Fishermen mending nets at fishing village.

Mr. Sim Jae Man who went with us on the trip.

Korean church made from mud and thatched roof with the Sunday School kids gathered on Sunday morning.

                              Stork Island Adventure

By: Dr. Rodney T. Hard                   Edited By: Sterling Hard

We arrived at the small fishing village on the southern coast of South Korea early on a Sunday morning.  I was eight years old at the time and my older brother Sterling was nine.  Dad had been invited to preach at the small Christian church there and had decided to make it a vacation camping trip after that.  He also brought along his secretary, Mr. Sim Jae Man.

At the church service Sunday morning my father was delivering the sermon in Korean and got stuck for a word he could not think of.  He looked like a deer caught in headlights as the awkward pause grew uncomfortably longer.  Sterling yelled out the word Dad was looking for from the back of the church.  All eyes turned on him and there was a ripple of amused laughter that went through the congregation.

Dad recovered his composure, chuckled goodheartedly, and went on with the sermon.  This was not the first time Sterling or I had rescued Dad during a sermon when his Korean had temporarily failed him.

Sterling and I got up at 4:00 AM the next morning to catch the low tide to go crabbing with the church’s pastor who made his living as a fisherman.  We got in little wooden row boats and used torches as lights to lure the crabs.  We then scooped them up with nets off the bottom in the shallow water covering the mud flats.

After daybreak, the four of us campers loaded our stuff into a small open wooden fishing boat powered by a “hit and miss” one cylinder diesel.  The boat owner took us out to a small island several miles offshore.  As we approached, we were awestruck by the beauty of the pine tree covered island covered with hundreds of white storks gathered in the tree tops for mating season.

Upon disembarking, we set up camp and went exploring.  The only other people on the island were several Buddhist monks that lived in a small temple near the top of the hill. 

There was a small cove that was several hundred yards wide.  Dad challenged Mr. Sim to a swimming race.  The first one to that side of the cove and back wins.  Sterling and I stayed on the bank to observe the contest.  Dad took an immediate commanding lead with his speed racing strokes while Mr. Sim plodded along with a slow but steady frog style breast stroke.  My brother and I cheered when Dad reached the other side and turned to come back when Mr. Sim was not even half way there yet.

It turned into be a classic tortoise and hare situation when my father ran out of steam and had to tread water to rest and catch his breath.  To our amazement and disappointment from our vantage point on the shore, we watched Mr. Sim catch up to and pass Dad.  

Dad put out one more burst of energy and got past his opponent while we yelled encouragement, but he completely ran out of steam again.  Mr. Sim kept to his unaltered steady pace and won the race while Dad floundered around, barely making it to shore with his last ounce of strength.

In the early morning hours of the next day we were awakened by torrential rain and howling winds (we later learned that a typhoon tracking out of the East China Sea toward the Straits of Japan hit the Korean coast with full force).  By noon our tent had collapsed in the gale, tent stakes torn from the sodden earth.

Before leaving we had bought some food supplies at the local market and I had talked Dad into letting me buy a bottle of locally produced soda pop.   I drank the soda, and ended up with severe vomiting and diarrhea all night and through the next day.

We had expected the boatman to come to pick us up on day three, but because of the storm he didn’t come as scheduled.  The hard rain did not stop for three days except for a few hours when the “eye” of the typhoon passed over us.

We ran out of food and potable water, and all we had left was a large can of peanut butter to eat. We were all cold, wet, tired, and hungry.

During a few hour break in the weather, Dad waded in knee deep water across a submerged rocky strip of land about a mile long, which connected to another small island.  That island had a tiny village inhabited by subsistence farmers and fishermen.

These folks had little extra and my father was only able to buy a small bag of potatoes.  He made it back to “our” island as the tide was coming back in.  By the time he made it to shore he was fighting chest high current for footing.

Without sufficient kerosene for the tiny camp stove we would have had to eat potatoes raw.  With no clear idea of when the weather was going to break, we had to husband resources carefully.

So Dad, Sterling and Mr. Sim took turns washing the potatoes carefully and boiling them up.  As miserable as I was, I gladly joined the rest as we all sipped the hot potato cooking water and ate potatoes and peanut butter to “survive” for the next couple of days.

The last two nights the monks let us sleep under the roof on the front porch of the temple.  So, we were at least out of the rain and able to get some rest.

When the rain stopped and a boat came for us, we were very happy to get off that island, get a good hot meal in the village, and head for home and to warm dry beds to sleep in.

Stork Island is what we named the island.   I don't know what the real name of the island is since there are hundreds of islands off the coast of Korea.

Fishing boat like the one that ferried us to Stork Island.

Dr. Rodney T. Hard