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Войскунский, Евгений; Лукодьянов, Исай

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E.Voiskunsky, I.Lukodyanov. The Crew Of The Mekong

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Translated from the Russian by Leonard Stoklitsky
First published 1974
(c) English translation, Mir Publishers, 1974
OCR: http://home.freeuk.com/russica2 http://home.freeuk.com/russica2
Original title: Экипаж "Меконга" mekong.txt
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Being an account
of the latest fantastic
discoveries, happenings of the
eighteenth century,
mysteries of Matter,
and adventures
on land and at sea




CONTENTS

THE MERCURY HEART
NAVAL LIEUTENANT FEDOR MATVEYEV
A HALF-TWIST SPIRAL
IPATY ISLAND


I'll die if I don't see the Caspian.
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT


1
THE MERCURY HEART

If you wish to subject an unknown substance
to the action of an unknown force you must
first study this substance.
Honore de Balzac -LA PEAU DE CHAGRIN

CHAPTER ONE

IN WHICH A STRANGE OCCURRENCE TAKES PLACE ON BOARD THE M.S. UZBEKISTAN

There is a great temptation to start a novel of adventure with a
shipwreck. Something like this:
"With a sickening crunch the three-masted bark Aretusa, sailing from
the New Hebrides with a cargo of copra, listed heavily to starboard. The
raging sea swept over-"
But we did not yield to the temptation. This true story of ours will
open without a shipwreck. Since we wish, however, to conform throughout to
the dictates of good style, we solemnly promise to arrange one later on.
So much for that.
One fine summer day the m.s. Uzbekistan was approaching a large Caspian
town. The time was shortly after lunch, and the promenade deck was deserted
except for a man in a green check suit. He was taking his ease in a deck
chair, sheltered from the broiling sun by an awning.
Nikolai Opratin, a person destined to play no small role in this story,
was a lean, dapper man in his late thirties. He had an energetic face, with
a bony chin, thin lips and a high brow ending in a carefully concealed bald
patch. His close-shaven cheeks and the aroma of his aftershave lotion
created the impression that he had just stepped out of a barber's chair.
Postprandial naps were a pernicious habit in which Nikolai Opratin did
not indulge. He reclined in his deck chair, gazing at the ship's broad,
foamy wake. On his right he could see the grayish-yellow strip of coastline
rising out of the blue sea. The long hilly island at the entrance to the bay
was already in sight.
The island had been much smaller twenty years ago, Opratin reflected.
Through the centuries the level of the ancient Caspian had often risen and
fallen, sometimes by as much as eighty metres. In recent years it had
dropped greatly. Man, no longer willing to be just a passive observer, had
now set himself the d



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