Episode 361: Shake Your Tambora
The Flying Cloud returned that evening, taking advantage of the
'indow of calm between the daytime seabreeze and the night's downslope
winds to recover the shore party. After they were back aboard, Everett
stood offshore, using the southern route again to avoid any watchers in
Jakarta. Even if some farmer remarked on their passage, it would take
some time for word to reach anyone who might be trying to track their
"We have two new leads," he told his officers, "this printer on Sumatra
and the visit this..." he took a deep breath, "...Hunminjeongeum
Society made to Sumbawa."
"The first one seems somewhat more substantial," observed Jenkins.
"True," said Everett, "but we don't have to investigate it immediately. A
print shop is unlikely to move while we're engaged in other business. I
believe we should make some inquiries on Sumbawa while memories are still
fresh. What do we know about the place?"
"It's part of the Sunda chain, east of Lombok and southwest of Sumba," said
MacKiernan. "This places it fairly close to Timor, where we know the Fat Man
has been active."
"His agents cannot be watching everywhere," said Everett. "We'll trust
that the place is too unimportant to warrant their attention. Does it
have an air station?"
"According to the Almanac, it has two: one in Bima to the east and another
in Besa to the West. There seems little to chose between them."
"We'll try Bima," Everett decided. "It comes later in the alphabet."
The Sundas were seven hundred miles from Java, but airships laughed at
distances, and the Flying Cloud reached Sumbawa in the morning.
This was a large volcanic island, split almost in half by a broad body of
water, Selah Bay, that cut into it from the north. The east half of the
island was dominated by Mount Tambora -- the volcano that had exploded
with such terrible force back in 1815. Its lower slopes were covered
with jungle, sections of which had been cleared for coffee plantations,
but the upper slopes remained bare, their tortured contours testifying to
the magnitude of the catastrophe.
"I understand the explosion was even bigger than Krakatoa," MacKiernan
"It also had some effect on climate," said Jenkins. "The weather during
the following years was unduly harsh, and there was widespread famine in
some parts of the world."
Everett studied the peak thoughtfully. "So many of these places we visit
have been sites of explosions," he mused, "Ujelang, the secret air station,
and now this."
"The causes were hardly the same," Jenkins objected.
"True," Everett admitted, "but this remains a common thread. Many of these
places also have some association with Karlov. One cannot help but wonder
at the coincidence."
Bima Air Station, in Bima City, in Bima Regency, was located in the
Sultanate of Bima -- naming conventions in this part of the Pacific tended to
follow a predictable pattern. Like many polities in the Dutch East Indies,
it was a semi-independent kingdom under Dutch overlordship. The Dutch
controlled foreign trade and taxes, leaving internal affairs to the
islanders. If the islanders objected to this arrangement, they had
learned not to complain.
The city's inhabitants were the usual mixture one would expect at a
tropical port. Pale blond Dutchmen rubbed shoulders with dark-tanned
Melanesians, Malay sea-captains bargained for cargoes with Spanish
plantation-owners, and Chinese merchants haggled with strange narrow-skulled
traders from some nameless island tribe. In one corner of town, White
Russians had established an exile community, complete with teahouses and
samovars. No one seemed to remember the Koreans, but the airmen learned
that a team of Scottish scientists was working somewhere on Mount Tambora.
"We'll deploy the motorcycle and pay them a visit," Everett decided.
"These university types often seem to know each other. Perhaps they'll
have word of our Koreans."
"Who do you have in mind for this expedition?" asked MacKiernan.
"I'll take Abercrombie," said Everett. "He should welcome the chance to
meet some of his countrymen."
Roads on Sumbawa were good by island standards -- something in which
Sultanate took pride -- but `good' was a relative term, particularly for
passengers of a vehicle lacking a suspension system. Two hours of
kidney-bruising bumps and jolts brought Everett and Abercrombie to Dompo,
where they abandoned the main thoroughfare for an even more rustic track
that led up the eastern side of Saleh Bay. As they motored north, they
began to pass signs of the previous century's explosion -- a rockfall
here, a row of charred tree-stumps there, a strip of bare rock, where the
land had been scoured clean by flows of ash. It had clearly been quite the
At last they rounded a bend to see a row of field tents next to what
looked, to Everett's unpracticed eye, like an archeological dig. A
remarkable flag flew over the site. This featured a yellow hammer and
thistle on a red background under the letters `SSSP'.
"Crivens," muttered Abercrombie, "not those Scotsmen."
"You know of this organization?"
"It's the Scottish State Socialist Party -- followers of that Maclean
fellow. They're Marxists. Those fellows are even worse than
Everett was undisturbed by this revelation. "We'll make the best of
it," he replied.
Three figures rose from one of the trenches as the motorcycle approached.
Their socio-economic theories might not have been immediately evident, but
they were quite obviously Scotsmen.
"Good day, gentlemen, " Everett said politely. "I'm Captain Roland P.
Everett, Royal Navy Airship Service, and this is my chief rigger,
"I'm Angus and these are my colleagues, Calum, and Duff," said one of the
men. "We're archeologists, here to investigate the Tambora Culture."
"I am unfamiliar with this term," Everett admitted.
"They were a tribe of islanders that lived on the flanks of this
volcano," said Angus. The Scotsman seemed hesitant, as if he was
waiting to see if he'd be believed. "They were wiped out by the
explosion, much like the inhabitants of Pompeii. We're studying
their remains and to learn about their society. It appears they
originally came from Indochina, for they seem to have had some
affinities with the Tcho Tcho of the Burmese highlands."
"That's very interesting," said Everett, "but we're here regarding an
entirely different matter. I understand that a Korean cultural mission
visited this island sometime to spread the use of their alphabet. Did
you encounter these people?"
The Scotsmen exchanged a set of glances. Everett sensed a combination of
relief and confusion. "Would this be the... um...
Hunminjeongeum society?" asked Angus, managing the
pronunciation with some difficulty.
"That would be the ones."
"I spoke with them briefly," said Angus. "They came here from Palawan last
year, hoping to work with the Bima people, but that culture already uses the
alphabet from the Bujis language. They seemed somewhat frustrated by this
"So I can imagine," said Everett. "Did you encounter a Miss Kim?"
"Aye," said the Scotsman, "but there were quite a few lassies by that name.
It seems to be a common surname in Korea."
Next week: Red Star Over The Dutch East Indies...
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