In the near future, a cargo hovership makes an emergency landing in a rural part of the Midwest. An adventurous teenager, Johnny Clinton sneaks on board—only to survive a second crash a few hours later, this time into the Pacific Ocean . . .
The crew escapes, but Johnny is left on board, adrift in the wreckage of the ship—until he is rescued by a pod of dolphins, who bring him to a remote island hidden in the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. There, Johnny meets the brilliant and eccentric Professor Kazan, who has dedicated his life to the study of dolphin communication. Here in this new world, Johnny will find his courage tested once again . . .
About the Author
Date of Birth:December 16, 1917
Date of Death:March 19, 2008
Place of Birth:Minehead, Somerset, England
Place of Death:Sri Lanka
Education:1948, King's College, London, first-class honors in Physics and Mathematics
Read an Excerpt
Johnny Clinton was sleeping when the hovership raced down the valley, floating along the old turnpike on its cushion of air. The whistling roar in the night did not disturb him, for he had heard it almost all his life. To any boy of the twenty-first century, it was a sound of magic, telling of far-off countries and strange cargoes carried in the first ships that could travel with equal ease across land and sea.
No, the familiar roar of the air jets could not awaken him, though it might haunt his dreams. But now it had suddenly stopped, here in the middle of Transcontinental Thruway 21. That was enough to make Johnny sit up in bed, rubbing his eyes and straining his ears into the night. What could have happened? Had one of the great landliners really halted here, four hundred miles from the nearest terminus?
Well, there was one way to find out. For a moment he hesitated, not wishing to face the winter cold. Then he plucked up his courage, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, quietly eased up the window, and stepped out onto the balcony.
It was a beautiful, crisp night, with an almost full Moon lighting up every detail of the sleeping landscape. Johnny could not see the turnpike from the southern side of the house, but the balcony ran completely around the old-fashioned building, and it took him only seconds to tiptoe around to the northern face. He was especially careful to be quiet when passing the bedrooms of his aunt and cousins; he knew what would happen if he woke them.
But the house slept soundly beneath the winter Moon, and none of his unsympathetic relatives stirred as Johnny tiptoed past their windows. Then he forgot all about them, for he saw that he had not been dreaming.
The hovership had left the wide lane of the turnpike and, with lights blazing, lay on flat ground a few hundred yards to the side of the Thruway. Johnny guessed that it was a freighter, not a passenger liner, for there was only one observation deck, and that ran for only part of the vessel's five hundred feet of length. The ship looked, Johnny could not help thinking, exactly like a giant flatiron — except that instead of a handle running lengthwise, there was a streamlined bridge crosswise, a third of the distance back from the bows. Above the bridge a red beacon was flashing on and off, warning any other craft that might come this way.
She must be in some kind of trouble, thought Johnny. I wonder how long she'll be here? Time for me to run down and have a good look at her? He had never seen a hovership at close quarters — at least, not one at rest. You didn't see much when they roared past at three hundred miles an hour.
It did not take him long to make up his mind. Ten minutes later, hurriedly dressed in his warmest clothes, he was quietly unbolting the back door. As he stepped out into the freezing night, he never dreamed that he was leaving the house for the last time. And even if he had known, he would not have been sorry.CHAPTER 2
The closer Johnny approached it, the more enormous the hovership appeared. Yet it was not one of the giants like the hundred-thousand-ton oil or grain carriers that sometimes went whistling through the valley; it probably grossed only fifteen or twenty thousand tons. Across its bows it bore the words SANTA ANNA, BRASILIA in somewhat faded lettering. Even in the moonlight, Johnny had the distinct impression that the whole ship could do with a new coat of paint and a general cleanup. If the engines were in the same state as the patched and shabby hull, that would explain this unscheduled halt.
There was not the slightest sign of life as Johnny circumnavigated the stranded monster. But this did not surprise him; freighters were largely automatic, and one this size was probably run by less than a dozen men. If his theory was correct, they would all be gathered in the engine room, trying to find what was wrong.
Now that she was no longer supported by her jets, the Santa Anna rested on the huge flat-bottomed buoyancy chambers that served to keep her afloat if she came down on the sea. They ran the full length of the hull, and as Johnny walked along them, they loomed above him like overhanging walls. In several places it was possible to scale those walls, for there were steps and handholds recessed into the hull, leading to entrance hatches about twenty feet from the ground.
Johnny looked thoughtfully at these openings. Of course, they were probably locked; but what would happen if he did go aboard? With any luck, he might have a good look around before the crew caught him and threw him out. It was the chance of a lifetime, and he'd never forgive himself if he missed it....
He did not hesitate any longer, but started to climb the nearest ladder. About fifteen feet from the ground he had second thoughts, and paused for a moment.
It was too late; the decision was made for him. Without any warning, the great curving wall to which he was clinging like a fly began to vibrate. A roaring howl, as of a thousand tornadoes, shattered the peaceful night. Looking downward, Johnny could see dirt, stones, tufts of grass, being blasted outward from beneath the ship as the Santa Anna hoisted herself laboriously into the air. He could not go back; the jets would blow him away like a feather in a gale. The only escape was upward — and he had better get aboard before the ship started to move. What would happen if the hatch was locked he dared not imagine.
He was in luck. There was a handle, folded flush with the surface of the metal door, which opened inward to reveal a dimly lit corridor. A moment later, heaving a great sigh of relief, Johnny was safely inside the Santa Anna. As he closed the door, the scream of the jets died to a muffled thunder — and at the same moment, he felt the ship beginning to move. He was on his way to an unknown destination.
For the first few minutes, he was scared; then he realized that there was nothing to worry about. He had only to find his way to the bridge, explain what had happened, and he'd be dropped off at the next stop. The police would get him home in a few hours.
Home. But he had no home; there was no place where he really belonged. Twelve years ago, when he was only four, both his parents had been killed in an air crash; ever since then he had lived with his mother's sister. Aunt Martha had a family of her own, and she had not been very pleased at the addition. It had not been so bad while plump, cheerful Uncle James was alive, but now that he was gone, it had become more and more obvious to Johnny that he was a stranger in the house.
So why should he go back — at least, before he had to do so? This was a chance that would never come again, and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed to Johnny that Fate had taken charge of his affairs. Opportunity beckoned, and he would follow where it led.
His first problem would be to find somewhere to hide. That should not be difficult, in a vessel as large as this; but unfortunately he had no idea of the Santa Anna's layout, and unless he was careful, he might blunder into one of the crew. Perhaps the best policy would be to look for the cargo section, for no one would be likely to go there while the ship was on the move.
Feeling very much like a burglar, Johnny began to explore, and was soon completely lost. He seemed to wander for miles, along dimly lit corridors and passageways, up spiral stairs and down vertical ladders, past hatches and doors bearing mysterious names. Once he ventured to open one of these, when he found the sign "Main Engines" too much to resist. Very slowly, he pushed the metal door ajar and found himself looking down into a huge chamber almost filled with turbines and compressors. Great air ducts, thicker than a man, led from the ceiling and out through the floor, and the sound of a hundred hurricanes shrieked in his ears. The wall on the far side of the engine room was covered with instruments and controls, and three men were examining these with such attention that Johnny felt quite safe in spying on them. In any case, they were more than fifty feet away from him, and would hardly notice a door that had been opened a couple of inches.
They were obviously holding a conference — mostly by signs, since it was impossible to talk in this uproar. Johnny soon realized that it was more of an argument than a conference, for there was much violent gesticulation, pointing to meters, and shrugging of shoulders. Finally, one of the men threw up his arms as if to say, "I wash my hands of the whole business," and stalked out of the engine room. The Santa Anna, Johnny decided, was not a happy ship.
He found his hiding place a few minutes later. It was a small storage room, about twenty feet square, crammed with freight and baggage. When Johnny saw that every item was addressed to places in Australia, he knew that he would be safe until he was a long, long way from home. There would be no reason for anyone to come here until the ship had crossed the Pacific and was on the other side of the world.
Johnny clawed a small space among the crates and parcels, and sat down with a sigh of relief, resting his back against a large packing case labeled "Bundaberg Chemical Pty." He wondered what "Pty." stood for, and still hadn't hit upon "Proprietary" when excitement and exhaustion caught up with him, and he fell asleep on the hard metal floor.
When he awoke, the ship was at rest; he could tell this immediately because of the silence and the absence of all vibration. Johnny looked at his watch and saw that he had been aboard for five hours. In that time — assuming that she had made no other unscheduled stops — the Santa Anna could easily have traveled a thousand miles. Probably she had reached one of the great inland ports along the Pacific coast, and would be heading out to sea as soon as she had finished loading cargo.
If he was caught now, Johnny realized, his adventure would soon be ended. He had better stay where he was until the ship was on the move again, far out over the ocean. She would certainly not turn back to discharge a sixteen-year-old stowaway.
But he was hungry and thirsty; sooner or later he would have to get some food and water. The Santa Anna might be waiting here for days, and in that case he'd be starved out of his hiding place....
He decided not to think about eating, though that was difficult because it was now his breakfast time. Great adventurers and explorers, Johnny told himself firmly, had suffered far worse hardships than this.
Luckily, the Santa Anna remained only an hour at this unknown port of call. Then, to his great relief, Johnny felt the floor start to vibrate and heard the distant shrilling of the jets. There was an unmistakable lifting sensation as the ship heaved herself off the ground, then a surge as she moved forward. In two hours, thought Johnny, he should be well out at sea — if his calculations had been correct and this was indeed the last stop on land.
He waited out the two hours as patiently as he could, then decided it was safe to give himself up. Feeling just a little nervous, he set off in search of the crew — and, he hoped, of something to eat.
But it was not as easy to surrender as he had expected; if the Santa Anna had appeared large from the outside, from the inside she seemed absolutely enormous. He was getting hungrier and hungrier — and had still seen no signs of life.
He did, however, find something that cheered him considerably. This was a small porthole, which gave him his first view of the outside world. It was not a very good view, but it was quite enough. As far as he could see, there was a gray, choppy expanse of waves. There was no sign of land — nothing but empty water, racing by beneath him at a tremendous speed.
It was the first time that Johnny had ever seen the ocean. All his life he had lived far inland, among the hydroponic farms of the Arizona desert or the new forests of Oklahoma. To see so much wild and unconfined water was wonderful, and a little terrifying. He stood for a long time staring through the porthole, trying to grasp the fact that he was indeed racing away from the land of his birth, toward a country of which he knew nothing. It was certainly too late now to change his mind....
He found the answer to the food problem quite unexpectedly, when he stumbled upon the ship's lifeboat. It was a 25-foot, completely enclosed motor launch, tucked under a section of the hull that could be opened like a huge window. The boat was slung between two small cranes that could swing outward to drop it in the sea.
Johnny could not resist climbing into the little boat — and the first thing he noticed was a locker marked "Emergency Rations." The struggle with his conscience was a brief one; thirty seconds later, he was nibbling biscuits and some kind of compressed meat. A tank of rather rusty water soon satisfied his thirst, and presently he felt much better. This was not going to be a luxury cruise, but its hardships would now be endurable.
This discovery made Johnny change his plans. There was no need to give himself up; he could hide for the whole duration of the trip — and, with any luck, he could walk off at the end without being spotted. What he would do afterward he had no idea, but Australia was a big place, and he was sure that something would turn up.
Back in his hide-out, with enough food for the twenty hours that was the longest that the voyage could possibly last, Johnny tried to relax. Sometimes he dozed; sometimes he looked at his watch and tried to calculate where the Santa Anna must be. He wondered if she would stop at Hawaii or one of the other Pacific islands, and hoped that she would not. He was anxious to start his new life as quickly as possible.
Once or twice he thought of Aunt Martha. Would she be sorry that he had run away? He did not believe so, and he was sure that his cousins would be very happy to have got rid of him. One day, when he was rich and successful, he would contact them again, just for the satisfaction of seeing their faces. And that went for most of his classmates, too, especially those who made fun of his small size and called him "Tiny." He'd show them that brains and determination were more important than brawn. ... It was pleasant to lose himself in such fantasies, and from them he drifted slowly into sleep.
He was still asleep when the voyage ended. The explosion shook him awake instantly, and a few seconds later he felt the impact as the Santa Anna crashed into the sea. Then the lights went out, and he was left in total darkness.CHAPTER 3
It was the first time in his life that Johnny had ever felt utter, unreasoning panic. His limbs had turned to jelly; he could hardly breathe for the weight that was pressing on his chest. It seemed that he was already drowning — as indeed he might soon be unless he could escape from this trap.
He had to find the way out, but he was surrounded by crates and packing cases, and soon lost all sense of direction as he blundered among them. It was like one of those nightmares when you tried to run and couldn't; but this was no dream — it was all too real.
The pain and shock of crashing against some unseen obstacle jarred him out of his panic. It was no good losing his head and stumbling around in the dark. The thing to do was to keep moving in the same direction until he found the wall. Then he could work along it until he came to the door.
The plan was excellent, but there were so many obstructions that it seemed an age before he felt smooth metal in front of him and knew that he had reached the wall of the compartment. After that, the rest was easy, and he almost cried with relief when he found the door and jerked it open. For the corridor outside was not, as he had feared, also in darkness. The main lights had failed, but a dim blue emergency system was operating, and he could see without difficulty.
It was then that he noticed the smell of smoke, and realized that the Santa Anna was on fire. He also noticed that the corridor was no longer level — the ship was badly down at the stern, where the engines were. Johnny guessed that the explosion had breached the hull, and that the sea was coming in.
Perhaps the ship was in no danger, but he could not be sure. He did not like the way she was listing, still less the ominous creaking of the hull. The helpless ship was rolling and pitching in a most unpleasant manner, and Johnny felt a sensation in the pit of his stomach that he guessed must be the first sign of seasickness. He tried to ignore it and to concentrate on the more important matter of staying alive.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dolphin Island"
Copyright © 1963 Arthur C. Clarke.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
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