Pirates, Bats, & Dragons
A Science Mystery by Mike Davis
ISBN 0-9747078-2-1, hardcover; 9 x 6 inches, 208 pages
Illustrations by William Simpson
A Science Mystery
FACT: The Arab island of Socotra, often called the “Galapagos of the Indian Ocean,” is a mysterious remnant of lost worlds-Marco Polo called it the “most enchanted land on earth.” Indeed, its ancient people, the Badw, who live in high mountains forested with dragon’s blood trees, frankincense, and myrrh, are renowned for their magic powers. Anthropologists believe that the witches of Socotra are the survivors of an original matriarchal culture. Naturalists, meanwhile, are fascinated by the island’s unique ecology (including vast unexplored limestone caverns), although no one knows what has happened to the “giant lizards” described in the oldest accounts of travelers to the area. Its famed pirates, however, are still there: modern navigation guides warn ships to avoid the waters off Socotra “at all cost.”
STORY: Jack, Conor, and Julia (the young heroes of The Land of the Lost Mammoths) join a United Nations research team reconnoitering the vast limestone caverns under Socotra. Described by Marco Polo as the “most enchanted land on earth,” Socotra is legendary for its witches and latter-day pirates. Its ancient people live in high mountains forested with dragon’s blood trees, frankincense, and myrrh. They speak a unique language, live in caves, and are believed to be partly descended from settlers sent by Alexander the Great. They also tell unsettling tales of “dragons” that live beneath the earth. But Socotra is also caught up in the whirlwinds of international intrigue and the “war against terrorism.” The kids’ scientific mission (led by Julia’s advisor, Dr. Hasan) is shadowed from the beginning by the ominous Colonel Strong and his Delta Force commandos, as well as by warnings of the notorious pirate Kaitos. After a terrifying attack by carnivorous crabs, the threesome seek shelter with a beautiful witch, Tatra, who warns them of an approaching horror almost beyond imagination. A secret U.S. anti-terrorist operation goes disastrously wrong when Kaitos (Tatra’s brother) captures a doomsday cargo that could threaten the entire world. Jack and Dr. Hasan are captured by the pirates, while Conor and Julia (and her fearless pet civet) are marooned in a cave full of bats and huge but unknown predators. As in The Land of the Lost Mammoths, the ultimate drama is the moral choice the team must make: they must risk their own survival for the sake of truth and nonviolence. In a stunning final confrontation, the three young scientists and their friends battle not only sharks and dragons, but also an entire world of official deception.