OPERATION HISPANIOLA - T-ISLAND SCREENPLAY
Lord Huntington, at the lectern
There is an unusually packed audience in the lecture chamber at the British Geographical Society in London. Lord Huntington is giving a presentation, with Royal Navy advocates present as potentially interested parties.
"Ladies and gentlemen, recent low level satellite images of Port-au-Prince sound, Haiti, appear to confirm the existence of a wreck of a previously unknown wooden ship, displaying a metallic signature, presumed to be cannon, hence potentially a naval, or possibly pirate vessel. Since, wood ceased to be used as a construction material for this class of craft after 1900."
Lord Huntington used his clicker to change screens of a PowerPoint presentation, projecting onto a magnificent screen to his right.
"This Society has a history of exploration that includes land and subsea. Though I appreciate this is an archaeological matter. If this ship is missing from the record, and important in both spheres, then this institution might take an interest."
The assembly muttered and looked to one another, nodding their heads in agreement. Thus bolstered, Lord Huntington continued.
"On this slide we see the satellite image that got me excited. It's that organised arrangement, indicating several hefty iron objects, consistent with gunports and cannon."
Lord Huntington gestured toward the obviously man-made pattern. The audience wowed. He clicked again. The next slide showed Gonave Island and the canals on either side, leading to Port-au-Prince Bay.
"Okay, so, esteemed colleagues, what are we going to do about it. We've found something. The question is, should we take a closer look? A show of hands would be appreciate please, as to the general notion."
About ninety percent of the audience eventually raised their hands. Then took them down, except for one.
"Thank you very much for that. It seems most of us would like to find out more. And you sir. Have you a question?"
The whole audience had noticed the lone arm waving about, and now focused their attention on the new speaker.
"Yes, thank you. William Gray, ex navy. A truly intriguing find, if I might say. I was just wondering how you might fund an expedition, if that is suggested - and I'm reading things correctly?"
"Good point sir. This is though an informal lecture, rather than a hard and fast proposal. I see that Sir Rodney Baskerville is in the audience. I wonder Sir Rodney, if you might have anything to say on the subject?"
"Hurpm, well ..."
All eyes turned to the new speaker, like a tennis crowd following the ball.
"Hmmph, yes. Okay then, well, er. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a, er, history professor and oceanographer. My specialist subject is marine archaeology. Naturally then, I rather tend to exploring and data logging sites that may be of historical importance. And, I've never heard of this particular find of yours. So, am rather intrigued at the prospect of diving deeper - so to speak. As to funding, um, well that is not my department, I'm just concerned as to the the general concept. And, er, saw that most members here seemed to be of a like mind. Thank you for asking."
Sir Rodney acknowledge the murmurings of approval. Then a booming voice eclipsed the hubbub.
"Perhaps I might interject?"
Another voice from the crowd, on the opposite side of the room. All heads turned to view yet another new speaker.
"Yes please, the man in the dark blue uniform. You have something to add to the conversation, sir?"
The Members laughed.
"Indeed, begging the indulgence of the members, I'd just like to contribute as to the matter of funding. Im Commander James Maynard, Royal Navy maritime archaeology division. In certain situations, the MOD might assist financially. Should that be of interest to the Society and worth considering."
The audience spontaneously clapped. Lord Huntington waited for the applause to subside, waving his hands down slowly.
"Undoubtedly." Exclaimed Lord Huntington, not expecting this in his wildest dreams. Though, the offer did present some complications.
Commander Maynard continued. "Perhaps we might speak during the networking break. Maybe Sir Rodney and Mr Gray would be kind enough to join us in a beverage?"
All heads turned to a stunned Sir Rodney. "Pleased to."
All heads turned to William Gray, who also looked a little surprised. "Oh, for sure. Gladly."
"Righto then. We'll meet up during the break. And thank you to all. For your most welcome input. Speaking of which, it is time to stretch our legs. Could we all please meet back here in, say, thirty minutes. Is that okay for everyone?"
The audience nodded to show their approval, and began to bustle toward the exit, cinema style. William Gray waited at the entrance for Sir Rodney, Commander Maynard and Lord Huntington. The foursome then proceeded to the members bar, secured refreshments and retired to a cosy corner of the room, where there was a table for six with ambient lighting.
"Gentlemen, I know Sir Rodney well, as a long term member of the Society. We've not had the pleasure of meeting you Commander, or yourself Mr. Gray. Rather resoundingly, the Members appear to be amenable to a formal proposal to mount an exploratory expedition to the Caribbean. On that basis, in principle, I am considering making formal application, and as both of you have mentioned funding, I wondered if might call on you to say a little more as to your interests?"
The Commander jumped straight in. "I think you have an inkling of the Navy's interest. I'd like to hear from Mr Gray?"
"Fine with me. Yes, and thanks for inviting me to this get-together. I'm ex navy myself, with a lifelong interest in logging data on warships of old. I've had some experience with echo location and seabed scans of shipwrecks in the Caribbean. And possibly my knowledge of Island nations policies, including, Brazil and Mexico, may help secure permits at a later stage. I'm thinking Lord Huntington may not yet know the ownership of the wreck. Am I right?"
"We think the ship is Spanish, but could be Dutch or even British. Meaning, that you are correct. We don't yet know anything much about the find. Save for the location. I, that is we'd, not given much thought about claims to ownership. The whole point of getting out there to have a look. If it is a find, we'd like the UK to be in on it."
"That's more or less what I expected, and it sits well with me. Then with those challenges in mind, I might be of assistance in an administrative capacity to begin with, for which I would only require a berth and rations. I'm not in a position to contribute financially. And please, I'd prefer William. I'm effectively offering to crew, with benefits."
"Thank you William," said Lord Huntington, with Commander Maynard seconding the summary. "Well put."
Just then, Sir Rodney approached their corner booth.
"Ah, Sir Rodney, would you care to join us."
"Don't mind if I do," said Sir Rodney. I just wanted to say, that whatever is brewing, not to forget me, if I can be of any assistance."
Commander Maynard stood to move back a chair. "Please sit here."
"Thank you Commander. I hope this intrusion will not hinder discourse if of a delicate nature, I can perhaps return later."
"Not at all, my old friend. We were just getting acquainted. This is Commander James Maynard, and Mr William Gray, ex navy."
"Yes, I gathered. Very pleased to be formally introduced." Sir Rodney settled into the chair. And once seated, extended his hand to Commander Maynard, and then William Gray.
"William here was just saying he'd like to join any expedition. He has marine survey experience."
"And I was about to say that the Royal Navy are keen to offer limited financial assistance, if that would help to kickstart a project. The Admiralty are prepared to put that on paper in return for data exchange."
"That is most generous of the senior service, responded Lord Huntington."
Sir Rodney was quick to follow up, "I could put in a good word with the Society, as a second to a proposal, if that is, you were minded to tender a formal proposal."
"That is good of you old friend." ..... "What about Mr Gray."
"Of course, William. How are you fixed?
"I could help with paperwork, securing a suitable vessel, provisioning and scouting for crew. Some of this I could do in support of any tender for grant support. Such as to produce an acceptable project budget."
"Would you." Lord Huntington was not good at dotting the 'Is' and crossing the 'Ts.' "That is splendid. Now all I need to know, a ballpark figure even, is how much the Navy might be able to contribute. To help us cobble a project estimate."
Commander Maynard jumped in: "I am authorised to offer up to £200,000 thousand pounds, and low level intelligences. And gentlemen, I must ask that this conversation is kept confidential for now."
Lord Huntington stepped in: "That goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway. Until we are ready, we should not communicate our general agreement, to anyone outside of this group for now. Lest unauthorized treasure hunting opportunists might be spurred to try to beat us to any saleable artifacts."
"You may be required to sign confidentiality under the Official Secrets Act. I'll check on that. Meantime, if you let me have the project bank account details, if there is one. Or other account to pay into, I'll make the necessary arrangement. There will be an Agreement in any case, as to what expenditure is covered. For example, a boat, supplies and equipment hire, all specific to the operation."
Lord Huntington thanked the Commander, who had to leave rather urgently.
The next day Huntington spoke with the Geographical Society, to formally request part funding. The Society agreed to contribute a further £200,000 thousand pounds, by way of match funding.
It was important to the explorer, for this project to be officially sanction and supported. He had got his wish.
Soon after that, William was tasked with advertising for a crew. While Lord Huntington went in search of a budget yacht, with long range capabilities. There are many redundant craft, where mooring fees outweigh the cost of upkeep, leading to scrapping, or in some cases dumping. Worst case scenario is deliberate sinking Since scrapping a boat is an expensive business. Thus, some quite handsome vessels come onto the market as give away prices.
One such yacht, was a redundant Arctic exploration vessel, that was costing the British Antarctic Expedition money to store and maintain. Lord Huntington found out about this yacht, via the Society. It was agreed that he could view the vessel, presently moored at Bristol.
Lord Huntington acquires funding from the British Geographical Society, with Royal Navy interest in the background, for an expedition to recover relics in the Caribbean, a shipwreck though to be rich in archaeologically important artifacts. Though his secret agenda is to piggy back John's operation in the search for Blackbeard's mythical hoard and the supposedly cursed Golden Skull. Huntington purchases an old Antarctic survey ship, renaming it 'Hispaniola'. The Society trio includes William Gray and Sir Rodney Baskerville. The Commander Maynard becomes more involved as the expedition progresses.
Location map showing Port-au-Prince, Cuba and Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea. Part of a PowerPoint presentation used by Lord Huntington in London's British Geographical Society.
Location map showing Port-au-Prince Bay, Canale de la Gonave, Saint Marc. Lord Huntington's presentation, seeking official funding for "Operation Hispaniola.'
SCENE 5. SUNKEN CITY SURVEY - Present Day, Swann's sensors scan the ocean bed, revealing mausoleum former Governor of Jamaica.
JILL BIRD - London. John
Storm's finds lost Henry Morgan's pirate remains. "And for those of you wondering,
there was no treasure."
SCENE 10. SHIP'S COOK - William Gray helps John Long's cut-throats to crew for Huntington's Hispaniola, Long a dab hand on the galley.
SCENE 12. SKELETON ISLAND - Intrigued by map proffered by Lord Huntington, John agrees to switch attention to location, to coast of Panama. .
SCENE 17. BLACKBEARD'S CURSE - John retakes Swann, Hal immobilizes Black Jack and Billy Bones and rescues prisoners on Hispaniola.