Baron von Etwas’ Journal
12 March, 1882:
My latest commission has finally finished! The beautiful and invulnerable Chestnut II, now resting in the Mediterranean, awaits a grand journey. I have just arrived off the shore of Anatolia – where Calvert made his most important discovery just over ten years ago. I requested entry to the excavation sites and was allowed in without much struggle. There, before me, in disturbed dirt and ancient stone was the remains of the antiquitous city of Troy.
The purpose of this journal is not one of archaeology, but one of adventure and myth. I am setting off to follow the path of Odysseus. After his victory of Troy, he went on an ages long adventure before returning to Ithaka. Homer recounts the tales and encounters, but it is all muddled up with myth and fantasy. I aim to clear away the smog of the ancients and discover what the encounters really involved.
After a few walks through what was excavated, I decided it was time to leave. I worried that my presence would disrupt progress. Instead, I head to the shore to meet my vessel to begin my journey.
The Chestnut II is fantastic beyond all expectations. Powered by the best engine of divine creation, my small vessel seats myself and enough supplies comfortably, but without much excess. I will rest inside of it tonight to get used to the pressure of the vessel. Tomorrow, I shall begin my endeavor.
It seems that I failed to consider how much I move in my sleep, or perhaps, I slept restlessly due to my quarters. I knocked over my aquatic exploration gear in the night and now I worry about its integrity. It is a solid bronze, but it is by no means invincible. Due to this concern, I will give it a test before setting off for further adventure. If the gear is damaged, I will have no choice but to order a new one before setting off. While at the site of Troy I heard rumors of rough waters near Cape Gelidonya. If these rumors are true, this will give me an excellent place to test my equipment.
The trip to Gelidonya was easy. I will be lowering myself into the water from my vessel. The water here is rough, but I am confident that a slip of the seal will not be fatal for me. If I am mistaken, and this is where the journal ends, then there should be no question of my disappearance.
The years of my education have not made me any less of a clumsy fool. After a successful aquatics test, I returned to my vessel without much precaution and spilled water directly on my journal. The air in the vessel is humid but eventually my journal dried. On the floor of the Cape I discovered the ruins of an ancient ship which I explored for a moment. I found a few relics which I longed to take with me, but due to the size of my vessel, I left undisturbed. I estimate the ship must be from the highest time of the Greeks or earlier. I will have to remember to tell some fellows to look into it after the journey.
Following my folly with water, I retraced my track and head to the site of the Kikonians. This is where Odysseus first landed, and where he lost the first of his men. The grave civilians of the city Ismarus, as Homer calls it, were sacked by the Greeks in Odysseus’ fleet. Herodotus, the great historian, lists them among the Thracian tribes, which would place them near the Hellespont. They seem to have disappeared since then. I have been journeying to this site in the search for any evidence of their culture.
The Kikonians remain elusive, although my ship remains well supplied. I expected evidence to be blatant and everywhere, but it seems I will have to be a deeper explorer to find anything of interest. After my exploration of the shore, which produced no gains, I decided it was time to follow the next step of my journey.
Homer writes of the Lotus-Eaters who are presumed to reside in Libya by the great Herodotus. However, I have a knowledge which Herodotus and other scholars failed to recognize. There are no currents which lead from the Aegean to the shores of Libya. Although it is cited that the gods push Odysseus’ ship off course, I must assume that this referenced a particularly powerful god: Nature.
The Lotus-Eaters must reside within the paths of Aegean currents. All these currents pass Crete, whose rocky shores have taken many ships. It is Crete where I am next heading. My goals are two-fold. First, to locate the Thérèse, a French vessel which crashed near Crete, and Two, explore the shore in search of that famous lotus.
The Thérèse sunk around 1670. It was a grand ship, and I would much like to see it up close, even if it remains underwater. It is known to have gone down off the coast of Heraklion. Again, this will be an excellent test of my underwater breathing gear, I hope this time not to ruin my journal.
After much searching, I found the ship. I expected a joyous sight, for whatever reason. Instead I met a tragedy. The most beautiful qualities of nature are lost under the sea. The man-made leviathan laid there in blue tranquility: a monument to the lives lost in an old war. Perhaps it has been my extended stay underwater, or perhaps the visions of my last dip, but I am feeling a rather sickly melancholy come over me. I will spend the rest of this day relaxing before attempting to search for the Lotus.
I spent two days contemplating the fate of the Thérèse crew before I recognized my own state. The ship felt stifling and uncomfortable. This was partly self-induced. I had meant to break shore by the beginning of the next day but instead spent the time reading and thinking. When I finally breached and made my way to the shore, the sun was blinding and beautiful. I immediately felt a disposition shift and quickly the remorses of my mind were cleared up by a sense of adventure and interest.
I asked many men about the plants of Crete in the hopes that one would tell me of something which would make men tired and lose interest in travel. I am often reminded of how foolish I really am. I would have remained on my ship for ages after what I witnessed. Perhaps the men from the Odyssey did not want to stay on the shore due to a chemical in the plants, but because of their encounter with the Kikonians. Ah! That must be it! The plants of Crete are plentiful and beautiful, compared to the tragedies of war, anyone would want to stay here for ages; anyone would stay and contemplate the beauty of God and nature at the same time. Perhaps Homer was mistaken, and it was a psychological reason instead of a chemical reason.
As I was returning to my ship, I harvested a small Dittany – famous of Crete – and took it to my ship with me as a reminder. Hopefully this plant will stave off the distress of travel.
I may have been wrong about the path of Odysseus and his encounter on Crete for just now a sudden and strong current threw me off course. Luckily the Chestnut II is stronger than its predecessor. I find myself just south of mainland Greece, and as the storm cleared I would have returned to my path if I had not spotted some unusual patterns on the seafloor. I will explore further, but I do not wish to delay my trip by much.
My submarine had deposited me above the most fortuitous location. I am beginning to believe in the Greek gods for that was a bit of coincidence I can hardly believe. I was settled just above what must have been an ancient Greek city, perhaps dating before the Trojan wars! Damn this small vessel, for if it were larger it would be filled with relics of a most marvelous past. I spent day after day taking to the seafloor and searching ancient streets. Is this site the Atlantis which was so long ago lost? Or is it the site of a poor set of folk harmed by nature’s quakes?
Regardless, my interest in the curiousity lost me several days. I do not regret this loss, but I must forgo the plot points of the Laestrygonians and Circe’s island. Both of which I had found rather uninteresting to begin with. The Laestrygonians were supposedly great giants who threw rocks from the mountains at Odysseus and his men, sinking all but one ship. I reckon this must have been natural falling rocks, and have no interest in encountering that natural occurrence.
Circe is a figure covered in magic and mysticism, and I am not sure what good my meager explorations would provide me. Instead, driven by my limited resources and by my interest in the next point, I will travel to the River Oceanus in search of the gateway to Hades.
The River Oceanus is said to circle the flat world and it is past the ends of the earth where Hades dwells. Of course, the Earth is round and does not have ends in the way that Homer had mused. With that, we can assume that Hades does not exist either; at least, not physically. I will be looking for some explanation near the edge of where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean. This seems like a reasonable barrier of the River Oceanus.
I longed for some sunlight after the long trek to the Atlantic. I surfaced off the coast of Spain and took in the fresh air and sunlight. I noticed a series of sea caves on the shore. It then struck me that these passages could have been considered the entrances to some dark place. The waves crashed against them giving off a ghostly noise that could be the center of many myths. This theory was only strengthened by the concerning turbulence I encountered when I tried to explore one of the caves. It rattled my ship, bouncing it off the nearby rocks. In the confusion I seem to have collided with a different ship.
I inspected the ship after it sank, which held the name RMS Douro. It seemed to be filled with gold and most of those on board seem to have survived. This strange mistake of fate made me return to the Mediterranean. I now aim to examine the sites of the Sirens and finally the Scylla and Charibdis.
I have heard many tales of Sirens and allures in the sea. Most commonly I heard of the beautiful mermaids resting on rocks to tempt crewmen to their deaths. The tales of the Sirens include rocky shores and beautiful songs. I think that these two myths have enough in common to be considered the same. There is a rocky island called Anthemoessa which seems to be in the imagined path which Odysseus would take.
I’ve made the most curious discovery. I assumed that Anthemoessa’s rocky shores would be enough to sink a ship, but while searching the seafloor, I discovered the oddest thing. I found several small, bone spears. Many which seem to be made from the materials which only someone with my equipment could encounter. Even stranger, there seem to be a few skeletons of sharks or large fish which had been taken down by these spears.
I am inclined to ignore my reason and believe that the myths of merfolk have some grounding. The spears are primitive and would hard to control in this bulky suit of mine. I can hardly imagine they would be practical for a diver such as myself. I waited for a night at Anthemoessa hoping to catch a glimpse of a living myth, but nothing seemed to be around. I have only a few days left of food, and will need to conclude my journey soon, but this evidence is the strongest I’ve found for any of Homer’s myths.
Scylla and Charybdis are the legendary monsters of Odysseus. It is these creatures which rob Odysseus of six of his crew. Most believe that Scylla and Charybdis resided in the strait of Messina. Charybdis was considered a great monster which drank gallons of water a day, causing a huge whirlpool. We know that those whirlpools are developed from currents, tides, and shores all located in particular places. Scylla, however, is considered to be a six-headed monster.
What could Scylla really be? Perhaps the rocky shore here is the culprit and nothing else. I feel like I am too easily dismissing this case, especially after my odd encounters at Anthemoessa. I will spend the night and keep an eye out for anything of interest.
The sea is a center of complete mystery. Last night I encountered a number of frightening and monstrous creatures which lurk in the sea. Although none were particularly hostile to my small ship, a large squid with horrible spines down its many legs reminded me of the monster’s many heads. perhaps one of these creatures is the source of the myth. This may remain a mystery for now I must ride to Ithaka to finish out my trip.
This adventure was an astounding one, and hopefully my discoveries will lead to greater accomplishments in the future. For now, I feel an urge to return to Troy and aid in the excavation. It has been a month of travel and solitude, I look forward to the sunlight and company of others. These myths and mysteries will continue to be contemplated by me and many others. The most human aspect of all is our ability to ponder and imagine.