Escape from the Island of Aquarius, pp. 153-160
Last week, several readers noted that they were glad to see Lila get her moment in the sun. This is absolutely true! Lila gets to be the hero here, after being captured and turned into a virgin sacrifice. Lila grabs up a bunch of explosives, jumps into a whirlpool with only a small emergency oxygen tank, and sets explosives on the underside of the rock cliff separating the fast-sinking underground lake where her father and brother are trapped and, well … the whirlpool.
She almost dies when a falling rock chunk pins her to the bottom, and only manages to get out of there before the explosives go off by setting a small charge to go off immediately, blasting the rock and freeing her. Is this realistic? Not really. But is Lila a badass hero? Absolutely!
So. The explosives Lila set go off, one after another—given that she set them each for the same length of time—shaking, cracking, and finally collapsing the wall.
A huge wave rolled outward, racing along and slapping the walls of the cavern like a monstrous brush. Hot stones of all sizes soared across the room like comments and pounded the opposite walls like cannonballs.
The people in Adam’s Ark didn’t know what was happening. They only ducked as the wave washed over them, and they cowered as the hot stones pelted the boat and the lake.
This is wildly dangerous. They’re in a cave.
Here is my original sketch of the collapsing island:
I made the following revision to this sketch when it became clear that the whirlpool and the cave are (somehow?) on a similar level, separated by a wall, rather than the one being above the other:
So. What exactly happens, in the aftermath of the explosions?
The people in the ark suddenly felt like they ere in a falling elevator. The surface of the lake dropped right tout from under them, and the ceiling disappeared into the haze and spray high over their heads. The boat fell so fast that they almost came up off the floor. Then they saw light. The boat was moving through the cavern at tremendous speed, for the lake was pouring out of the cavern, like tea from a tilted cup, rushing with incredible force toward the light.
The entire side of the cavern and fallen in! They could see the sky up there and they were surging right for it!
Um. Okay. I feel like I may need to revise my drawing again? They’re traveling down, somehow? When the wall between the whirlpool and the cavern collapsed, the water level in the lake in the cavern fell. The lake poured out of the cavern … into the whirlpool … rusting downward.
We’ll return to that in a moment.
Lila sees the boat and swims to it, and Dr. Cooper sees her and someone in the boat grabs her. “She flopped into the boat like a cold, dead fish.” I’m super relieved Lila can catch a breath now and just ride this out—literally—without having to do anything. She deserves it. She jumped into a freaking whirlpool with an armload of explosives to save her father and brother. I mean, dayum.
Okay. Let’s return to the physics of the situation.
According to the book, the whirlpool drains into the underground lake, and out into the sea through a tunnel. This is why everyone who has gone into the whirlpool—Adam MacKenzie, Dr. Cooper, Jake, and now Lila—has ended up in the underground cavern the lake is in. If the water level in the whirlpool ended up being lower than the water level in the cavern lake, the cavern lake would have started draining into it—and we know it wasn’t draining into the whirlpool, because Lila just now jumped into the whirlpool and got sucked into the cavern lake.
Here’s what this situation has to look like before the explosion, in order for them to rush downward into the whirlpool after the dividing wall falls:
In a situation like this, the whirlpool would stop draining into the underground cavern. The island is sinking (rather than the ocean level actually rising), which is how we’re told the cavern filled with water—as the cavern sinks below ocean level, the water in it is rising. As this happens, the air in the cavern is getting squeezed—everyone’s ears hurt. The cavern should start draining into the whirlpool, until the pressure in each equalizes. So why isn’t it?
Here’s what happens after the explosion:
But very quickly things change again:
The cavern had belched them out like a cork from a bottle. The Ark was spinning and dancing on the surface of a boiling, rapidly rising column of water that filled the deep canyon where the whirlpool used to be. It was like sitting on top of a geyser. Now they were riding up in an elevator as they watched the walls of the canyon dropping all around them.
The island seemed to react to that very great puncture through its heart. With a long, steady, agonized shudder, it began to drop into the sea.
So now they’re going up?
Wait. Is that even how it would work? If the whole island is going down … it seems like they would be dropping. After all, how is so much water coming into the whirlpool crater so quickly, from just that one tunnel that’s never described as being all that huge? Sure, once the island dropped far enough, the ocean would come pouring over the sides of the craters. But somehow that’s not what’s happening? Somehow they’re going up like they’re in an elevator while the island drops?
The sea rose to the top of the canyon and then spilled over the rest of the island, carrying the helpless Ark with it. Adam had the outboard motor running, but there was nothing they could do against the terrific rushing current. The sea was washing over the last remaining high places. The Ark was swept past hilltops, through the treetops, over the submerging jungle, like one more little piece of debris amid the floating pieces of the dying island.
Also, their boat is totally wrecked now. 100%.
Look, the whole island is sinking. There’s no reason for water to be spewing out the middle (where is it even coming from?!). My basic understanding of how physics works is that the island going down within minutes like this would result in water pouring over the sides:
Now, yes, water would be coming in through the tunnel. But we’re talking an island that’s sinking on the inside of 15 minutes here. If you build an island with a crater out of salt dough and bake it, including a straw from the crater to the outside of the mound close to its base, and then you submerge your salt dough island in water, water will come into the straw. If you lower it deeper into water and do this slowly, the water will come into the crater through the straw such that the water level in the crater and on the sides of the island will be even. If you lower it quickly the water won’t come in through the straw fast enough, and the water will pour over the sides of the crater.
I may just have to try this, because this whole nonsense setup for some reason offends my senses. But I cannot imagine being able to lower the salt dough island in such a way that water would come in through the straw, fill the crater, and overflow it. Water pressure does not work like that!
Now, mass chaos, sure! Everything’s breaking up, and there’s water churning and moving. Trying to keep the boat afloat would be quite the chore regardless of whether we’re following the rules of physics in how this island sinks and breaks up. Right? Let’s check in:
The Ark’s passengers spotted some survivors floundering and struggling in the swirling mud and foam, climbing to logs and lumber, waving and crying out for help. Adam steered the boat their way and picked them up.
Wait what? They’re somehow navigating their boat through a flooded jungle, riding the crest of a tsunami, and yet they’re still afloat and able to steer—I’m just not seeing it.
Many casualties floated past like driftwood, but nothing could be done for them.
This is an issue! This would be traumatic! I’ve never seen dead bodies (I think they’re dead?) floating by me while I’m in a boat, but I feel like that would be traumatic! Especially to kids!
Just then they see The Dude. He’s clinging to the top of a mostly submerged tree.
“Candle!” [Adam] shouted, his hands outstretched.
Candle looked up and saw his old friend. After just a short moment of disbelief, those big teeth glimmered in the sun and Candle began to weep for joy.
His teeth are … big. What.
“Adam!” he cried, tumbling into the boat and embracing the missionary. “Bless Mee-Bwah! Bless Mee-Bwah!”
On reader suggested that “Mee-Bwah” could be an attempt to say “my brother”—as in brother in Christ. But I’m pretty sure The Dude is actually using the term as a name for Jesus. So I just have no idea. It’s weird, man, it’s weird!
There was no time to waste. Adam revved the outboard to full throttle, and the old tub began to move steadily along.
This boat is built entirely out of materials that The Dude brought to Adam, in his cavern, via a canoe. There are twenty-seven people, plus the Coopers and Adam and The Dude, and the four or five goons Kelno sent after them, on this boat. That’s like forty people.
Dr. Cooper checks in on Lila and says her leg is broken in multiple places.
“Will I be able to walk again?”
Dr. Cooper, the proudest father that ever was, looked at his daughter rand said, “Honey, I’m thoroughly convinced that with God’s help you can do anything you set your mind too!”
“Okay,” she said simply.
That’s actually sweet.
They looked behind them at the boiling ocean now closing over the island that no longer was.
But! What about Kelno? Don’t worry! The snake ate him! Because of course it did! “Stuart Kelno was gone in a gulp,” Peretti tells us. And then the ocean got the snake. “Both false gods were gone forever.” Oh—before it eats him, Kelno begs the snake not to eat him, explaining that he, Kelno, and faithfully served the snake, reinforcing the idea that Kelno was a true believer in all of this. Which is weird, given that he was using a poisonous fly to fake a curse.
A few miles out from the island’s grave, the Lord blessed them by letting them find Candle’s canoe, adrift and still loaded with enough food and fuel to get them and to the nearest civilized island. They knew they would survive. They were all saved, in more ways than one.
That last part is a reference to the fact that, once the island was behind them, Adam dedicated all of his time to missionizing and evangelizing and reading Bible verses to his grieving fellow boat occupants, who just watched half of their friends drown. But I’ll also note that I think Peretti forgot that Kelno, too, was said to have a boat—a big boat, too. It’s never mentioned again.
I have a Patreon! Please support my writing!