After distributing the food and water to the survivors, Zhang Heng shifted his attention to getting the gold bars from the bottom of the ocean. There wasn’t much time left, as the navy agreed that they would regroup on Parrot Island in two weeks. More than a week had passed, and now, only five days were left. However, knowing the navy, they wouldn’t stick to their agreed time and would usually arrive a day or two earlier.
That would mean Jackdaw had only around three days to retrieve all the gold bars. After that, Zhang Heng would need to think about how to escape and avoid the navy en route back to Nassau. He would need a good day for planning. In other words, excluding tonight, Zhang Heng and his men had only two days to retrieve all the gold bars.
Amid all the bad news, a silver lining appeared. Earlier, Kent had thought about getting those gold bards as well, ordering their carpenters to make a set of salvaging tools. They were of crude design, where all they did to use a modified grappling hook. The carpenters added two more hooks to the claw and tied the ropes at the front part of the hook. This helped to make the contraption more sturdy and would allow them to lift the sunken crates. Even with the device, they would still need to send divers to attach the hooks to these crates. Initially, Worden wanted to force the captured pirates to get it done. Of course, Zhang Heng wasn’t one to force his men to do it, so he decided to consult Gale.
“What do you think? Is it doable?”
“It’s not hard to make the tools they made. They have come up with the right thing for this task. We just need to copy it. We have a ton of grappling hooks on the ship. I believe I can make ten of them before sundown.”
“I have picked the most qualified men for this task as well. They are the best divers on Jackdaw. That said, we can’t possibly ask them to stay underwater for too long. By that time, they would have to resurface before they even reach the crates,” Dufresne added.
“Hmm, they’ll run out of oxygen by the time they reach the gold. Tell the divers to hug heavy rocks on the way down. They would automatically start submerging, and no energy would be needed. Besides that, tie a rope around their waists and set a time limit. Once the time is up, we will pull them out. If everything goes smoothly, they should have enough time to install the grappling hooks on the crates.”
As for the water pressure, Zhang Heng couldn’t find any solutions. The divers simply had to overcome it themselves. Twenty meters depth should be bearable for a human body. Although it would leave them with the bends, it wasn’t lethal. Considering the risks they would be taking, the divers would receive extra rewards if they completed the task successfully. This was a much-needed boost of motivation for these men.
Zhang Heng left the matter for Dufresne and Billy to decide. Dufresne nodded and instantly sent someone to test their theory. Once the first crate was out of the water, he would know right away that Zhang Heng’s method worked well. All he needed to do after that was refine the technique until all the crates were out of the water. At the end of the second night, Jackdaw had managed to retrieve more than half of the sunken gold.
After that, the salvage operation slowed down tremendously. The Spanish treasure ship was exceptionally well built, and the pirates had to hammer her with cannonballs until she sank. Unavoidably, the cargo hold was hit as well. Jackdaw had retrieved all the crates that were still intact, but there were still many gold bars that were scattered all over the place.
It was going to be a troublesome and arduous task to pick them up one by one. The contraptions that they made earlier weren’t going to help in a situation like this. It had to be manually done. In other words, they would need a longer time to complete the entire salvage operation. Other than that, the divers could only dive for a limited number of times a day. The depth and pressure would take a toll on them, and they would end up exhausted.
Luckily, the survivors on the island had mostly recovered. To show their gratitude to Jackdaw, not only did they give up their right to the gold bars, but they were even willing to help retrieve them without asking for anything in return.
It was the third night, and with the help of the survivors, Jackdaw managed to recover a total of 3,200 pounds of gold ingots. There were 1,800 pounds left on the ocean floor, but most of them were scattered around, and many were buried under the wreck. Of course, they could retrieve all of them if they wanted to, but that would take a longer time.
Zhang Heng had no intention to wait any longer. For the past few days, Jackdaw had been through nonstop combat. When they fled Parrot Island, every single pirate on Jackdaw began to hold a massive grudge towards the navy. When they destroyed Kent, the resentment was settled. Now, most of Jackdaw’s crew lay spent and exhausted. Even though some ammunition was acquired from Kent, most of them had lost the vigor for another fight.
That was why Zhang Heng decided not to continue staying on Parrot Island. Once he picked up Brook, he set for home. Everyone was more than eager to head back to Nassau. Running heavy, Jackdaw spent double the time they needed to return to Nassau. Having so much gold and the extra compliment on board, they were a lot slower than they usually were. They had to avoid the other five enemy ships as well. Luckily, they did not come across any threats. It wasn’t until the stone walls, and Nassau’s castle was spotted that they could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Everyone on board had mixed feelings when they saw Nassau. To Jackdaw’s pirates, they prevailed once again and claimed victory even although it was a hard-fought battle. As the captain of Jackdaw, Zhang Heng got to carry on being the legend of Nassau. In a dire, hopeless circumstance, Jackdaw was the only ship that survived and escaped the navy. They miraculously turned the tide around by destroying Miranda and Kent. In the end, they salvaged most of the gold bars and saved the pirates that were still alive on Parrot Island.
On the other hand, the other five pirate ships were not as lucky as Jackdaw. They lost everything this time. They failed to get anything out of the hunting trip, and to make matters worse, their ships were also destroyed as well. However, they were simply grateful to be alive and got to return to Nassau. Once Jackdaw arrived at the harbor, Brook and the other captain quickly got off the ship. They had a lot of things to deal with, having needed to recruit new pirates and look for a new boat as well. After that, Eric bid Zhang Heng farewell too.
Zhang Heng sent them off to shore in a small boat. Once they were gone, Zhang Heng ordered his men to unload the gold bars from Jackdaw. Although there were still 1,800 pounds of gold bars lying on the bottom, the other five pirate ships gave up their share. Thus, they were delighted and contented by their yield this time. The remaining scraps would most probably be snatched up by the navy and pirate hunters.
After this voyage, Jackdaw’s pirates were wealthy enough to quit being a pirate. Most of them had never even seen so many gold bars before. As they unloaded their gold bars, the entire Nassau was left in shock.