Over Mount Fuji – Chapter 24 –

An Epic NovelSeptember 13 —

The level of media hype generated by Wulfstein’s imminent arrival in Stockholm had been so excessive it struck Eileen that the Lecture he would deliver might be anticlimactic. Designed to seat five hundred, the lecture hall swelled with an audience thrilled to hear an academic whose theory had caught their imagination. Not only laymen, onlookers and students, but also scientists outside the scope of geosciences came to join the frenzy. His detractors sat among them, eager to gather anything that could be used against him.

Against the flow, Eileen elbowed her way through the crowd to a front section reserved for the press.

By the time Wulfstein arrived, he had to come through the equipment room. After being introduced, he stood behind the podium. The cacophony of voices died as if the audience sensed the tension in the atmosphere. His silvery hair was uncombed and stringy, and when he glanced around, his eyes glowed.

“Let me start with an observation that led to my prediction,” Wulfstein said in a somber voice.

“While diving into the Izu-Ogasawara Trench recently, we found a juvenile lionfish and a Merlet’s scorpion fish in the open sea—too far from any coral reef where they belong. Ratfish, viperfish, brotolids, and slimy hagfish were scavenging in deeper waters than usual. From all these data we’d collected, I’ve made a thorough analysis, and now my prediction: Within three months, the Japanese archipelago will experience at least a 9.6 quake, and that will lead to—”

“Boo . . . ” came a voice through the hall. As if on cue, a manic laughter erupted from a woman in a corner. Then a rumble of disturbances cascaded through the auditorium.

Eileen winced, feeling such mockery could spoil the sobriety and tranquility of the Lecture.

“I would like to make a personal statement,” Wulfstein continued without waiting for the noise to die down. “Bad scientists, and I do not mean dim-witted ones, are those who stick to orthodoxy. When they think they know everything, they cease to learn. Those of you who are stuck with this view must be advised I have nothing of benefit to say to you.”

The Professor paused and his eyes roved across the audience. “Men once believed the earth formed the center of the cosmos. They viewed time and space as absolutes. A philosopher, Thomas Kuhn, used the term scientific paradigms for the fixed notions that scientists have developed about the way the world operates.

“But now and then, there are discoveries so fundamental, they necessitate a paradigm shift—the established ideas on the ‘Way Things Are’ must be brought into line by an emerging body of information that contradicts previous paradigms.”

He paused for a sip of water. His eyes darted between the audience on his left and right.

“Over the past centuries, a body of folklore and legend has emerged. From ancient sites appearing in waters of the Caribbean, underwater ruins near Madeira in the Atlantic, off the coasts of Spain and Morocco, and evidence of an ancient society in the Canary Islands—there once existed a civilization which sank beneath the waves—Atlantis.”

When a groan of contempt from a handful of scientists sounded at the mention of Atlantis, Eileen’s heart lurched. The audience reacted with silence, holding its breath. With a stern face and prominent forehead, Wulfstein’s sunken eyes and pallid face appeared leaden with sorrow, but he remained charged.

“Even with this evidence,” the Professor continued, “most responses ranged from skepticism to outright hostility. Though it’s now an accepted convention that geological changes such as continental drift, it first had to break through stubborn obstacles.

“Whenever old truths are lost, new ones are born. In short, truths flourish, fade and die, ensuring that new ones appear constantly. Old ones become myths, resurrected in hybrid forms, merged with new and old, appearing when times change or cultures mingle. Belief in myths is not solely a characteristic of illiterate or ‘primitive’ peoples, or societies in the distant past.

“Our complex society has based its foundation on myths. The myth of a Babylonian deity, for instance, has a profound effect in the modern era. Since Roman times, the birth of Mithra has spread and rejuvenated itself in the form of Christianity. At Christmas, the sun-god mythology has been incorporated into a significant occasion of our calendar. But old myths don’t stay still. New myths are constantly added to old ones, or old myths take on new meaning—the myth of Santa, the myth of Rudolph, the myth of Mistletoe. In short, myths bind our world. Our society has its Machiavellian beliefs. We can either free our minds into a new reality or lock ourselves in the Dark Age.”

Wulfstein stared at the audience; the audience stared back.

“For thousands of years,” he continued, “the people of the Orient have been aware of a dangerous area. The Japanese called it the Ma-no Umi. Seamen have attributed the mysterious disappearance of fishing vessels in this troubled region to sea creatures seizing and dragging them down to their underwater lairs. Today, our marine scientists and oceanographers are just as baffled as ancient historians and chroniclers were.”

Wulfstein struck the lectern with his hand and the light dimmed.

“I’ve collected a body of data that indicates something extraordinary has happened.” He clicked on his laptop, and a slide appeared on the overhead projector. “Look! While we were at Izu-Ogasawara Trench, we discovered several shipwrecks. They have the same peculiar damage to their hulls—blown inward, and only on the starboard side. We can
conclude it wasn’t the work of any pirate or terrorist group, or any human for that matter. A dilemma of extraordinary size—the only explanation is that a sea creature had caused such damage.”

As Wulfstein took another sip, a snicker wafted through the audience like wind in a wheat field. Eileen shook her head; a venture into a controversial subject would generate hostility. Though a shiver raced up her spine at the mention of such a disturbing idea, her confidence in him remained.

“A tale farer,” came a whisper and a titter of laughter began in the same corner.

“No, a weirdo.” Now it was a man’s voice.

Then the heckling took another direction.

“An intellectual wayfarer . . . Or, have we been listening to a gnostic?”

Giggles spread, becoming louder.

“The entire world is hearing this. What significance does the Ma-no Umi region have to do with science?”

Wulfstein squirmed at the audience. When he banged his glass down, the hush returned. “That’s still a mystery because orthodox science failed us at crucial moments. In the absence of any credible explanation, I venture the possibility of finding monsters in the depths of our oceanic black holes.” He paused, his eyes glinting.

Some simply glanced at each other in delighted anticipation of further amusement while others sat, entranced.

“I will give you a few moments to think about this.” Wulfstein ran his hand through disheveled hair.

A few greeted his words with deep moans. Many in the lecture hall openly showed their restlessness. Some shuffled their feet. A paper airplane flew from the balcony toward the podium.

Wulfstein waited through the hubbub, then continued. “Being the largest body of water on this planet, the Pacific Ocean has the scope to hide incredible mysteries, and the power to create marvels. When the Pacific plate presses against the Eurasian plate, the oceanic plate is subducted, creating the Ogasawara Trench. The Philippine plate presses against the Eurasian plate and it, too, is subducted, forming the Ryukyu or Nansei Shoto Trench. These trenches form the two arms of the Ma-no Umi, also known as the Dragon Triangle . . .

“Charles Berlitz had records of disappearances around these trenches, bearing testimony to our current research. In former times, many believed ships sank as a result of dragons stirring up the sea into engulfing whirlpools. A legend popular in Japan stated tidal waves were caused by a change in position of a giant shrimp on the abyssal floor . . . ”

More titters rose from the crowd.

“Only an insane person would say sea monsters are sinking ships,” a voice said in the midst of laugher.

“Shhh,” Eileen hissed, followed by others who wanted to hear the lecture. When the clatter didn’t stop, she stood up and shouted, “Keep quiet.” She pointed at a door. “If anyone’s not interested, he can leave.”

Laughter faded. Babbles dropped to a whisper, and Eileen sat down.

“A curious coincidence is revealed through a Japanese term for a type of wave encountered in the seas of Ma-no Umi. Called sankaku-nami, meaning ‘triangle wave,’ these waves appear to head toward a ship from three directions all at the same time. Yet, no one has attempted any hypothesis, or provided a credible theory.

“A modern navigator, even with the best technology, must take account of the number of natural hazards in the area. Typhoons with winds of over 200 miles per hour—volcanic and tectonic activities with volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, seiche waves caused by enormous undersea landslides in the vast oceanic trenches—are unusual phenomena.”

“Okay, okay,” a reporter shouted from the back. “It’s just plain boring! How could any sensible person listen to such nonsense?”

All eyes turned toward Tom Campbell, a reporter who stood with a headset on. A hush returned when Wulfstein glared at him.

“A quake has just hit Kansai,” Tom said, locking eyes with Wulfstein. “You haven’t predicted this one. Now, what’s its significance?”

“Haven’t you been listening to my lecture?”

“Listening?” Tom took off his headset. “I’ve been listening to the BBC World Service. A 7.9 quake just struck the Izu Peninsula.”

“The Izu Peninsula has collapsed,” Wulfstein said, looking dismayed. “Now you should remember what I said.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tom said after a rumble of confusion had spread through the audience. “The collapse is the straw that broke the earth’s back. And the monster of science is on the move.”

“Now that you understand, I shall continue,” Wulfstein said. “There’s little doubt the disappearance of these vessels in the area of the Ma-no Umi has resurrected regional tales and old legends. T.H. Huxley once remarked that new truths of science begin as heresy, advance to orthodoxy, and end up as superstition . . . ”

Although distracted by the increasing commotion, Eileen resisted following the many in the audience who had already turned on their cell phones.

“The study of marine Leviathans,” Wulfstein rumbled on louder, “is clearly not something that should be assigned to the cranks of the scientific community. Perhaps the plesiosaur and the coelacanth and other living fossils were shielded from the theoretical Cosmic Ray Extinction of the Cretaceous by living in or adapting to . . . ”

Although Wulfstein thundered on, Eileen could hardly hear above the din.

“The immense water that covers the surface of our planet is largely unexplored. Who is to say somewhere in those mysterious depths wouldn’t lurk an unknown creature so many witnesses claim to have seen?”

Wulfstein’s bloodshot eyes sank deeper into his blanched face.

Eileen’s shoulders dipped with relief when Wulfstein finally ended the lecture. Many rushed out to get to public phones. The commotion became unbearable.

The Izu Peninsula had slid into the ocean.

©) Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji (available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

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~ by Joel on December 19, 2009.

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