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The Qantas Mystery (Cont)

By John Grigsby

They hold a meeting. Let us say, they argue, that we are to be stuck here for good, that our signal fires go unheeded. We have to set up a community here. Ideas abound of recreating the life they left behind. They are always tired and hungry - they must learn to farm.

But farming proves nigh on impossible. Firstly they have to clear space in the rain forest - by fire and crude stone hand axe, then they have to collect seeds in a number and wait for the harvest. The attempt is futile. The crop yield is minimal, pathetic. The after effect of the impact has caused almost continual rain and cold. Not only this but the waste of human resources on the project is immense - all members of the community are needed in the gathering of food. The food sources also move - and the settlers find themselves semi-nomadic hunters.

But they preserve the idea of farming - in the form of a story, so future generations might benefit, when the population becomes large enough to make it viable, and a move might be made to more compatible soil and conditions.

They eat fruit, berries, wild pig, and drink mountain water. For the first few weeks they have terrible stomach upsets, but soon adapt to the diet. It is not long before they forget that they smell, that their hair needs cutting. The men have grown beards. They rediscover the primal magic of the light and heat giving fire.

They need to pass ideas on as stories, and this is the poet's job. Grand ideas about building an encyclopedia of knowledge meet with failure - you cannot put down the ideas of 5,000 years of history and civilisation on three notebooks of paper. What's more paper doesn't keep too well in these conditions. They bury a time capsule containing science text books and the three journals detailing their plight - but this uses the last of the paper and the last of the pen ink.

Writing is not as important as it once was. They use dried mud tablets inscribed with a stick to record important things. These are fragile and soon break. A kind of pictorial shorthand necessarily develops due to the cumbersome nature of writing full English words and sentences on mud tablets.

This written language in time is passed down through the 'priesthood'. Each subsequent generation is more illiterate than its predecessor; It is not important to teach your children to read and write when first they need to know how to survive.

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