Kennedy had been on the swim team at Harvard; even towing McMahon by a belt clamped in his teeth, he was undaunted by the distance. Some of the other men were also good swimmers, but several were not; two, Johnston and Mauer, could not swim at all. These last two were lashed to a plank that the other seven men pulled and pushed as they could.
Kennedy arrived first at the island. It was named Plum Pudding, but the men called it "Bird" Island because of the guano that coated the bushes. Exhausted, Kennedy had to be helped up the beach by the man he had towed. He collapsed and waited for the rest of the crew. But Kennedy's swimming was not over.
Alarmed by a Japanese barge that passed close by, Kennedy decided to swim down into Ferguson Passage, through which the American PT boats passed when they were operating in Blackett Strait. Island-hopping and clinging to reefs, Kennedy made his way out into the passage, where he treaded water for an hour before deciding that the PT boats were in action elsewhere that night.
The return voyage nearly killed him as strong currents spun him out into Blackett Strait and then back into Ferguson Passage. Making the weary trip again, Kennedy stopped on Leorava Island, southeast of Bird Island, where he slept long enough to recoup himself for the final leg of the trip. Returning to Bird Island, Kennedy slept through the day but also made Ross promise to go out on the same trip that night. But Ross, unfortunately, did not see any sign of the PT boats either.
Looking for a Way Home
On August 4, Kennedy led the men back into the ocean, striking out for Olasana Island in hopes of finding food and fresh water but also trying to get closer to Ferguson Passage. Kennedy again hauled McMahon by the strap of his life vest while the rest of the crew clustered around the plank and thrashed their way along.
Olasana Island proved to be something of a disappointment. The coconuts were more plentiful but had a sickening effect on some of the men. The men found no fresh water, and they were too nervous about Japanese patrols to explore more than a small corner of this larger island.
When the night of August 4 turned wet and cold, Kennedy determined to try the next island over the following day. Naru Island is the last in the chain, and its eastern shores look out over Ferguson Passage. Kennedy and Ross climbed up onto its beach a little past noon on August 5.
Fearing enemy patrols, the two men stepped carefully through the brush but only saw the wreck of a small Japanese vessel out on the reef. On the beach they spotted a small box with Japanese labels. When they broke it open, they were delighted to discover it contained Japanese candy. Even better, a little further up the island they discovered a tin of water and a one-man canoe hidden in the bushes.
After a drink, Kennedy and Ross were walking back onto the beach when they saw two men out at the Japanese wreck. The men, clearly islanders, took fright and paddled away from the wreck in a canoe, despite Kennedy's hails. That night Kennedy took the canoe into Ferguson Passage once more, again without spotting any U.S. vessels.
Kennedy decided to take the canoe back to Olasana; he stopped long enough to gather the candy and the water to bring to the other men, leaving Ross to rest until the next morning. Arriving at Olasana, Kennedy discovered that the two men he and Ross had seen at Naru had made contact with the rest of the crew. The two men, Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, were islander scouts for the Allies. Their hasty departure from Naru had left them tired and thirsty, and they had stopped for coconuts at Olasana, where Thom had been able to convince them that the crew was American.