The Legend of TIATA

       The Little White Dolphin

 Throughout the ages man's epic tales
Have told of the oceans that he sails
And how with the elements, he came to grips
When venturing out to the sea in ships.
Aboard modern liners with mighty draft
And on the flimsy hull of the smallest craft
Too often he has come to strife
When challenging the book of life.

 These tales are depicted of things diverse
And some when written, were put to verse.
Like the mariner's plight when he came across
The flight of a wandering albatross
Or the ships that succumbed and were left forlorn
When they foundered on passage round Cape Horn
And the reason, no men have lived to tell
What befell them in Bermuda's ring of hell.





 Literature accounts for many a tale              

And one man's fight with a great white whale.
Yet this story comes from a world apart
Long before the time of any chart
There's been no record or written word
Of this local yarn, which I overheard
From that wealth of knowledge, kept in store
The legends passed down through tribal law.

 It was on one balmy tropic night
That the old man judged the time was right
We were sitting around the village fire
In the hour before the folk retire
When to his feet, rose a wise old sage
Who knowingly moved to centre stage
And for those of us, who had not heard before
We listened to his every word in awe.

 You see, his people had a great rappor't
With their world outside of the ocean shore
And it seemed that even for the smallest child
On the water, good fortune always smiled.
So for me, this story put to rest
That question, Why? when put to test
That despite the fickleness of the sea
They could sail their craft with impunity.      


 Apparently, as far as his stories go
It wasn't necessarily always so
For he told of how, a long time before
An expedition set out from shore
And as well as the usual goods of trade
On board was a lovely village maid.
Unlike her people, her skin was light,
A Princess revered in their sight.
By custom, she had been betrothed
And the excitment in their faces showed.

 There had been rejoicing, both on the beach
And on the island, that they sought to reach
For the fleet had been gaily bedecked
With the sails and rigging brightly flecked.
The ocean sparkled in the sun
As the evening breeze had just begun
It set the sails to the halyard hum
And from shore came the beat of a kundu drum.



 Despite such peace, every mariner knows

In that latitude, it sometimes blows
And without warning, a tropic storm
From the humid air impromptu form.
So it was, on that fateful night
With their landfall just in sight
That the wind in the rigging began to whine
As the evening sun now ceased to shine.

 The sailors, they were all resigned
As for them, such things had been devined
They set about to trim the sail
So it's fabric would not fail
And then to nurse their fragile craft
That were hewn from logs of shallow draft.
Abroard, the wild winds fiercely blew
And confused waves all about them grew.
White caps on each wave embossed
As from their face, the fleet was tossed.

 The helmsman watched with some concern
For a demon wave across the stern.
He knew such a wave could sometimes be
Generated by the wind quite randomly.
One appeared that night, a great black wall
That overhung and began to fall.
Its fluid mass, crashed down from high
But all they heard was a plaintive cry
As foaming water left the deck awash
And the crew aware of a tragic loss.

 The little bride was swept from sight
She vanished in that blackest night
And while they fought to come about
The conch shell trumpet alarm blew out.
For hours, they searched and called her name
But the Princess was never seen again.
With exhaustion their last hope died
When their leader gasped, for he had spied
Through the gale, a white flashing wraith
That impacted on his simple faith
Assured that the Fates must have beguiled
The spirit of that hallowed child.


 They sat there in the night transfixed
And shared emotions, somewhat mixed
As around their craft, an ethereal dance
Maintained their disembodied trance.
The spell was broken by an urgent cry
As the spirit surfaced and lept up high.
It was manifest in a familiar form
A little dolphin, white against the storm.

 Her calls required their eyes to see
And to confront the awful reality
For they had drifted miles, consumed with grief
To face new danger from the reef.
But their Chieftain only sighed
The white dolphin held him mesmerized.
He seemed reluctant to leave behind
That vision implanted in his mind
So following, they surfed on through a breach
And somehow, safely made the beach.


 The bedraggled troupe waded to shore
To a throng bearing torches, who  began to implore
With lamenting cries, they had come to beseech
What happened? to those gathered on that beach.
The harrowing tale, required they relate
Circumstances that none could debate
Their dark faces pale against the flame
Reflecting their anguish and the shame
And as both tribes began to mourn
That was when the legend first was born.

 You'd think that time might help forget
That tragedy, with which they'd met
But the fair skinned maiden, lost at sea
Lived on, in their mythology
For not only had the smallest boys
But the weathered crews of the lakatois
And divers, who worked on the reef
Told stories that defied belief
Of how, when beset with trouble or doubt
A little white dolphin, always helped them out.


 From that date forth,
when the sea was crossed
No one, had ever since been lost
And it was not just that she kept them safe
Perhaps that was their implicit faith
But whenever they set out from shore
To explore the wonders of the ocean floor
A little white dolphin often swam ahead
And they found new treasures where she led.
They called her Tiata, for she came known to be
The little white Goddess of the sea.

Part 2 continues

              The legend of tiata
                      ( part 2 )

 We left that village at the break of day
And sailed off, reluctantly, on our way.
Our ship, best described as a crusty old barge
Had me! as the Captain who was in charge.
We made heading for a sunken outer reef
For salvage on a wreck beneath.
Isolation, was the reason that we thought
By others she had not been sought.
On site, we anchored a considerable time
And worked to clear the rust and grime.

 We ignored the rules, to some extent
For to complete this job, was our one intent.
Though the forecast had foretold
Fair weather would not hold
We had confidence no storm was near
So the last few dives held no fear.
Besides, the trinkets that we hoped to find
Would compensate for peace of mind.
But once we surfaced, to our dismay
Foul weather signs were not far away.

cross the horizon was a blackened smear    
Clear message that a storm was near.
The crew made ready to depart
To gain at least a small head start
But from the engine, no comforting hum
Spewed a cloud of smoke and staccato drum.
At half ship's speed, our storm shelter hole
Now became a very optimistic goal
And each time that we looked around
The tempest clearly made up ground.
 The moon and the stars were soon blanked out
As lurid tendrils groped about
More menacing in the lightning flash
Sparked off before each thunder crash.
On board our feeble ocean craft
Around us Neptune's furies laughed.
A sound akin to a Banshee wail
Through the teeth of the howling gale.

 From the cresting waves, the spume was stripped
In the cauldron that the storm had whipped
And with the rain, it went scudding past
The wheelhouse lights and the forward mast.
The stricken engine's labouring beat
With Nature's power, could not compete
And from the hands of such brute force
We slowly faltered from our course.


 In this state our minds were numb
And regretted now, what we had done
For through the wind, a sinister roar
Came the sound of surf from a leeward shore
And certain, though faintly through the night
Glimpses of those ragged lines of white
But even if not for the stormed tossed haze
We knew no way through that jagged maze.
Then we could do nothing, but wait
And hope that the fury would soon abate.

 Our watchman on the forepeak perched
And vainly for a break, he searched
When not far off on the starboard bow
Was it ......a little dolphin cow?
She appeared as a vision, ghostly white
That filtered through the spectral light
And to his jaded senses, perhaps it seemed
Reflected light, and only dreamed.

 Into the night, the watchman peered
With shaded lids, till his eyesight cleared
Then from the bow there came a shout
As he saw the little dolphin come about
When as if only to confirm
The white dolphin made a sudden turn
And calling shrilly all the time
She carried on an urgent mime.

 Her frantic antics caught my ear
And fascination overcame the fear.
Memories of that legend came flooding in
And cleared my head of the tempest din
For now was the time to test the truth
As the little white dolphin was here as proof.
In that instant, I swung the helm
And consigned our course to the nether realm.

 The crew as one, all turned aghast
For they thought this moment would be their last.
They had good reason for their concern
As the waves compressed to lift the stern
And fling us forward through the seething foam
In that lonely place, so far from home.
Through the first surge a maelstrom burst
Where the white water was at its worst
But the little dolphin still held sway
And it seemed as if she knew the way.


 Up on deck the crew all toiled
As around the ship, broken water boiled
They worked as robots, with gritted teeth
Waiting for a crunch beneath.
Although the danger was very real
Providence must have saved the keel
And for the first time, our crew dared hope
There was a chance we still might cope.

 With the leading breakers left astern
What lay ahead, was our new concern
For this had been no single reef
And the coral stretched without relief.
But the little dolphin, with no more to prove
Swam on, and we watched her every move.
By her pilot , we set our course
As from the crew I sensed remorse
For now we knew, there could be no doubt
What that old man's story was all about.


 As we followed her meandering lead
With each obstacle, we watched the surf recede
Until we made a protected cove
And found the shelter for which we strove.
The anchor chain was let to run
As we felt by now the race was won.
While the storm raged futile, overhead
We gratefully retired to bed.

 When we woke to the light of day
Our ship was secure in a secluded bay.
The storm clouds all by now had cleared
And sunshine, through the trees appeared.
For those hardened men, not used to prayer
What happened next! ..... without compare
Our little white Goddess had chose to stay
She was with some dolphin, there at play
It was not just one, that shed a tear
And quietly paid her homage dear.



For several days we made repair
Languishing in the sundrenched air
And availing of our diving gear
To explore the reef, that rambled near.
We were not prepared for what we saw
As we thought we'd seen it all before
For our little Saviour! she was there
Her actions showed she wished to share
The wonders of that coral reef
And the marvels of her world beneath.

 With fresh anticipation, we swam in lines
Following her white and mystic signs.
Throughout those days we learned respect
And upon my life, I could reflect
How this witness was a far greater reward
Than all the artefacts, we had on board.
Finally, with some regret
We left that place where Heaven met
And in my memory, for the longest while
Lived the vision of the dolphin's smile.


 For years life's routine passed by
But my heart returned to that distant sky
Already, a fantasy was taking shape
To share what we'd found on that magic cape.
I would not admit it was an impossible dream
And both day and night, continued to scheme.
From a telephone call, right out of the blue
A project started, and the dream slowly grew.

 We gathered together, a talented team
Whose skill allowed them to work with the theme.
So important it was, that we try to imbue
The spirit of Tiata, to come shining through.
An elegant vessel from these hands was born
And christened there, on a bright sunny morn.
On this namesake Tiata, we first hand implored
A dedication and blessing, straight from the Lord
''This ship and her company, we consecrate to Thee
And to you - little Goddess of the sea'.


 When first, we sailed out into the bay
An escort formed and led the way
Those dolphins swam across the bow
And looked up at the painted little cow
For our figurehead, just had to be
A little white dolphin, quite naturally
And they somehow seemed to comprehend
The message that we hoped to send
For their bodies gracefully aligned
And their pectoral flippers intertwined.

 Surely destiny can't be reversed
So well this greeting was rehearsed
That we felt our spirits with the seabirds soar
As we steamed on, to that distant shore.
In harmony with her new world Tiata flew
And every mile, expectations grew
Until the shores of the China Straits
Beckoned us with open gates.


 So at last we reached first hand
The heart of this tropic wonderland
And of God's creatures, both great and small
Each time we thought we'd seen them all
The little white dolphin would come and see
To teach us some humility.
For where else could you swim and play
In rhythm with the giant manta ray
Or drift in a kaleidoscope of some abyss
Beyond Aladdin's wildest wish.

 Some folk might see fit to regale
This story as some fairytale
But unlike others, that you read
From this, the fantasy can be freed
For the legacy of Tiata, has us endowed
And with her riches, we are showered.
For want or envy, please don't begrudge
Instead you're welcome to be the judge
Share life's treasures ... Come sail with me!
And the little Goddess of the sea.

                                       Rodd Sherwin  ©


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