Berdex Island

January 28, 2011
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Looking over at my friend Jason, he wore an extremely terrified expression. He was white as a sheet, shaking, and sweating.
“Relax man; I thought you said you had this under control.”
All he could muster was a faint agreement. I considered again telling him to not jump, but I knew he would never forgive me.
“I do have it under control. I just don’t see how can you be so calm knowing you’re about to jump out of a plane from 25,000 ft.”
I didn’t have an answer. We were on such different pages. I’d had no problem with my other low altitude jumps whereas I swore each time Jason would back out at the last minute. But I could understand his nervousness about this one. This was extreme even for me. We sat in silence for a while, just listening to the hum of the jet’s engines. Suddenly a voice came on the intercom,
“Alright boys, time to jump. We’ve just reached 25,000 ft. Stay clear of the ocean. Good luck and see you on the ground.”
I thought I heard Jason whimper, and his face turned from white to green as the instructor handed us our oxygen masks. I got to my feet and went over to him.
“You can still back out of this if you want to. I would never force you to do anything like this.”
All I got for an answer was him putting on his mask, which immediately fogged up since he was sweating so badly. As he took it off to wipe it, he shot me a look saying the discussion was over. I wasn’t about to get in an argument, so I let it go. I just hoped he wouldn’t have a heart attack on the way down. The instructor pulled us over to the door, and did a final check on our equipment. The door opened with a huge gust of wind and the instructor led us over.
“Who’s first?” The instructor yelled over the roar of the wind, and to my surprise Jason stepped forward, shaking so hard I was wondering how he was still standing up, and faced the door.
“Okay, what you’re going to want to do is pull the blue lever to release your main chute and…”
All I saw was Jason pulling hard on the lever and sucked out of the door. My heart stopped beating as I ran to the door and threw myself out. I instantly searched for Jason and found him spiraling through the air a ways off to my left.
I pulled my arms and legs against my body and shot toward him in a pin dive. I was able to latch onto the back of his suit and saw that his parachute was hopelessly tangled in a knot behind him.
I snagged the yellow release cord whipping through the air and pulled hard. His knotted chute released with a snap.
I went to pull his reserve chute lever when his elbow connected with my temple and everything went black.

My eyes opened to the wind rushing by me and I could barely make out the birds and waves below me.
Another second went by before I realized that I was falling way too fast for the water below me to be that close. My hand reached back and snatched my main and reserve chute at the same time. They both flew out and seconds later I crashed into the surface of the water with a loud crack. The darkness came back.

Although water moved against me, I realized that I wasn’t floating.
I opened my eyes and was blinded by the sun reflecting off a sandy beach. I closed my eyes again and laid there for a few moments debating whether it was real.
I went through a mental list. I felt my parachute pack empty against my back. My oxygen mask was gone.
I made an attempt to sit up but my right arm wouldn’t move. I looked down and my shoulder was jutting out at a weird angle.
I realized with terror that it was a dislocated shoulder.
I’ve dislocated my shoulder before, on one of my other skydiving trips, and it wasn’t the greatest thing having someone shove my shoulder back into its socket.
I pushed myself up with my one arm and got up to my knees. Me eyes were filled with a sparse shoreline of palm trees backed up against a steep cliff of black rock.
I was too tired and disoriented to realize that I almost died, and then washed up on a beach.
I made my way up toward the trees and placed my hand against the bottom tier of rock. It was a rough porous substance that I couldn’t place, though I was sure I had seen it before.
The cliff made a semicircle to both my sides and I could see where the rocks tumbled down to the water. It seemed like I was stuck on this little bit of beach and my heart jumped in panic.
I decided I should get in the shade, since the sun was drying out my clothes and they were stiff and itchy with salt and I realized how thirsty I was.
There was what looked like coconuts on the ground but there was nothing to open them with even had I wanted to.
I decided that I should start looking for some fresh water to drink.
I wandered around for what seemed like hours, until I collapsed into the sand.
A fresh wave of pain erupted in my shoulder. I couldn’t let my shoulder heal like this. I took my upper arm with my good arm and pulled. The searing pain almost made me scream, but I kept my head and with a faint pop, the bone slipped back into its socket.
I could move my arm again, but the pain was even more unbearable.
I figured it would take a while to heal enough.
I continued my search for water but at a very slow pace.
The adrenaline and pain from setting my shoulder mixed with my extreme thirst made me stumble around until I collapsed beneath a big palm tree. I leaned back against the trunk and drifted into a dreamless sleep.

I began to wake up at night, seeing as it was really cold and dark.
I waited for my insane thirst to hit me, but it didn’t come.
As I stood up, I realized that my clothes were soaked. It took me a second to realize I was standing in a torrential downpour of rain. No longer thirsty, I half ran through the rain, not heading to a specific place, but just for the relaxing sensation of cool rain against my dehydrated, sunburned skin.
I ran for what seemed like an hour, until something caught around my foot and tripped me. I braced myself with my good arm, but the hard ground did not come. Instead I plunged into a pool of rainwater so deep I didn’t even touch the bottom. I gasped and spluttered, looking for the edge of the pool when my hand scraped against something that was as abrasive as coral. I jerked my hand away, seeing the blood ooze from the cut in the twilight. The rock that I scraped my hand on was backed up by coarse sand, and some smaller pebbles.
I’d found the edge, and pulled myself up and out of the pool. I slipped as I ran on the rain-slicked rocks until I realized the rain suddenly stopped. I squinted through the darkness to see that I was in a cave about six feet tall and about six feet wide.
Overcome by sudden tiredness and happy to find some shelter, I dropped to the ground and fell into a deep sleep.

I woke to a sweet smell of some tropical flowers that I couldn’t put my finger on, but I still turned to the direction of that beautiful scent.
I remembered the big pool of water just outside the cave and that took over my thoughts.
I ran out to the opening of the cave, out into the blistering daylight, looking in a full 180-degree sweep until I found the big pool of water that I fell in; not a drop of water evaporated yet. It was much bigger than I thought it was, in fact, I could have a pool party in it and still have tons of room. I ran over to it, being careful about the many black jagged rock tips that were protruding from the sand, eroded by the rain.
I bent to my knees and began scooping water up with my hands. This method didn’t work at all; the water just slipped through the cracks in my hand. I was so thirsty that I just stuck my whole head in the water and drank until I had a gallon in my stomach.
I got back up and instantly threw up all the water I just drank.
I needed to drink slower, but the temptation to guzzle it down was so strong. I reverted to scooping water back up with my hands until my stomach was full, but not too full.
I remembered the sweet flowery scent that I smelled in the cave so I went back into the cave to feel a warm steady breeze carrying the flowery smell blowing gently against my face. I headed toward the lovely smell, when I realized I was leaving my precious water supply.
Then I remembered that if there was a breeze, there must be an opening at the other end. I decided to explore for food, because the sweet flower smell was making my water-filled stomach twist with hunger.
I walked for a half an hour until I saw a warm orange light at the end of the cave. I ran toward the welcoming light, the sweet scent filling my nostrils more and more every step I took. I broke out the other end of the cave, instantly getting tangled by slippery vines hanging in front of me. A dense, vine-covered jungle engulfed me.
Looking over my shoulder, I saw the clearly visible black hole of the cave in the bright, colorful forest.
I saw something hanging from a branch that lifted my spirits instantly. A bright, juicy mango, dripping with condensation, hanging just at my eye level. I was just about to snatch it of the branch when a huge earthquake knocked my feet out from under me.
I was used to earthquakes before, because really, I live in California.
But this wasn’t a normal earthquake; it was too sudden, like something just blew up.
After I got to my feet, I turned in the direction of the blast.
What I saw was not a sheer cliff, but a gently rising slope, covered in long grass, head up the cliff.
This must be the backside of the rock face.
I wondered what happened, so I grabbed the mango of the tree and started climbing. I walked at a steady pace, eating my insanely delicious mango on the way up. It started getting really steep, so I ate the last of my mango, and started climbing on all fours. I kept climbing, only stopping for brief breaks.
As I neared the top of the ledge, I realized that I was only climbing one part of the mountain. The sheer rock face was visible in the sunset a quarter mile in front of me.
I reached the top of the shorter hill that I was on, and I took in the whole 360 degrees of water.
I really was stuck on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
In the distance, I could see a line of a trail that went to the top of the sheer rock face.
And then with a huge surge of happiness, I saw smoke at the top of the cliff. Someone had a fire lit! Someone! A person! A human being!
I had to fight the strong urge of just jumping of the hill I was on and running up to the rock face. I looked around until I found a side trail that led down to the little sandy area between the cliff and my hill. I practically ran down the trail, getting down to level ground in what seemed like minutes. I ran for a couple minutes, trying to find the little trail that went up the side of the cliff. I found the little opening, and I instantly started running up the other trail.
The rough, porous rock tore at my tattered shoes, and within minutes, they were completely shredded. I still ran up the trail, my feet getting cut and stinging, but I was too determined to find this person and talk to him or her.
As I approached the last few yards, a strange, nasty smell hit me. Rotten eggs? Burnt toast?
And then, as I climbed up the last step, I almost fell into a massive crater, as big as a football field, and filled with boiling lava, just 150 feet below me.
My heart stopped. That wasn’t an earthquake. This isn’t a desert island. This is a surfacing volcano.
I couldn’t breathe.
How long until another blast, one more powerful than the last one, would come? A week? An hour?
My dreams were crushed.
I’d had my hopes so high, only to reveal my worst fear.
I turned around and started back down the cliff at top speed, ignoring the searing pain as the volcanic rock cut my already bleeding feet.
I turned a corner and- BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
I was thrown through the air like some giant used me as his golf ball, slamming into a rock on the way down, hearing the bones crunch before I felt them.
I tried to stand up and to my ever so slight relief; I could stand.
I looked down in horror at my arm sticking out in the wrong direction, along with the three lumps of broken ribs.
I was covered head to toe in nasty cuts from the rock.
I looked around to see where I was, and to my surprise, I was still on the trail.
I stared in horror over my shoulder at the huge volcano spewing massive amounts of lava and ash all around me.
And then I saw something that made me stop in my tracks. I looked at the sides of the trail I was on. They were curved, like a bobsled track, like a canal………
And then it hit me. I wasn’t on a trail. I was in a riverbed of a huge lava flow.
And as if to answer my revelation with a horrifying sense, I screamed in horror and ran as a huge surge of lava came flowing down the naturally made canal at top speed. I didn’t bother to look over my shoulder. I knew the lava was too fast. I would be outrun and the sides of the trail were too tall for me to get out of the trail. I will just keep running until I die.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!! The biggest explosion hit and I was really thrown through the air. I was flying through the air for so long, waiting for death to come.
I splashed down into the cold, salty ocean water.
I swam to the surface just in time to see my little hill, blown to smithereens by the last explosion, crumble before it’s brother.
I didn’t realize how far I was thrown until I looked up at the lava-trail. It was probably a hundred feet away, filled with flowing lava.
Then I heard a strange noise. It wasn’t an explosion; it was repetitive.
Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump.
I saw a strong white light cut through the black plume of smoke that was spewing from the mouth of the volcano.
It was my savior. My miracle. I could’ve fainted, but I needed to get their attention.
The helicopter hovered just a hundred feet above me. I slashed the water as much as I could. I threw it in the air.
The copter turned and started to fly away, only to disappear behind the black plume of smoke and ash.
I couldn’t believe it. My miracle, my rescuers, just vanished into the smoke.
If I could, I would cry. I would scream. I probably would be happy to jump into the crater.
If I made it that far.
I trudged out of the water only to be blown over by a huge wind. I turned around to see a red and white Coastguard helicopter slide in towards me, right over the surface of the water. A Coastguard jumped out and caught me as I passed out, putting me in a stretcher just before I hit the water.
I awoke to bright white lights and the sound of soft talking. I only heard pieces of conversations; “Is he going to be okay?” and “I can’t believe it…”
It took me a moment to realize that they were talking about me.
“Huh… Where am I… What happened…” I managed to moan out.
My family and friends, trying to be hugged and kissed, instantly swarmed me.
A week later I was discharged from the hospital. It turns out that the first helicopter were scientists who heard the explosion and went to check out the little volcano island.
Since I was technically there first, they gave me the honor of the discovery, so I named it Berdex Island.
My name is Josh Berdex.
This is my story.





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