"The Road"

[The deepest water between Catalina and the mainland is approximately 3,000 feet or more than 1/2 mile. Water temperature ranges from 64 to 73 degrees in the summer and 54 to 59 degrees in winter.]


Whittaker Longstreet, Tech Chief for the Marine Biological Survey Team


Our team was on Catalina studying the migratory patterns of Great White sharks from San Diego to the Pacific Northwest through the Catalina Channel. My primary task was to build or repair the team’s equipment ranging from the tracking tags to the submersible, Brody, we named after Roy Schneider’s character from the movie, Jaws.

On June 23, 2012, the other members of my team decided to drive in to Avalon to celebrate a successful tagging of a Great White that day. I was invited to go but I needed to continue working on repairing Brody. A hydraulic leak in the steering section had prevented us from using Brody to follow the shark we had tagged. I was anxious to get the repairs completed, so I declined the offer.

I didn’t even realize how late I had been up working on Brody, but when I woke up, it was about 5:30 a.m. I think I only got about four hours of sleep and felt deader than a doornail. The others had not returned so I became concerned. I knew they would not have spent the night on Avalon—at least not without calling me. Cell phone signals are fairly weak on the other side of the island, but I’m sure they would have tried to contact me through the shop’s land line.

After I gathered up my gear, I decided to take a dinghy over to Avalon, knowing it would get me there faster. I had modified the dinghy’s Hidea outboard engine’s 2.5hp output while still conserving fuel capacity. On a straightaway, that dinghy definitely outperforms its counterparts! But I digress…

A sunken yacht1
Sometime before 7 a.m., I passed by the Catalina Casino. The first thing that struck this southern gentleman from Charleston, South Carolina, was the sight of the boats moored near the Casino and all the way down to Avalon. Every single boat—whether it was a small fishing boat or a luxury yacht was either half submerged in the water or had completely sunk. Passing by some of the boats, I noticed the damage to their hulls. I also noticed bullet holes on many of the boats. It looked like a warzone.

I spotted a golf cart with two people on board making their way towards Avalon from the direction of the Casino. Meanwhile, further down the street at least several people were walking in the direction of the golf cart. I didn’t think much about it until I saw the golf cart turn a quick 180°—something I honestly didn’t think golf carts were capable of. Next thing, I heard the unmistakable report of a 9mm Glock G17. At first, I thought I was in the middle of one of them movie sets, but my discerning ears confirmed that the sound of that Glock going off was real and not a prop.

I quickly tried to follow the golf cart which was now making its way back towards the Casino with the throng of people in pursuit. More shots were fired while the passenger, a woman by the looks of it, was firing arrows with a bow. Yes, she was indeed using a bow! And she was extremely skilled at using it too. I saw her take down just about every single one of those people on the street. The other, although pretty good at handling a golf cart was having more problems than a math book at trying to hit something. Eventually, the two managed to drop all the people. I saw them drive the cart towards the Casino’s parking lot. Meanwhile, I went ahead and docked the dinghy and made my way up to meet them to find out what was going on.

The two of them had their weapons drawn just I did when we all met up in the parking lot. I asked them what exactly was going on and who they were. After we all introduced ourselves to one another, I found out people in Avalon had suddenly and mysteriously gone insane. People were attacking each other on the streets.

The woman, who introduced herself as Gwenn Merryfoot (a Native American from Oklahoma), seemed familiar. It suddenly dawned on me that I had seen her on the Mammal Channel. She once starred in her own survivor reality show where she taught survival skills and hunting techniques to people who got themselves lost in the wilderness. If I recalled correctly, the show only lasted one season before it was pulled faster than she could fire an arrow.

The other introduced himself as David Zabloski, a journalist from the National Inquisitor, a tabloid magazine which did nothing but perpetuate ludicrous notions such as Paranormal activities, UFOs, Bigfoot, a dark-skinned elf living in the 21st Century on some remote Scottish isle, and so on. He said he was assigned to investigate the possibility of a WWII military research facility still being used on the island by the government. As far I knew, our facility was the only operational research station on the island.

We decided to carry on the conversation inside the Casino where we were greeted by a maintenance man named Javier Quintana. He led us upstairs to join several others in the Casino’s grand ballroom.

Casino point  catalina web
I introduce myself to everyone and found out more about what was happening. We talked about the possibility of what was happening as some form of viral outbreak. I asked if anyone saw what those infected were doing before they became violent. I also asked if they knew anyone who may have been ill or showed any unusual symptoms. No one seemed to know much about what was going on or what caused the strange, violent behavior that seemed to be spreading quickly throughout Avalon.

“They’ve turned into zombies, man!” a young man named Peter Nollan said in an annoying surfer accent. “Like in those movies or TV shows like Walking Dead.” Despite sounding absurd, some of the others were starting to believe his insane theory.

I quickly tried to calm everyone down by rationally explaining the improbability of “zombies” existing. I explained as best as I could that human cell structures, after it’s been dead long enough (or well enough for that matter), will not allow a deceased individual to live again. Even if it could for argument’s sake, it can’t work the way we think. After the body dies, no matter how long it’s been dead, it begins to decay. The decay can’t be repaired to the extent that the body will function, or allow movement. Simply put, once you’re dead, you’re dead. It’s a scientific fact.

Rather, I explained the need to leave the Casino and find a safe place. It’s quite possible that a virus could be spreading and causing people to behave erratically and violently, like they were high on drugs or something. We also needed to determine how the virus was spreading to avoid catching it. I urged everyone to consider going with me to the Marine Science Center near Two Harbors. There we can further investigate what was occurring. Louis Jefferson, an elderly African-American man, pointed out that David Zabloski admitted to having been scratched by a woman who had attacked him. Everyone looked at David with fear, but I pointed out that he wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms, so it’s possible that the virus—if it’s contracted through skin contact—may have an incubation period, or that David was fine. It was the best I could do to calm everyone’s elation. I really wished I could have done more, but my training and expertise was in engineering, not medicine.

Just then one of the survivors, a man who was keeping watch outside on the balcony, stormed inside. He said a helicopter—military by the looks of it—was circling the Casino. We all ran to the windows but dared not step outside. We all saw it, an Apache attack helicopter, quickly fly over the Casino Dock Cafe where my dinghy was tied. It suddenly opened up its 30mm cannon and let lose thousands of rounds. The roar was nearly deafening. A huge explosion followed as it struck the dock’s gas pump. A large plume of dark smoke rose into the otherwise clear sky. In seconds, nothing was left of the cafe nor the dock. My dinghy was gone too.

“Was that one of us?” Javier yelled. “What the hell is happening? Aren’t they suppose to be on our side?”

We watched the helicopter disappear from view as it flew out to sea. We stared at the smoking ruins of the dock.

It was clear what was happening. Catalina Island was now under government quarantine.

We were not going to be allowed off the island.

Read more in “Die Hard”


"The Road"

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