Dino Isle Chapter 2: Arrival

The trip had been long. Planning had taken longer than they’d thought; Charlie wasn’t done with school yet, and had a lot to pack and prepare. Nick was more used to longer trips, but not so familiar with traveling long distances by boat; he had had to take some time to get to know watercraft in general and the boat they’d be taking specifically. Charlie’s brother John had been quite disappointed to be left out, but they’d worked out a deal with the paleontologist; once John finished up the schoolwork he was doing that semester, he would join the professor on a dig, as well as have a guaranteed spot helping any future expedition to Dino Isle.

The trip just to get to the Pacific would also end up being quite long – the boat the professor had bought was already located in a port near Chicago. This made loading it up and saying goodbye to their friends and family convenient, but once they set sail it meant a long, relatively slow cruise through the Great Lakes and out the Saint Lawrence seaway (the boat being too big to fit through the Chicago river); a long cruise down the East coast, stopping as needed to refuel and resupply; and a trip through the Panama canal, all before even reaching the Pacific. Once there, the trip was more direct but much more boring.

Nick and Charlie put this time to good use. The boat was spacious and watertight, but mechanically speaking it had seen better days. It was powered by two big diesel engines, with a smaller one powering a generator. This redundancy allowed them to work on the engines one at a time as needed, with Nick taking the opportunity to teach Charlie a bit. When Charlie would get frustrated, Nick would remind him:

“Remember, taking chances is what gets you into adventure,…” Nick would start;

“But being prepared is what gets you out! I know, Nick, I know!” Charlie would finish.

“I know you know, now let’s learn some more. Now, diesel engines don’t have spark plugs, because…”

They also drilled on various emergency and first aid type scenarios. This helped fill the time.

And they had a lot of time to fill; it was a long journey. Charlie often used the satellite Internet to stay in touch with his family to stave off homesickness; Nick also made sure to keep a good library of books and movies on hand, but both of these were somewhat hindered by how slow their older-style satellite Internet connection was. It was way better than nothing though.

But eventually they were there, the boat roaring towards the island, still miles off shore but close enough to see the unmistakable profile of Brachiosaurus leisurely munching on the treetops. “Wow! I can’t believe it! A real Brachiosaurus!” Charlie was excited, and Nick was too.

This area of the ocean was frequently cloudy or foggy and often avoided by other ships, so it was dark enough to make it tough to see anything at this point. This also explained why it wasn’t better known or explored; it didn’t show up often in satellite photos, and when it did it usually wouldn’t be very clear.

As they approached and circled the island, a major barrier became clear. While the island had a beach most of the way around (sandy on the leeward side, rocky on the windward), this was followed by steep cliffs. “That’s odd,” said Nick. “I’m no geologist, but to me it looks like the remains of an ancient volcano or two. The beach must have built up from rocks falling down the rim, and the dinosaurs must be living in the crater.”

“A volcano?” worried Charlie. “It’s not going to erupt, will it?”

“Probably not,” Nick reassured him. “After all, these dinosaurs have been here for dozens of millions of years, at least. No, I’d say it’s older than that, and if it were at all active they’d all have left. I wonder how they even got there in the first place?”

“Maybe we’ll find out when we get there. Or maybe it’ll just be a mystery.”

They approached a fairly clear beach area. For the initial landing, they took the boat’s dinghy to shore since the main boat was too big to get close to shore without finding some kind of natural harbor. As they approached their landing site another problem materialized.

“Huh. That’s weird. Charlie, did you see that tree move?”

“Nick! That’s no tree! That’s a saltwater crocodile! And look, there are more over there, too.”

Sure enough, their planned landing site had about half a dozen crocodiles of various sizes lounging around. Nick and Charlie changed course and headed a little farther down the beach.

“Ok, well spotted Charlie. Now we’re still going to have to make camp here, at least for a day or two while we plan our ascent. Can you think of anything we can do to make sure the crocs don’t come for us?” asked Nick.

“Well, there’s no one thing that is perfect to keep crocodilians away. We have some repellant in my pack, so we should spray that. I’ve heard of magnets helping too, but I don’t know if I trust that. If we had brought dogs with maybe they could scare them off, or at least wake us up in time to do something. But we packed along an electric fence kit, right? Why don’t we use that?”

“Great idea Charlie. Let’s head back to the boat and pick that up first. Any other ideas?”

“Yeah! We should not leave out any food for them to smell and want to get at. That’s true for camping pretty much anywhere, anyway. Maybe we can leave most of it on the big boat.” Charlie again had some good ideas.

“Ok, it’s a plan!”

Nick and Charlie spent the rest of the day setting up the electric fence and the generator for it, but once that was done they had a chance to relax and see a bit more of their surroundings. Since it was their first night in a long time off the boat, they decided to set up tents and stay on the island. Besides the welcome change in surroundings, the night was quiet.

In the morning, they saw the Brachiosaurus browsing up top again, although with their new location near the base of the cliff it was harder to see. They had an interesting surprise as they were preparing breakfast though.

“Nick! Look! I think it’s a group of Compsognathus!”

Sure enough, a group of small therapods had managed to slip past the gator fence into the campsite and were calmly browsing around, but were startled and fled at Charlie’s exclamation. “Wow. I guess it’s a good thing we packed the food away last night, or they would’ve gotten to it, right?” asked Nick.

“Yeah. Hey! If they made it down here there may be a path we can use to get up the cliffs easier than climbing!” said Charlie.

“Great idea! Let’s follow them and see if we can see where they go!”

The beach was mostly clear, but the Compies moved pretty quick for as small as they were. In a couple minutes, though, they ducked into some brush and small trees. Nick and Charlie pushed through, to see a narrow, winding path going generally upwards along the cliff, partly obscured by the few trees near the end of the beach.

“Well. That’s convenient.”

“Yep! Nick, let’s get back to the ship and pack up some packs. Maybe today we can get to the top!”

“Sounds good buddy. Let’s make sure to bring our climbing gear just in case it gets a bit too narrow.”

They had a path and they had a plan. Dino Isle lay before them.