It was spring break and where did this Floridian academic go during spring break? Certainly he wasn't about to go anywhere near Ft Lauderdale. No, Dr. John Maland went to a far more exotic location. He was on board his small wooden sailing vessel somewhere between Miami and Bermuda. His destination wasn't on the map, which is very unusual for inhabited islands. However, this was no ordinary island.
What initially drew this island to the attention of Dr. Maland was the fact that their culture was unaffected by the "Age of Discovery." The pirates that lived around the Caribbean did not touch the inhabitants of this island. There are no records of any encounters with the islands natives. All of the sailors left this island alone. It had no contact even as explorers were exploiting surrounding islands. In his research, Dr. Maland was trying to discover why this island was so special during this period.
When he considered this aspect, another question would occur to him. Why did this tribe allow him to research them? Surely, other scientists tried to study them. He couldn't be the only scientist to wonder about this tribe. Certainly, there must have been other anthropologists and others that had stumbled upon them through the course of history. Why didn't any of them write anything down?
Of course, the island being in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle may have had some impact. In recent times, this fact could have scared off many would-be scientists. The mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle could have kept some scientists away, but would it scare off all of them? Was he missing something? Was he getting himself into deep trouble?
Nah, he felt that the Bermuda triangle stuff was all nonsense anyway. "Margaret Mead does her studies in Samoa and New Guinea and she's labeled one of the most ground breaking scientists of all time. My work is in the 'Devil's Triangle' and I get labeled a pseudo-scientist!" he would often lament. However, this group was very interesting and that took the sting out of most of it.
In his first few encounters with the inhabitants of the island, he discovered a few interesting facts. The tribe of this island had adopted "Iapetus" as their protector and major deity. They claimed that Iapetus would rise up from the water and smite their enemies. They claimed that this deity was also responsible for their isolation. They informed John that he was allowed to study them by the graces of Iapetus.
John thought this was incredible. He did some research and discovered that Iapetus is the name of a Greek Mythology Titan. According to Greek myth, Iapetus was the father of Atlas and Prometheus. When Zeus overthrew the Titans, he banished them to Tartaras. There was no reason for the island inhabitants to single out this rather obscure titan.
"Why not worship the titan Oceanus?" Dr. Maland often thought. "Wouldn't that would be a more fitting deity?"
It was incredible that an ancient Greek myth could be transformed and adopted by a far off island culture. When this was first published in an anthropological journal, some pointed that this was more evidence that Atlantis was in the Bermuda triangle. The question remained, why would this titan be the object of worship for this tribe? Even if Atlantis was in the Bermuda triangle, wouldn't they be worshipping the same gods as the Greeks of a comparable time?
Dr. Maland concluded that the name of Iapetus was probably just a coincidence. The constant link to fringe groups was a minor annoyance to John, but he was sailing in the Caribbean on a beautiful spring day towards an island paradise. He will take some criticism from mainstream scientists for several days in the tropics.
These Iapetian's, as they call themselves, began trading around the Caribbean a few years earlier. They were trading their exquisite handmade jewelry for cloth and tools. Dr. Maland was studying how this sudden interest in the outside world was affecting their culture. They were remarkably resistant to the lures of much of the new technologies. They still used their dugouts rather than the newer fiberglass boats available. They used paddles and sails rather than motors. The group adopted some technologies and ignored others. Their pace of life was still slow compared to the hustle and bustle of American life. That was why John used a wooden sailboat to get to the island. Well, that and the fact that he loved to sail.
As he approached the beach with the huge statues of Iapetus, he saw a small group of Iapetians waiting to greet him. Many of the tribal members looked forward to his visits. They liked his stories as much as he liked theirs.
"This tribe has an incredible ability to learn," noted John. "In the few years of trade, the entire tribe has learned a great deal of English. Nearly every member of the tribe can speak some English."
Dr. Maland was hesitant to teach them more, but they could be very insistent. While their English skills helped with his research, but Dr. Maland was much more interested in their language. If he could, he wanted to link it with other languages. Perhaps a link to Greek would give more credence to the Bermuda -- Atlantis link. However, the islands inhabitants were quite eager to practice their newly found language skills.
As a form of entertainment, the tribe would gather around the fire and the storytellers would tell their stories. Mostly these stories involved Iapetus and some outsiders. Rarely did outsiders get to hear their stories. In fact, the tribe had never invited John to one of their story telling sessions.
This time after the typical greeting ceremony, the group invited Dr. Maland to join them. The tribal elders had discussed it before his arrival, and they were going to let him join them as they gathered around the fire for their story. Further, since Dr. Maland was there, the storyteller was going to tell his story in English.
"In the time before the motors," the story began. "We were a peaceful people. We did not interfere with the outside, and we expected them to do the same. We meant no one any harm, but we had a capable defender. So, many ships would pass, and leave us unharmed. However, one day a large wooden monster came upon our island. It bore some symbols." The story teller wrote 'PICKERING' in the sand. "This creature had short stubby arms coming out his sides. This monster had large fins on his back to propel him along the water with the wind. Men sat on his back and went along for the ride. The men slowed the great monster and rested with him near our shore. Men shouted and yelled at our people, but none could understand. They shouted and yelled some more, but none could decipher the words. The men became angry and released the fury of the beast upon our island. The arms of the monster boomed and caused great destruction from afar. The people fearing the worst called upon the priestess to ask Iapetus to rise up from the depths and save his people. The men on the great beast laughed at our priestess. They pointed the arms of the beast at her, but they did her no harm. Upon hearing the prayer, the mighty Iapetus arose out of the depths. The men on the monster fell silent with fear of our mighty protector. The beast they rode grew quiet, but did not flee. The men pulled and worked their harnesses, but Iapetus got closer. Their great monster was paralyzed with fear. The men ran, pulled on ropes, and shouted but their transportation would not move. As our protector got near to the fiend, the booming started again but Iapetus was not affected. Our protector lifted the booming monster over his head and smashed in on the reef. The beast broke into many pieces and the men that rode her were killed. We thanks Iapetus for his aid, and the priestess offered some food to our mighty protector. After eating the offering, our protector returned to the depths. He was greatly saddened by his destruction. He did not like to kill, but he did when he was forced. In his anguish, Iapetus caused a great storm to rage to mourn the loss of those men. When the storm left our people gathered the remnants of the beast and created a great fire. Upon the flames of the fire much food was prepared. All of the people of the tribe thanked Iapetus for his help. They also apologized for causing his anguish. Iapetus appeared and ate more of the food, and all was right again. The only reminder of that day is this part of the beast." The storyteller takes out piece of wood with 'Pickering' engraved upon it.Posted by deg at October 9, 2005 7:47 PM