Legacy of the VentureEdit
In 1933 Carl Denham shocked the world when he unveiled King Kong to a stunned crowd at the Alhambra Theatre. The twenty-five-foot-tall ape delivered the scientific community a one-two punch that sent it reeling with the impact of this incredible discovery and subsequent tragic loss. But Kong was just the beginning. An entire island, bursting with prehistoric wonders, exist. If Kong had shocked the scientific world, Skull Island’s emergence from the shroud of legend into reality shook it to its core. Not since the discovery of the New World had mankind been offered such an opportunity to explore a land trapped in time. Kong’s chest-beating roar at the summit of the Empire State Building heralded the greatest discovery of the century – arguably, the millennium. In the wake of the island's unveiling, universities and private organizations across the planet fumbled to dispatch teams to investigate and catalogue its wonders. The race of the century was on: Rival expeditions fought for exclusivity and justification, each asserting its own legal standing to be first on the island. Only a handful of the two dozen expeditions successfully made landfall, and – of those – half were woefully unprepared for the terrors that awaited them.
Skull Island ate expeditions with all the appetite of the full-grown V. rexes that ruled the landmass in Kong’s absence. After a year of disastrous excursions and tragic loss of life, a properly prepared, jointly managed and financed effort was finally organized by the three biggest interested concerns. Lead by Carl Denham, this three-month expedition set out to systematically explore and document the island.
Project Legacy – as it was called – suffered its own share of mishaps and attrition, but it was a far cry from the earlier, ill-founded attempts. The most important realization of this 1935 trip was the understanding that Skull Island was too new, too strange and, above all, too dangerous to explore and study in so short a space of time. With countless discoveries of new species and new behaviors every day, it became painfully clear that decades of study might scrape the surface of what the island had hidden from the world for so long. Project Legacy was expanded to a long-term study, with annual expeditions; the long-term goal was of establishing a permanent base of operations on the island.
It was during the second incursion, in 1936, that the truth of Skull Island’s geological fragility became clear. A huge earthquake sank one part of the island, killing five team members. After careful exploration by a team of geologists, the expedition realized that Skull Island was a doomed oddity, a scab on the earth’s crust that was about to be scratched off.
Kong’s brief appearance and destruction in Manhattan in 1933 paralleled the discovery and loss of the island. Barely fifteen years after its discovery, Skull Island and all its wondrous secrets were lost to the waves, the island torn to pieces by the same irresistible geologic force that had preserved it for so many eons. In the intervening years between revelation and oblivion, Skull Island hosted just seven short Project Legacy expeditions. When Skull Island finally succumbed to inevitability and sank, taking with it its mysterious people, monsters, and undiscovered history into the sea, the legend-become-reality became legend again. The secrets that were learned, in that short space of time, were all that would ever be revealed.
A Broken LandEdit
Little wonder Skull Island lay undiscovered for so long. Jutting out of the perilous sea, west of Sumatra, the island was in the heart of a region afflicted by intense magnetic anomalies and violent sea storms. The very rock of which the island was built was treacherous.
Once part of a much larger landmass, ancient Gondwanaland, Skull Island sat square near the turbulent boundary of the Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates. The plates rolled over one another and stresses caused violent fracturing of the Indo-Australian plate beneath the island. Significant volcanic activity resulted. Fissures and pressure spots created land and forced molten rock to the surface while, at the same time, great chunks of the island fell into the deep subduction trench that marked the plate edge. Skull Island owed its creation to the same forces that were tearing it to pieces by the mid-twentieth century.
The coastline shattered and fell away while the entire island was sinking. In the island’s heart, volcanic forces brought water and mud bubbling to the surface while other areas were gnawed hollow from beneath, leaving a crumbling land full of jagged abutments and bottomless chasms.
The Mystery of the RuinsEdit
The first sight to greet explorers of Skull Island was the mighty wall that divided humanity’s meager settlement from the terrors of the jungle interior. Huge and imposing, this enormous structure dwarfed the puny village huddling in its protective shadow. This was not the work of that struggling populace, but the legacy of some older, far more advanced civilization long gone.
Giant stone ruins of this ancient society dotted the entire island. Vast edifices jutted from the shrouding jungle and tumbled down the coast to disappear into the sea. Beneath the tangled forest that enveloped the island in a choking green embrace, a great city had once breathed. Study of these remains and of the great wall itself – which had run in an unbroken circle around the entire center portion of the island – told of a culture three thousand years old. Architectural parallels suggested Southeast Asia as a homeland.
It was theorized that ancient colonists brought with them an established culture, as evidenced by the great carved statues and shards of magnificent pottery left behind. They were a devoted culture who revered the giant apes that abounded throughout their art. Some have speculated the apes may have arrived with the colonists, alluding to a symbiosis between the people and the ancestors of Kong.
The exact nature of the extinction that befell these people remains a mystery. At least a thousand years ago they were wiped out, leaving little behind but stowaway rats and the stone skeletons of their city on a doomed island. The jungle swept in to reclaim the land, inexorably spreading its tendril-like root fingers over the eroding architecture, turning plazas and markets into glades and barnacling towers with ferns and gnarled creepers. The great wall crumbled as surf swallowed the land, and its few projecting stretches stood like gravestones in the green swathe, monuments to the lost civilization of Skull Island.
A Menagerie of NightmaresEdit
Tiny Skull Island was once part of the vast and ancient continent of Gondwana in prehistoric times. What came to be Skull Island was a stretch near the coast of the great Tethys Sea, rich in life. When this landmass broke away, many prehistoric ancestors of the island’s modern inhabitants rode with it, guaranteeing their survival when catastrophe and ecological change wiped them out everywhere else in the world. Others joined later, rafting, swimming, or flying to the island sanctuary. Land bridges came and went, bringing new fauna, each adding to the diversity of the island.
Over the millennia the island eroded. As habitat was lost, life was concentrated into ever-shrinking areas. Competition became fierce. The island saw an evolutionary arms race erupt, forging a menagerie of nightmares.
The Crumbling Coast and VillageEdit
Skull Island’s coast was a savage warfront between land and sea. Heavy oceanic swells buffeted the shattered coast, eating rocks and ruins alike, leaving a jagged shoreline like a jaw of broken teeth.
On the western flank the sea crashed against sheer cliffs and shardlike escarpments. Ancient ruins wound through the cracks in the rock, soulless atriums echoing with the pounding of the waves. Seabirds made their homes here in the myriad cuts and ledges – resident gulls and seasonal migrants. Petrels, gannets, and cormorants dived for fish in the rich, cold waters of the trench that abutted the island.
By the twentieth century the few humans that lived on Skull Island scraped a living on this barren shore, their village perched on a thin sliver of rock, jutting into the sea, beyond the warding great wall.
On the far side of the island a slow sinking brought the sea gradually inland. Where once lowland forests and floodplains stretched, the high tides drowned the land. There were a few beaches in the more sheltered inlets between the rocky headlands. These were the transitory homes of fur seals and sea turtles. Patrolled by huge predators and scavengers, these inlets were every bit as forbidding as the western cliffs to the human inhabitants.
The Jutting CliffsEdit
Skull Island’s temperamental geology rendered its coast a crumbling maze of cliffs and promontories jutting out of and over a savage sea. The jagged projections provided protected ledges for seabirds and other wildlife to nest upon and precipitous lookouts for predators to scan for prey below. There were few beaches on the island’s coast, so competition for their use was fierce.
On the eastern shores of Skull Island, where the rivers flowed down into the sea and the land was slowly sinking, much of what had once been floodplains or low jungle was drowned in growing swamp. Where once low forests grew adjacent to the river, instead tide-flooded swamps lap, punctuated only by the stumps of choked trees.