Bibliography Texts

Letter to Parents

Fred Gerlach

This page presents a typed transcript of the author's hand-written letter to his family. Although written on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1941 while the submarine USS S-45 was at (South) Seymour Island, the letter was subsequently placed in the barrel at Post Office Bay (Isla Floreana), where it was picked up by the Vanderbilt Expedition ship Pioneer on June 4 of the same year, along with at least one other envelope from the submarine's commander.

Aeolian Bay
Seymour Island
Sunday, April 13, 1941

Dear Mom, Dad, Bill and Hank:

Well, we passed the equator [on April 1] and the old guys sure gave us a beating, and cut our hair short. We are the only ones on this island.§ Every animal and fish and bird are curious and come right up to you and are not afraid. Birds land on your shoulders or on your hand. There are very big iguanas (land lizards) here too. These islands were made by volcanoes millions of years ago. Even wild goat here. Most beautiful beaches and crystal clear green water. We have it all to ourselves.

§ The current Isla Baltra.

The sun isn't so terrible hot. You can stand it. I am quite used to it now anyway. One island here has oranges, believe it or not. 18" in diameter.§ Everything here is of different species. Oh yes! There is a fellow here from Smithsonian Institute, collecting and exploring here. He is very smart and knows his business.

§ Probably Isla Floreana, although the writer's estimate of the diameter is just a bit exagerated.

We are going to help him find some old grave.§ He's got information on the exact spot.

§ Waldo Schmitt was searching for the grave of Lieutenant John Cowan of the United States frigate Essex, killed in an 1813 duel with Marine officer John Marshall Gamble. Schmitt was aboard the submarine tender USS Mallard which accompanied four submarines (including the S-45) on their Galápagos visit.

I am all right and this don't seem like Easter to me. The 9th I was in the Navy one year. Only five more to go and still going strong. ha ha.

This is the only place in the world you can send a letter and don't need a stamp. We mail it in a barrel called Post Office Bay, and any ship that passes no matter where it's going, picks up the mail and drops others into it. It may even go to China. So save the envelope. It may be worth something later on.

Giant turtles, hundreds of them come up on the beach. Even seal and penguin.

I am still in the engine room and work with a small lathe once in a while. That's all I am allowed to tell you about our sub and operations. We just wear shorts and moccasins around here.

Mom, I made my Easter duty at Coco Solo, so don't worry. No church here. Pardon my scribbling.

Will write soon as I can again and I wish you are all well. Give my regards to Mr. and Mrs. Pete S_____. And how did the strike come out? I can't tell from here.§ Wish you all had a nice Easter.

§ Probably the April 1941 strike at the Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Plant.

God bless you all: — Fred