The starting point of death and desolation on a lovely afternoon in late August 1974.
A man meanders along a path toward an old equipment-storage barn composed of silvery corrugated metal over steel girders. He enters into the shaded coolness to stroll by an old road grader, an Army 10-wheeler truck, a red-painted fire wagon, a dilapidated aluminum Air Force rescue launch set up on 50-gallon drums, and a black silhouette of grease covering an inoperable stationary diesel engine connected to a huge generator once used to provide electricity for naval officers and enlisted men stationed on the atoll during World War II.
The man feels the coolness of the smooth concrete floor on his bare feet as he makes his way toward the light marking the large rectangular opening at the other end of the building. He sees the woman off to his left painting tools to protect them from rusting in the salty humid air, smiles and nods to her, says hello as he steps again out into the bright day. He pauses to admire the sheer curve of the vessel nestled into a small cove off the lagoon, the grace of her lines from jaunty bowsprit to stern, the high-aspect mainmast. He has come to play chess with the man who owns it, is about to hail himself aboard when he sees the woman beckon to him.
He turns back into the shadows to meet her. When their mouths part from a long kiss, she leans back, breathing hard, and reaches to untie her halter. "Kiss them, take them into your mouth". Their brief gestures to accommodate each other are like the wings of excited birds caressing their bodies. She follows him down, straddling him, beginning to rock and find a rhythm. The world outside vanishes in their pleasurable sighs.
Other eyes watch, full of rage. In a heartbeat of shock, a snarling man rushes in to point a pistol, cocking the hammer and taking aim. Moving reflexively like an animal escaping danger, the man below twists violently aside, toppling the woman. The deafening explosion blasts away the hedonism of the day.
The first man discovers himself standing, gasping, sick with the certain knowledge that there is no escape. He sees the gun in the other man's hand and looks into his crazed eyes, expecting to meet his death in a moment.
Both men stand for an endless moment frozen in a tableau over the woman. With a sob of awful anguish, followed by a blood-curdling scream, time begins to tick again and the man with the gun turns the insane fire of his rage licking out toward the object of his fury.
He fires twice more, but the first man has leapt away, ducking, scrambling, and running. The second man pursues like a demon, firing again and again, his hoarse voice coughing, grunting, "I'll get you! I'll get you"!
Palmyra - from inside the lagoon.
At present it is fully functional and receives aircraft each month to re-supply The Nature Conservancy, which occupies Cooper Island and has facilities to study the plant and bird life indigenous to the atoll.
Looking northeast down the landing strip
Looking at the approach end of the strip