Episode 317: More Fun With Fonetic Alfabets
Captain Everett opened the Flying Cloud's log and considered
his next entry. It had to be truthful enough to withstand scrutiny, but
sufficiently oblique to conceal the fact that they knew who their quarry
were and had no intention of pursuing them. Brevity, he decided, was the
14-June-1927. 10 11' S 123 35' E. Kupang Air Station. We are continuing
our investigation of piracy in the Dutch East Indies. We have, as yet, no
certain information regarding the marauders' identity, but the absence of
any recent attacks on shipping suggests that our presence here has put an
end to the depredations.
Satisfied, he put the volume away and made his way to the control car
where his people were waiting to deliver their reports.
Iverson spoke first. "Miss Sarah and I examined the handling party logs,"
said the lieutenant. "The supposed Argentine vessel was undoubtedly the
Americans. Their dimensions, specifications, and mooring requirements
matched the AT-38 in every particular. They were carrying several
passengers from Buton. This must have netted them a nice profit -- more
than they could possibly making from this piracy."
"How did you obtain access to the manifest?" asked Murdock. "I thought
those were proprietary."
Everett glanced at the ballast station, where Sarah was working on weight
and balance calculations. The island girl noticed his attention and
smiled. "We can assume that a spear was involved," he remarked. "Mister
Murdock, what were you able to determine about their movements here?"
"It appears we missed them by two days," said Murdock. "According to the
departure records, they lifted ship on the 12th, bound for Port Moresby."
"Do we have any reason to suppose this was their actual destination?"
"They took on cargo and passengers for New Guinea," said Iverson. "Unless
they're planning to abscond with these and sell them, they're committed to
calling at the port."
Everett nodded. "It's difficult to imagine they'd find any buyers for the
latter. Jenkins, did you learn anything of interest in town?"
"No," said the signalman, "but I have been examining the advertising flier
you picked up on Buton. The content is unremarkable -- an advertisement for
some peculiar form of cabbage -- but the medium is food for thought. The
document was written in Hangul."
"Hangul?" said Iverson. "I am unfamiliar with the term."
"This is the formal name for the Korean alphabet," said Jenkins. "It's a
phonetic script invented by the Joseon Dynasty during the Fifteenth
"Why did they need a new script?" asked Murdock. "Surely they could have
used Chinese characters." He seemed intrigued by the prospect of an
"I understand that they tried," said Jenkins. "Unfortunately, the Chinese
writing system is logographic, with a separate symbol for each word. This
makes its application to other languages problematical. Mandarin and
Cantonese are members of the Sino-Tibetan family. Korean is an Altaic
language, with an entirely different grammar and vocabulary."
"What are the other Altaic languages?" asked Murdock.
It was Sarah who volunteered the answer. "It's a family of Eurasian
languages, proposed by Castrén in 1844. They include Japanese, Korean,
Mongolian, Manchu, Turkish, Samoyed, and Finno-Ugric."
"Wherever did you learn that?" marveled Iverson.
"Mother told me. She learned it from a visiting anthropologist."
"So the posters were written in the Korean alphabet," mused MacKiernan.
"Could this have any connection with our erstwhile guest, Miss Kim?"
"We must consider this possibility," said Everett. "She must have had
some contacts in this part of the Pacific, and the name of Buton keeps
coming up. This suggests the island has more significance than we
realized. I believe we should reinvestigate the place."
"What about the Americans?" asked MacKiernan.
"I have given the matter some thought," said Everett. "We were ordered to
investigate reports of piracy here in the Dutch East Indies. It would be
difficult for us to justify pursuing the fellows to New Guinea without
revealing that we know who they are. This might raise some uncomfortable
questions. But it would be quite reasonable for us to conduct another
sweep of the Banda Sea, find no sign of them, and report we've put an end
to their activities in this region."
"What if they decide to attack shipping in New Guinea?"
Everett allowed himself a smile. It was rare that he had a chance to turn
this particular set of tables. "Then," he said brightly, "it will be
Captain Michaelson's problem."
Emily and Clarice strolled along Darwin's harbor, past wharves piled with
fishing gear and the graving dock where workers had finished repairing the
hole Mister Fuller's less-than-impressive torpedo had made in the
Thunderbird. At last they paused at a dock where a bluff-bowed
dragger bumped against its fenders. Squat and businesslike, the vessel
looked every bit as ungraceful as its owner.
"Are you sure this is the right idea?" asked Clarice. As their departure
approached, she was beginning to have second thoughts about this
"Someone shipped a cargo of diesel oil down the coast on that freighter
with the funny name," said Emily. "This is a Clue. And Aunt Prodigia
won't mind if we borrow the Drudge. How many oysters does she
The two young women shared a giggle, then hopped down to the deck. This
was festooned with trawls, coils of rigging, and parts of a harpoon gun
their aunt had brought aboard -- presumably in case she encountered a
particularly obstreperous mollusk. A list of prices for various forms of
marine life was tacked to a wall of the pilothouse. While Emily
overhauled the mooring lines, Clarice went below to deal with the craft's
ancient make-and-break engine.
It dominated the compartment -- a monument to some earlier and much
cruder era of mechanical engineering. Two mighty cylinders rose like
pillars of some temple to internal combustion next to a flywheel the size
of a manhole cover. Donning a pair of work gloves, Clarice topped off all
the oil cups, greased the bearings, opened the fuel cock, and primed what
passed for a carburetor. Then she hauled on the rim of the flywheel to
pull the engine through until it was balanced on top of its compression
stroke. After a long pause to catch her breath, she switched on the
ignition, braced both feet, and gave the flywheel another tug. With a
hiss, a wheeze, and a reluctant succession of clunks, the motor chugged
Satisfied the engine was running -- at least for now -- Clarice went back
on deck to help her companion cast off. They had just finished and were
pulling away from the dock when a slim woman in traveling garb leapt
aboard and strode forward to join them in the pilothouse.
"Miss Perkins!" they exclaimed as she removed broad hat that concealed her
"Clarice and Emily," said the secretary. "I'm glad I found you. We have
work to do."
Next week: We Will Avoid The Obvious Pun...
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