told me many things, two of which I must chronicle here. The pearl fishing off the New Guinea coast: it was new pearl country, comparatively. In fact, New Guinea is still one of the little-known islands. Next to Australia it is the largest in the world, and it has many leagues of unexplored coast line. Radmore told me that at one time rare pearls could be cheaply procured from the natives, who had not yet become aware of their value. A can of peaches bought a $16,000 pearl! The Radmores, coming into San Pedro on the S.S. Manchuria, had their attention called to my schooner Fisherman anchored in the bay. They said if they had that ship they would surely go to New Guinea.

On a voyage from New Zealand to England, round the Horn, Radmore had seen a remarkable battle between a sperm whale, or cachalot, and two great orcas. This conflict had taken place in smooth water close to a reef along which the ship was skirting. The whale was on the surface, apparently unable to sound, and he beat the water terrifically with his enormous flukes. The sound was exceedingly loud and continuous, almost resembling thunder. The orcas threw their huge white-and-black bodies high into the air, and plunged down upon the back of the whale. They hit with a sudden crash. The cachalot threshed with his mighty tail, trying to strike them, but they eluded it. The commotion in the water seemed incredible. This battle continued as long as the watchers could see with the naked eye, and then with glasses. The captain, who had sailed that route for forty years, said that was the third fight of the kind he had seen.

Radmore was certain the whale was a cachalot, or sperm. Personally, I incline to the opinion that it was some other kind of whale. Andrews and other authorities on whales claim that the whale-killers and orcas let the cachalot severely alone. He is more than a match for them. Armed with a terrible set of teeth and a head one-third the length of his ninety-foot body, the cachalot would appear to be impervious to attacks from sea creatures. On the other hand, other whales are helpless before the onslaught of these wolves of the sea. They become almost paralyzed with fright, and make little attempt to escape their foes. This is the naturalistic opinion on the subject, and I incline to it, although I admit a possibility of unusual cases. The wonderful thing about the narrative for me was to think of seeing such a battle and photographing it.

On the morning of January sixth before daybreak we crossed the equator. I went out on deck before sunrise. Sea and sky were radiant with a pearly effulgence. There were no reds, purples or golds. White and silver, gray and pearl predominated, which colors intensified as the sun came up, giving a beautiful effect. All around the horizon the trade-wind clouds rode like sails. They had the same ship-like shape, the same level bottoms and round windblown feathery margins as the trade-wind clouds above the Gulf Stream between Cuba and the Keys but not the color! Sunrise off the Keys of Florida is a glorious burst of crimson and gold that flames sky and sea.

We were now in the southern hemisphere, and I felt that it would be interesting for me to note the slow march of the sun to the north. On the equator the sun always sets at six o’clock. So far the voyage had been remarkably free of glaring white sunlight. This day when we crossed the equator we had alternately bright sunlight and soft gray-shaded sky.

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