“We landfolk have trouble and need dolphin help,” Jim said. He pointed inland, where clouds of white and gray smoke curled ominously into the sky from two of the three previously dormant volcanoes. “We must leave this place and take from here all that can be moved.”

The Dolphin's Bell is a short story of the Dragonriders of Pern series written by Anne McCaffrey and included in the anthology The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall. It was first published as a 157-page Wildside Press book, September 1993.

The Wildside Press Hard Cover edition contains illustrations and border decorations by Pat Morrissey.


Mariner and former starship captain Jim Tillek organizes and leads the evacuation of «Landing», the original site of the Pern colony where many people still live, most equipment and durable supplies are stored. One purpose is to take refuge from Threadfall in stone caverns of the Northern Continent, but the immediate threat is a local volcanic eruption. Lacking fuel or capacity for air transport, with few big boats, the colony must also use coastal and river craft that are not seaworthy. With the help of dolphin partners, most of the goods and almost all the people are dramatically secured.

«The Dolphins' Bell» provides another perspective on a major episode in Dragonsdawn, part three («Crossing»).

Plot Summary

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When Mount Garben begins to erupt at Landing, Jim Tillek signals — via bell — for dolphin assistance at Monaco Bay, before beginning the evacuation; while large numbers of cargo and people are being shifted by sleds and dragons, the remainder will be shipped to Paradise River Stake via Kahrain Head. To make things simpler, the dolphins — who note this will be fun for them — suggest using buoys to set up incoming and outgoing lanes. The evacuation takes three days, during which time they have to berate some people for attempting to take household goods with red priority cargo, and deal with a number of rafts that nearly sink — ultimately, on the third day all small ships are removed from service as things become dangerous. In time, Patrice de Broglie reports Mount Garben's eruption is imminent, forcing them to abandon the remaining cargo and wait in the water until the danger dies down. When it does, the damaged cargo is burnt or buried, the dock and dolphin bell at Monaco Bay Stake are abandoned, and the assembled ships and dolphineers continue on to Kahrain Head.

At Kahrain Head, a meeting is held between the leaders of Landing and Monaco Bay Stake, where they discuss the cargo and their next move: skirting the coastline of the Southern Continent until they reach Key Largo Stake, then sailing north to «The Fort». At this time, they learn of the only casualty of the evacuation: Marco Galliani and Duluth, who failed to return from Between after travelling there to avoid colliding with a sled. They are also informed that not all are evacuating the Southern Continent; Suweto, Roma, Thessaly, Seminole and Key Largo Stakes, as well as Karachi Camp and the stakes on Ierne Island are to remain inhabited, although they may have to shift north in time if they cannot be supplied with food.

A convoy of ships and rafts set sail the following day — led by Ezra Keroon, who managed to shield the AIVAS at Landing by placing heat-resistant tiles around the Admin building — eventually reaching Paradise River Stake, where some of the cargo is stored, and the decision is made to split the convoy in two — abandoning the rafts — with Ezra Keroon taking charge of the larger ships and Jim Tillek taking charge of the smaller ships. During this time Tillek has many conversations with Theo Force, a dolphineer, at one point comparing their «Second Crossing» to a number of historical Terran events, including the Dunkirk Evacuation, the journeys of the Boat People and the Heyerdahl Expeditions.

Bad weather prevents them from immediately sailing on from Paradise River Stake, giving two plastic-makers travelling with the convoy time to improve the ship Thread safety gear. The two convoys eventually sail off together, eventually running into Thread, which Jim Tillek and his crew use as an opportunity to test protective headgear designed to deflect Thread into the water.

They eventually reach Malay River Stake — despite having had to stop to repair a damaged ketch rescued by the dolphins — where their cargo is re-organised once more and repairs are conducted before they continue on. However, as they near Boca River Stake, a tropical storm strikes Jim Tillek's convoy and forces them back, causing many casualties and sinking several ships — the dolphins aiding in the rescue of many. Despite this, no lives are lost, some of the cargo washes ashore, and a sled is sent from Fort with medical staff to aid those injured, the crews deciding to remain at their location until all the ships are properly repaired.

Nearly two days later, Jim Tillek is informed that Captain Kaarvan is travelling from Fort to help, and also that a recent incident occurred there: a sled crashing and injuring Emily Boll, who is expected to recover. In addition to this, Fort has insufficient power packs with which to fight Thread, so they are planning to shelter there until Thread stops falling. Jim Tillek and Theo Force — also injured — are scheduled to be taken there via sled, but they are ultimately kept at their camp since neither can be parted from their work — Jim Tillek won't let anyone else captain his ship;, the Southern Cross, and Theo Force's dolphin, Dart, refuses to work with anybody else. As repair work and cargo salvaging proceeds, Jim Tillek's relationship with Theo Force grows, culminating with them making love when a storm hits the Southern Cross.

After a period of time — during which one of the dolphins gives birth, and Jim Tillek learns of dragons flying Thread over Fort Hold and Sean Connell introducing them as «the Dragonriders of Pern» — the repairs are completed, and the convoy sails on to Key Largo Stake, where they prepare for their next move: sailing through the Eastern Current to the Boll peninsula, and on to Fort. During this time, Jim Tillek meets with the other captains to discuss how they'll protect their ships during Threadfall, eventually deciding to store the larger ships in the cavern on the Big Island. In addition to this, he discovers that Theo Force has become pregnant.

In the end, the convoy at last arrives at Fort Harbour, where they find another dolphin bell has been established.

Open / close plot summary

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