The Gambier Bay

by Adam Franklin

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about

“Sharks, thirst, hunger and hallucinations”

In 2010 I received an unusual request from Jimmy Guerrero which said simply: “I am interested in commissioning a song about the sinking of the USS Gambier Bay. My wife's grandfather was the chaplain aboard the ship when it was sunk in shark infested waters in WWII. We are big SWD and Toshack fans, and this is a story I think Adam can tell...acoustically or with violent feedback.” Jimmy wanted the song to be a gift for his wife Heather for their upcoming 10 year anniversary.

Jimmy went on to explain more about Heather’s grandfather and the ship that was sunk on November 27th 1944: “Vernor Carlsen was a young chaplain on a US naval ship that was essentially given a suicide mission and consequently sunk by the Japanese. The survivors floated over 60 miles in shark infested waters for several days at the mercy of the sharks and Japanese. This meant that some of the sailors died from their injuries or were gruesomely eaten by sharks. It forced the survivors minute-by-minute to question not only what hell they were doing out there in the first place, but more importantly, does God exist? And if he does, why is he such a bastard?”

An account from one of the survivors explains: “Those who drank sea water often became delirious. Some would say they were going for a beer, others stated they were swimming ashore. They would disappear never to be seen again.” Heather later recounted stories from her grandpa: “He would also tell a story of a Japanese ship passing through where the men were hanging on rafts after the ship went down. They were close enough for my Grandpa to see their faces and they were all lined up on the deck saluting the men in the water. This had a profound effect on him.”

This immediately brought to mind an unfinished, unrecorded song I had written in schooldays after a history lesson about the Spanish Armada’s disastrous retreat from trying to invade Britain in 1588 and I set about adapting the lyrics into this new song.

So what we have is the song “Send Salutations To The World”, the triumphant sound of the ship setting off, followed by the dubby, slower instrumental “Sea Creatures Beneath Us” which is an aural interpretation of the shipwrecked sailors floating in hallucinatory shark-infested waters for endless days before the survivors finally found salvation. Included also is “The Lizard”, a version of the song with the original Armada-themed lyrics.

credits

released June 27, 2017

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Track Name: Send Salutations to the World
We travelled an ocean
To get where we wanted
We left San Diego
On the Gambier Bay
We rounded an island
In the Trench of the Philippines
We made clear our intention
To return triumphant

Send salutations to the world

With morning just broken
On a Casablanca Carrier
The sea was mysterious
We looked at our options
But we were hit on the broadside
And made battle with the enemy
We wanted to fight them
But we lost the Gambier Bay

Send salutations to the world

And though it seems strange
It doesn't matter anyway
And though it seems strange
I know there was something

We floated for three days
Near dead in the water
With sea creatures beneath us
I had strange hallucinations
No ships followed in our wake
The winds blew and we were scattered
We drifted south towards San Pedro
Before sighting land in the bay

Send salutations to the world
Track Name: The Lizard
We travelled an ocean
To get where we wanted
We set sail from Lisbon
With four galleasses
We rounded an island
Of hostile inhabitants
We made clear our intention
To return triumphant

The weather was winter
Though the month was in spring
The sea was mysterious
We looked at our options
We rounded the north sea
And made battle with the elements
We wanted to fight them
But their weapons were ugly

And though it seems strange
It doesn't matter anyway
And though it seems strange
I know there was something

We rounded the Tagus
And swept past the Lizard
The fireships parading
And beyond the beacons
Their ships followed in our wake
The winds blew and we were scattered
We sailed over to the west sea
Crept back past the Lizard