Wednesday 28 February 2024

We are not Afraid to Die

We're not Afraid to Die... If we can all be together

                                                          By Gordon Cook and Allen East


The story ‘We aren’t Afraid to Die’ written by Gordon Cook and Allen East is a beautiful message of mental strength, courage and resilience.

It is an account of a family and sailors who experienced a storm in Southern Indian Ocean. The story narrates small acts of bravery, courage, support, compassion and sensitivity in order to keep the hope of life alive amid the storm.

The story is great lesson to all the people on how to fight the hurdles and emerge triumphantly in the time of crisis especially with the examples of the children who did their best to bring smiles on the grim faces.

Captain Gordon Cook stood out as a true example of strong leadership and perseverance. He displayed amazing sensibility, great awareness of the storm and directions, and selfless spirit of a captain.


Summary :

The narrator with his wife Mary and two children set sail from Plymouth, England, to make a voyage round the world in their boat ‘Wavewalker’ which was their dream. They also practised honing their seafaring skills and testing their boat in British waters.

Initially the journey passed pleasantly as they sailed down the west coast of Africa to Cape Town. They took on two crewmen, American Larry Vigil and Swiss Herb Seigler to tackle one of the world’s roughest seas, the southern Indian Ocean.

Second day out of Cape Town, they encountered strong gales which remained thus for few weeks. The size of the waves was alarming. On December 25 despite atrocious weather they had a wonderful holiday complete with a Christmas tree. New Year’s Day saw no improvement but they still hope for favourable change soon but it changed for the worse. At dawn on January 2, the waves were gigantic, and the wind were screaming. To slow the boat down, they dropped the storm jib and double lashed everything, put on the life jackets and waited.

Then, the wind dropped, the sky immediately grew dark and a disastrous wave came roaring. Then, a tremendous explosion shook the deck and a torrent of green and white water broke over the ship and they were sinking below the waves experiencing the approaching death. The narrator was losing consciousness. Then, unexpectedly, his head popped out of the water and a wave hurled the boat upright. He grabbed the guard rails and went into Wavewalker’s main boom. He held the wheel firmly and geared up sternly for the next wave. He experienced “Water, Water, Everywhere”.

Suddenly Mary came and screamed that the ship is full of water. The children were pumping madly to remove the water out of ship. After finding a hammer, screws and canvas, the narrator headed for repairs to stop the ship from sinking and he was successful in doing so. But, then the hand pumps started to block up due to the debris floating in and the electric pump short circuited. The water level again rose threateningly. Then, he connected to another electric pump to an out-pipe and it worked. All night they were pumping, steering and working the radio but no replies came to their Mayday calls. Sue was injured badly but didn’t bother her parents as all were busy in fighting the storm.

On January 3, the situation was under control and they could rest in rotation. But Wavewalker wouldn’t hold together up to reaching Australia. Their only hope was to reach one of the two small islands a few hundred kilometres to the east. One of them, Ile Amsterdam, was a French scientific base.

Mary found some corned beef and biscuits, and they ate their first meal in almost two days. The weather again deteriorated and by January 5, the situation was again desperate. Jon asked in fright, “Daddy, are we going to die?”, “we aren’t afraid of dying if we can all be together — you and Mummy, Sue and I.”

He left the children’s cabin and was determined to fight the sea with everything he had. He tried to do the mending but the water kept coming. Still, Wavewalker rode out the storm and by the morning of January 6 the wind eased. Sue had drawn caricatures of Mary and the narrator who looked funny. They laughed to see the caricatures. Sue made it to say ‘thank you’.

The narrator checked and calculated to understand the way and where they were going. He had lost his main compass and was using a spare which had not been corrected for magnetic variation. Then, he went on deck and expected to see the island at about 5 p.m. When I woke up at 6 p.m., he felt they missed the island. Then, the children gave him a hug saying that he is the best dad and the best captain and informed that they found the land. He was amazed to actually have found Ile Amsterdam, the most beautiful island in the world for them. He felt grateful to Larry and Herbie, all his crewmen, his wife and especially his children who were exceedingly brave and ‘not afraid to die’.

Important Question Answers

Q1. What difference did you notice between the reaction of the adults and the children when faced with danger?

Ans. On being encountered by the lethal waves of the southern Indian ocean all the family members including the crewmen and wavewalker took immense damage. Everybody was significantly shaken. The adults were quite baffled by the increasing danger and continuously thought of approaching death. However, the children displayed some splendid sense of maturity and were not quite afraid of death. They were very helpful in their behaviour and did not choose to bother their tensed parents.

Q2. How does the story suggest that optimism helps to endure the direst stress?

Ans. The story suggests that optimism helps to endure "the direst stress" by referring to the two crew members i.e. Larry and Herbie who kept their calm and hopes alive even when they had slim chances of survival amidst the violent weather. It was because of this continued efforts and cheerful attitude that all of them maintained to reach the Ile Amsterdam

Q3. What lessons do we learn from such hazardous experiences when we are tar to face with death?

Ans. When such incidents happen and when we are battling between death and life, we learn that keeping our calm and optimism are the key to survival. Holding our nerves helps us make correct decisions and battle out our way to move away from the dangers.

Q4. Why do you think people undertake such adventurous expeditions in spite of the risks Involved?

Ans. Knowing the risks of any adventurous expeditions, people decide to undertake them, as a challenge. They usually do it to relish the thrilling experience of these risks. Some people also decide to take them to gain worldwide fame. The narrator undertook this voyage to take their family name and tradition farther.

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